Managed Home Screen: What Your Should Know

It doesn’t take too long as you go through the latest tech news and updates to realize just how badly lax security could affect your organization. All nefarious actors need is a small opportunity. And your business may end up paying dearly. This is where Managed Home Screen comes into play.

Hence the need to implement the best possible security measures that you can. And when you use platforms such as Managed Home Screen (MHS), you’ll get excellent features that will help you enhance your overall security.

The platform will give your organization the ability to customize and control Android Enterprise dedicated devices. This allow for restricted access to only what a user may require. As we continue our deep dive into Managed Home Screen, we will end up with a clearer idea of how this platform can best serve your interests.

What to know about general availability

In a previous article, we discussed the updated features that Microsoft introduced to the Managed Home Screen experience. There are a few things that businesses should know about general availability.

To begin, you should be aware that with the general availability of the updated MHS experience, all previous MHS workflows will be obsolete. Not only that, but support will no longer be available for these previous workflows. The new updated features will not be added to previous workflows, as well.

However, admins can still move to the updated experience by setting Enable updated user experience to “true” for 90 days. But, after the 90 days, the app configuration will be removed, and all devices will need to start using the updated MHS experience.

Below are some of the new capabilities recently added for the updated experience:

  • Brightness Slider and Adaptive Brightness – with this tool, IT admins will be able to expose a setting that enables users to access a brightness slider to adjust the device screen brightness. Moreover, IT admins can also expose a setting that allows users to turn adaptive brightness on and off on the device.
  • Autorotation – this next tool helps IT admins expose a setting that is designed to enable users to turn on and off the device’s autorotation.
  • Domain-less Login and Custom Login Hint Text – another feature coming to the updated experience will be support for domain-less sign-in. Admins can configure domain names which will then be automatically added to usernames when signing in. In addition, MHS will begin providing users with a custom login hint string on the sign-in screen.
  • Session PIN Inactivity Timer – in scenarios where a device has been inactive for a specified period of time, IT admins can leverage this feature to demand users to enter their session PIN to resume activity on Managed Home Screen.

Why is Managed Home Screen making changes?

With the updates that have been made to Managed Home Screen, one may be wondering what’s behind all the changes. And the simple reality is that the new features were needed. Applications need to keep improving if they are to meet the ever-evolving needs of businesses.

It goes without saying, but the competition among players in the tech space is brutal. A new application or service can be introduced to the market, and if it can do the job far more efficiently, then you may find yourself losing clients.

Moreover, organizations are now acutely aware that there are nefarious actors constantly looking for vulnerabilities in their systems and if they find any it can be catastrophic for their businesses. Updates can address any existing performance issues and vulnerabilities that may potentially exist.

In addition, new features will also address productivity issues that your business has to deal with. As technology continues to evolve, organizations like yours will be looking to improve their products and services. Updates allow you to harness the latest and very best features for your applications. This will also give your team a better user experience overall. And ultimately, your business can operate more efficiently.

Furthermore, newer updates can help you get even better performances from your devices. At one point or another, we’ve all probably had the frustrating experience of an app crashing. It’s never a pleasant experience and can result in some lost work progress. By updating your applications, you can significantly reduce the chances of these occurrences.

Benefits of Managed Home Screen’s new features

The improvements that Managed Home Screen has made will have benefits for both IT admins as well as end users. These advantages include:

  • Closing the security gap – enhancing your security features means that you reduce potential attack areas. Also, it’s significantly harder for hackers to carry out successful attacks. This is something that will complete by requiring end users to enter their session PIN to resume activity on Managed Home Screen. This is after the device has been inactive for a specified period. Having this feature reduces the risk of unauthorized personnel gaining access to a device when the user is not using it. To set it up, you need to set the “Minimum inactive time before session PIN is required” setting to the number of seconds the device is inactive before the end user must input their session PIN.
  • Quicker resolution of issues – if the troubleshooting process is ineffective, it can cause endless downtime and that’s not good for business. MHS improved that process by introducing a feature that will give users access to a debug menu. This includes the pages for Get Help, Exit Kiosk Mode, and About. What this does is give users the ability to go to the Get Help page and easily upload logs. Moreover, users will be able to view Management Resources. It allows them to launch adjacent management apps whenever necessary. With the appropriate support available, your organization can quickly address any performance issues. You can also ensure productivity levels remain optimal.
  • Improve ease of use – one of the best ways to help users work more efficiently is to enable them to have the option to customize certain settings to their liking. Undoubtedly, the immediate concern would be about the risk of increasing vulnerabilities. But, the solution to that is to restrict what users can customize. This provides that they still get the benefits of personalized apps and devices while maintaining high security standards. One of those settings that users can now change is device screen brightness.

