IBM Asks Employees To Leave Siri At The Door


IBM welcomes its nearly 400,000 employees to bring their own devices to work -- as long as Siri, Apple’s voice-activated assistant for the iPhone 4S, doesn’t come along for the ride.

In a recent interview with MIT’s Technology Review, IBM’s Chief Information Officer Jeanette Horan spoke of the inherent security risks that come with the adoption of the "bring-your-own-device" (BYOD) trend in the enterprise. She said that an IBM-conducted survey found that hundreds of its employees were "blissfully unaware" of which well-known apps pose security threats.

Apple’s Siri, apparently, was one of them. Horan explained that the app sparked concern because users’ spoken queries are potentially stored on Apple’s servers, where they’re susceptible to falling into the hands of unauthorized listeners.

[Related: BYOD Spurs Demand For Mobile Device Management Platforms, Resellers]

In a follow-up article, Wired Enterprises noted that Horan’s concerns could be legitimate. Apple’s iPhone Software License Agreement allegedly confirms Big Blue’s belief, in which it states the following: "When you use Siri or Dictation, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple in order to convert what you say into text."

IBM employees can still use iPhones in its offices, but they have been asked to turn the Siri functionality off.

"We're just extraordinarily conservative," Horan told MIT. "It's the nature of our business."

Apple’s Siri, however, isn’t the only app employees are urged not to use. Horan and her team have banned a series of other applications, including the file-transfer service Dropbox, which IBM believes poses a similar risk of corporate data being compromised.

Horan is instituting a number of other security measures to ensure IBM’s BYOD environment is risk-free. Before a device is even granted access to the company’s network, for instance, IT configures it so that its memory can be remotely erased if lost or stolen.

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