BYOD And Juniper’s Big Brother
December 1, 2011 2 Comments
I’ve been involved in a few twitter
fights discussions recently, which are typically passionate conversations with people that hold passionate beliefs. However, the problem with arguing on Twitter is that it’s very easy to accidentally be on the same side, while thinking you’re on opposite sides. Such is the limit of 144 characters.
The whole brouhaha started with a tweet I made about Junos Pulse from Juniper, which can do the following (from the Pulse PDF brochure): “SMS, MMS, email, and message content monitoring, phone log, address book, and stored photo viewing and control.”
Junos Pulse is Juniper’s mobile security client, which includes VPN as well as anti-malware capabilities. It also has the ability to peer into the text messages that a phone has sent and received, as well as view all photographs taken by the smarphone or tablet’s camera. Juniper is not just marketing it towards corporate issued phones and tablets (which I have no problem with), but also (as shown in the fear-mongering blog post with a misleading title that I wrote about in my last post) is advocating that employee-owned devices, part of the BYOD (bring your own device) trend in IT, also be loaded with Juniper’s spy-capable software. From the fear-mongering article (emphasis mine):
Get mobile security and device management for your personal or corporate-issued mobile device, and mandate that all of your employees – or anyone for that matter who accesses your corporate network from a mobile device – load mobile security and device management on their mobile devices!
If the phone or tablet is issued by the company, I don’t have any problem with this (so long as employees know that there is that capability). This could even be quite handy, depending on the scenario. But employee owned equipment being susceptible to spying by corporate IT? No way. I can’t imagine anyone would allow that on their personal devices. Even Juniper employees.
(Related: Check out Tom Hollingsworth’s post on BYOD)
Hence my tweet, wondering if Juniper eats its own dog food, and requires employees who bring their personal, non-Juniper-owned smartphones into the office to run Pulse with the ability to view photos, texts, and other personal correspondence. I got responses like this:
I don’t think he realized that I was talking about Juniper pulse having the ability not just to spy on VPN traffic (which any VPN software could), but also the text messages and photos on the mobile device/tablet. Also that Juniper is marketing it towards employee owned devices. (Also, privacy concerns are not a legitimate reason to spy on someone.) In the end though, I think Virtual_Desktop and I were on the same page.
So it’s not just a company that I worry about violating an employees privacy, but also a rogue IT employee. I worked at a place once where a Unix admin stalked another employee by reading her email. Having the power to peer into someone’s personal texts, emails, and photos would be very tempting, and difficult to resist for the unscrupulous.
Ah, I see Tony is getting more saucy texts from his super model girlfriends
I get that if I’m at the office, and I’m using their network, that my traffic could be monitored. I get that data on company property, such as a company issued laptop, phone, or tablet is fair game for viewing by the company. But to require an employee to install something on their personal (BYOD) devices that has the ability to peer into an employee’s personal texts and images? That’s downright scary. And stupid. No knowledgable employee would let that happen. If an employer required that I install it on a device I brought into the office even if it didn’t connect to the corporate network, I’d leave the device at home. And I’d probably look for another job, because bone-headed decisions like that don’t exactly evoke confidence in management.
Junos Pulse certainly has some appropriate use cases. The ability to wipe a phone, view emails, texts and images, and other fairly intrusive activities on a company-owned device make sense in some cases. In others, it’s probably overly intrusive, overly-controlling, but within an employers rights. But on an employee’s personal device? No way.
I like Juniper, I really do. But I think they’ve got the strategy wrong for Pulse, and I think they’ll figure it out. It’s a much larger issue as well, with the consumerization of IT and employees bringing their own devices, the demarkation point between employee and employer is becoming hazy. That’s probably an offshoot of the time an employee is on the clock and off the clock becoming hazy as well. We’ll have to see where this goes, but I don’t think people are going to put up with the “it’s going to spy on your personal device” route.