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5/23/2012
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IBM: Sorry, Siri. You're Not Welcome Here

IBM bans Apple's Siri voice assistant from its networks due to potential security risks.

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IBM takes security seriously enough to kick Apple's Siri software to the curb. The voice-controlled iPhone assistant poses too great a risk, claims IBM, and it has been banned from use across IBM's network.

IBM CIO Jeanette Horan, speaking to the MIT Technology Review, said the action came after the company conducted an internal survey regarding smartphones and IBM's "bring your own device" policies. The results weren't all that pleasing to IBM's tech overlords, who discovered that employees were "blissfully unaware" about the security risks posed by certain applications.

"We found a tremendous lack of awareness as to what constitutes a risk," said Horan. "We're trying to make people aware."

IBM started allowing employees to bring their own devices in 2010. Though it still distributes some 40,000 corporate-owned BlackBerries to its employees, more than twice that number--80,000--access IBM's network through employee-owned devices. This number includes smartphones and tablets that employees paid for themselves.

[ Read Why Apple's Siri Will Change Everything. ]

Why target Siri? IBM worries about where the spoken queries are stored.

Siri listens to spoken requests, sends the queries to Apple's servers in Maiden, N.C., where they are deciphered into text. The text and the request contained therein is then acted upon by Siri on the handset. Further, Siri can be used to dictate text messages and emails. Some of those messages could contain sensitive, proprietary information.

What IBM is concerned with is what happens to the original queries. Are they stored on Apple's servers? If so, are they protected? Can anyone access them? And what about the messages? Does Apple's servers hold onto those, as well?

Without answers to those concerns, IBM has turned off the Siri application on its employees' iPhones. "We're just extraordinarily conservative. It's the nature of our business," said Horan.

Google offers a voice-action tool in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It is available on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is surely being used by a few of those 80,000 BYOD employees within IBM. However, to date IBM has not banned Google's apps or services from its employee devices.

One of the developers of the Siri app, Edward Wrenbeck, said in an interview with CNN, "Just having it known that you're at a certain customer's location might be in violation of a non-disclosure agreement." But it's possible IBM is overreacting. "I really don't think it's something to worry about. People are already doing things on these mobile devices. Maybe Siri makes their life a little bit easier, but it's not exactly opening up a new avenue that wasn't there before."

Employees and their browsers might be the weak link in your security plan. The new, all-digital Endpoint Insecurity Dark Reading supplement shows how to strengthen them. (Free registration required.)

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Ramon S
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Ramon S,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/26/2012 | 2:47:15 PM
re: IBM: Sorry, Siri. You're Not Welcome Here
It is not that Apple will necessarily harvest the data, but bystanders are listening in and the data needs to travel over public networks to Apple's servers.
While mobile adds convenience I start to wonder if in the view of security it is the right direction. Mobile devices are very unsecure.
Aden11
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Aden11,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2012 | 6:02:44 PM
re: IBM: Sorry, Siri. You're Not Welcome Here
jgeiss4p: "But, if you issue a Press Release that targets an Apple device, you DO get a LOT more attention, don't you?"

You hit the nail. Spot on! :)
Email Marketing CRM
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Email Marketing CRM,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2012 | 8:08:02 PM
re: IBM: Sorry, Siri. You're Not Welcome Here
Using Siri to manipulate mobile business apps is the next wave. Companies like http://salesnexus.com are building it into their systems. IBM better get on board!
ANON1237925156805
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ANON1237925156805,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2012 | 5:47:21 PM
re: IBM: Sorry, Siri. You're Not Welcome Here
Boy will I be concerned if someone gets my Siri queries. What's the weather today? How many teaspoons in a cup. What's the furthest distance between the earth and the sun each year? Peel me a grape, Beulah. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. My Social Security Number is. . . oops!
Uncle Dave
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Uncle Dave,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2012 | 5:39:18 PM
re: IBM: Sorry, Siri. You're Not Welcome Here
Actually you have to wonder if someone is going to end up trying to subpena those records now that they have been made public. Having another copy of an e-mail or text message on a server you don't control certainly makes it harder to enforce any kind of records retention policy.
jgeiss4p
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jgeiss4p,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2012 | 5:35:59 PM
re: IBM: Sorry, Siri. You're Not Welcome Here
Yeah, sure. Because IBM is competing for the same market that Apple is! Apple's consumer-centric marketing targets a whole different class of people than IBM's does. In fact, if I was IBM, I would be far more concerned about what the Google servers may be storing than what the Apple servers may be keeping, as Google is much more likely to be competing for the same customers.

But, if you issue a Press Release that targets an Apple device, you DO get a LOT more attention, don't you?
lacertosus
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lacertosus,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2012 | 4:46:09 PM
re: IBM: Sorry, Siri. You're Not Welcome Here
IBM might be exaggeration a little but I completely get their point. Apple is also a competitor and they have to keep a watchful eye.
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