Additional benefits of Managed Home Screen

With the updated features, you can expose settings in the Managed Home Screen app to adjust screen brightness for Android Enterprise devices. You’ll have the option of exposing a setting in the app to allow end users to access a convenient brightness slider to adjust the device screen brightness. Furthermore, you’ll now also be able to expose a setting to allow end users to toggle adaptive brightness.

  • Simplified setup – few things can help users be more productive than using an application with a clean look and access to everything you need. This is what MHS is aiming for with the addition of a top bar. Users will now have quick access to device-identifying information. You get the option to configure this top bar as you see fit. And there will be two descriptive elements available for display. IT admins get to select between serial number, device name, and tenant name for the top and bottom elements in situations where the device is not configured with sign-in.

The top bar will also give quick access to settings as well as the sign-out button. The settings wheel icon sits in the upper right-hand of the top bar. And tapping this icon will display the settings that the IT administrator has selected to reveal to users within MHS settings. Another advantage you can expect is that this settings icon will be located on the top bar by default. And to avoid compromising security, IT admins still get to pick which settings a user can configure. Or they can disable it altogether by enabling or disabling the configuration key “Show managed settings”.

Enhanced security measures for dedicated devices

As we know by now, Managed Home Screen works on devices enrolled into Intune as Android Enterprise dedicated devices. With the increasing sophistication of today’s cyber attacks, organizations need to ensure that their security is of the highest standard.

Bearing that in mind, in this section, let’s take a look at some of the settings that can improve security for fully managed, dedicated, and corporate-owned work profile devices.

Screen capture (work profile-level)

Enabling “Block” will not only stop you from taking screenshots, but will also prevent content from being shown on display devices without a secure video output. However, you should be aware that this setting is set to “Not configured” by default, and Intune doesn’t modify it. You should also know that if the default settings allow, the OS might let users capture the screen contents as an image.

Camera (work profile-level)

Enabling “Block” will prevent access to the device’s camera. Again, you should note that this setting is set to “Not configured” by default and Intune doesn’t change it. Another thing that is important for security is that Intune only manages camera access but doesn’t have access to pictures or videos. The OS may also, by default, allow access to the camera.

Default permission policy (work profile-level)

The objective of this setting is to define the default permission policy for requests for runtime permissions, and the options you have are the following:

  • Default (default) – Use the device’s default setting.
  • Prompt – Users see a prompt to approve the permission.
  • Auto grant – Permissions grant automatically.
  • Auto deny – Permissions are automatically denied.

Date and Time changes

Enabling “Block” will stop users from manually setting the date and time. Additionally, you should note that this setting is set to “Not configured” by default, and Intune doesn’t change it. This will also mean that if the OS default settings permit, users may be able to set the date and time.

Roaming data services

Enabling “Block” will prevent data roaming over the cellular network. And as before, this setting defaults to “Not configured,” and Intune doesn’t change it.

Wi-Fi access point configuration

Enabling “Block” will stop users from creating or changing any Wi-Fi configurations. Additionally, you should note that this setting defaults to “Not configured” and Intune doesn’t change it. As we’ve also seen before, if the OS default settings permit, users may be able to change the Wi-Fi settings on the device.

Bluetooth configuration

Enabling “Block” will stop users from configuring Bluetooth on the device. Additionally, you should note that this setting defaults to “Not configured,” and Intune doesn’t change it. As we’ve also seen before, if the OS default settings permit, using Bluetooth on the device may be possible.

Tethering and access to hotspots

Enabling “Block” will prevent tethering and access to portable hotspots. And again, this setting defaults to “Not configured,” and Intune doesn’t change or update it. Take note that the OS might allow tethering and access to portable hotspots by default.

USB file transfer

Enabling “Block” will prevent transferring files over USB. And again, this setting defaults to “Not configured,” and Intune doesn’t change or update it.

External media

Enabling “Block” will prevent using or connecting any external media on the device. And again, this setting defaults to “Not configured,” and Intune doesn’t change or update it. Take note that the OS might allow file transfers by default.

Beam data using NFC (work-profile level)

Enabling “Block” is going to prevent the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to beam data from apps. On the other hand, if set to “Not configured“, which is the default setting, Intune will not change or update the setting. However, you should not forget that the OS might allow using NFC to share data between devices by default.

