Secure Folder on the Galaxy S8 is a phone within a phone and Samsung is killing My Knox in favour of it

In 2013, as Samsung released that year’s heavy hitter, the often-maligned Galaxy S4, it also released something else whose impact has been felt in the business world over the last few years even as BlackBerry has persisted in its efforts to be the industry’s trusted partner when it comes to enterprise security on mobile: Knox.

Like the Fort Knox of old and recent history, Samsung’s Knox was meant to be impenetrable and secure.

Samsung Knox thus became Samsung’s own Mobile Device Management (MDM) – and more – solution that the company pitched to other companies/businesses, even governments, touting its security features some of which have since been disputed and shown not to be as tight as expected then (though they have since been fixed – see story [paywall]).

As is the case with most enterprise IT solutions, Knox’s deployment and management meant that users bringing their own devices to the workplace could continue using their [Samsung] phones as they pleased while the guys sitting in IT controlled whatever it is they did in a secure container that housed all the apps and data that was associated with their jobs. It was Samsung’s own nice attempt at this work-life balance thing.

But what about the everyday user?

In earlier devices, Samsung introduced My Knox, a solution meant to make it easy for ordinary users to opt into Knox and separate what they deemed as work stuff or anything that required some extra layer of protection from the open world/prying eyes of anyone who touched their devices.

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My Knox was a phone within a phone. From within it, users had access to an alternate home screen, apps, widgets, files, data, settings, what have you. It was a virtual environment within the normal Android working environment on any device. That virtual environment was securely encrypted and kept separate from the rest of the device’s environment thus allowing users to maintain two environments, one for work another for play or whatever they fancied. And it’s been working well all along. Only that now Samsung is shutting it all down.

Users of My Knox can backup their stuff from My Knox using the Backup & Restore feature found in the settings of that secure environment and then restore the same in the app that Samsung is pushing them to: Secure Folder. Note: since this process backs up the data to Samsung’s cloud, a Samsung account is required.

Secure Folder arrived for the first time last year on the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 where it was pre-installed and was only made available as a downloadable app on other devices like the Galaxy S7, starting February this year.

On the Galaxy S8, Samsung’s latest smartphone, the application also arrives pre-installed and, no surprises here, there is no My Knox. Going forward, according to Samsung, none of the devices that are in the pipeline and set to launch anytime this year will ship with My Knox nor are there any guarantees that it will be actively maintained. This is because Secure Folder simply does everything My Knox did and it would be redundant to include both.

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Secure Folder leverages the defense-grade Samsung Knox security platform to create a private, encrypted space on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Apps and data moved to Secure Folder are sandboxed separately on the device and gain an additional layer of security and privacy, thus further protecting them from malicious attacks.

On older devices, users are now receiving communication to the effect that they should consider migrating to Secure Folder which is available on the Galaxy Apps store for compatible devices (those running Android 7.0 or later versions), marking the end of the road for My Knox. RIP.

In case you have a Samsung device capable of running Secure Folder like the Galaxy S8 or the Galaxy S7/S7 Edge (with Android Nougat), here’s an interesting use case of Secure Folder: to add a second WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Telegram or any other account since it’s a separate secure environment that is treated as such and has no direct relations with any existing instances of such apps on the device. Forget the many other ways you can do this.

Emmanuel Chenze

Let's just say I know my stuff. I have 7 years experience handling, tinkering with and then writing extensively about Android stuff. Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes it is not; things can get stale with nothing new to show but I live for each one of those moments. Have something Android-related that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze@androidkenya.com