Developer settings

Enabling “Allow” will let users access developer settings on the device. On the other hand, if set to “Not configured,” which is the default setting, Intune will not change or update the setting.

Microphone adjustment

Enabling “Block” will stop users from unmuting the microphone and adjusting the microphone volume. However, if set to “Not configured,” which is the default setting, Intune will not change or update the setting.

Factory reset protection emails

You need to select Google account email addresses. Then, you need to provide the email addresses of device admins who can unlock the device after it’s wiped. When entering the email addresses, make sure to separate them with a semi-colon e.g., adminA@gmail.com;adminB@gmail.com. Note that these emails will only apply in scenarios during a non-user factory reset, like running a factory reset using the recovery menu. And as with previous settings, if set to “Not configured,” which is the default setting, Intune will not change or update the setting.

System update

To determine how the device handles over-the-air updates, you’ll need to pick from the following options:

  • Device Default (default) – stick to the device’s default setting, meaning that when the device connects to Wi-Fi, is charging, and is idle, the OS updates automatically. For app updates, the OS first checks that the app is not running in the foreground.
  • Automatic – implements an automatic update process without user involvement.
  • Postponed – updates postpone for a period of 30 days, at the end of which users receive a prompt to install the update. For critical security updates, however, device manufacturers or carriers may block their postponement.
  • Maintenance Window – also provides an automatic update process but that occurs during a daily maintenance window that you set in Intune. If the installation tries and fails for 30 days, you will subsequently see a prompt to perform the installation. This setting will apply to OS and Play Store app updates.

Freeze periods for system updates

This one is optional. If you are going to set the System update setting to Automatic, Postponed, or the Maintenance window, then you must use this setting to create a freeze period:

  • Start date – provide a start date using the MM/DD format and it can be up to 90 days long.
  • End date – provide an end date using the same MM/DD format and it can be up to 90 days long.

Take note that all incoming system updates and security patches will be blocked during the freeze period. And this also includes manually checking for updates.

Location

Enabling “Block” will disable the Location setting on the device and prevent users from turning it on. However, it’s worth noting that disabling this setting will affect every setting that also relies on device location. This includes the Locate device remote action that admins use. On the other hand, if set to “Not configured,” which is the default setting, Intune will not change or update the setting.

When to enroll devices as dedicated devices

One of the things that may have a lot of people wondering is the issue of when exactly you should be looking at enrolling a device as a dedicated device. According to the information available from Microsoft, Intune’s Android Enterprise dedicated device solution is for clients who want their Android devices enrolled with no user-affinity.

On top of that, this device solution requires that the device runs Android OS 8+ and should be able to connect directly to Google Mobile Services (GMS). Below are the three main scenarios that Intune envisions for dedicated devices:

AS A DIGITAL SIGN

Typically locked into one application that shows viewers desired information. A good example of this would be the train schedules or flight schedules that you may see at the train station or airport respectively. In these particular situations, there will be zero-to-minimal physical user interaction.

TASK-BASED DEVICES

In this case, we’ll be looking at a situation of locked into a single application or multiple applications and used for specific tasks. What you then have is a setup where the device is not privy to who is using it or where. We can see an example of how this would work with package delivery drivers.

As they clock into their shift, the delivery driver receives a device. This devices helps to navigate to their location, scan packages, and complete other role-based tasks. Once the driver completes their tasks, the device can then be returned for the next delivery driver to use.

MULTI-USER, TASK DEVICES

In the third scenario, we’re looking at locked into a single app or a set of apps, and used for specific tasks. Users need to sign in on at least a single application on the device and unlike the previous scenario, the apps in this case will need to know who is using the device and when.

The general recommendation for this scenario is to enable Shared Device mode. For instance, you can look at a factory setup where a device may used by multiple people, such as shift workers, maintenance staff, delivery drivers, etc.

So, every individual using the device will get the same apps and policies, but the key difference is that the relevant information displayed by the apps will vary from person to person, depending on their sign-in information.

Wrap up

As a business, it’s crucially important to always be on the lookout for applications and services that can give you an advantage. Something that can improve the quality of what your organization is producing by enhancing worker efficiency. For Managed Home Screen clients, the platform improvements can offer such benefits.

You get features that help you maintain high security standards by allowing IT admins to put in place any necessary restrictions. But, even with these restrictions, end users will still get quicker access to what they need, faster resolution of issues, and a more streamlined workflow.

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