Juniper Mobile VPN Client Taps iOS Security Changes

Apple iOS 7 and Android via Samsung add per-app VPNs, which businesses can apply to better secure employees' mobile devices.

Mathew J. Schwartz, Contributor

December 6, 2013

5 Min Read
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Juniper Networks Wednesday released new versions of its Junos Pulse mobile device security clients and appliances, both of which gain the ability to capitalize on recent security advances built into Apple iOS and Samsung's version of the Android mobile operating system.

Juniper released version 8 of its SSL VPN access tool, called Junos Pulse Secure Access Service, as well as version 5 of Junos Pulse Access Control Service, which is a network access control (NAC) appliance. Both of those products are also now compatible with kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) deployments, meaning they can be used to create VPN connections for mobile virtualized environments.

Next week, Juniper will release its AppConnect software development kit (SDK), which will further facilitate per-application VPN connections from iOS and Android devices to Juniper's NAC appliance.

"We believe this move to per-application VPN is really transformative," said Horacio Zambrano, senior director of product management and strategy at Juniper Networks, speaking by phone. "A user just presses the app, and you now have secure connectivity." Another advantage of per-application VPN connections is that instead of having to route all data flowing to or from the device through a VPN connection, businesses can lower bandwidth requirements by only routing traffic that touches designated business apps.

According to Juniper, the Junos Pulse refinements are designed to make it easier for businesses to secure their employees' use of mobile devices, whatever their approach.

"Even though the iPhone has been out since 2007, and the concept of bring your own device -- BYOD -- has been out there for several years, we're still seeing IT departments really struggle with getting their mobile device access polices implemented," Zambrano said. For example, even when businesses buck the BYOD trend and issue corporate-owned iPads or Android tablets to employees, they're still going to want to use some of the consumer-focused capabilities on the device.

[ Uh oh. Phone acting funny? Read Android Security: 8 Signs Hackers Own Your Smartphone. ]

Overall, businesses that want to better secure employees' mobile devices today have three choices, he said, including mobile device management (MDM) software, point technologies that secure communications or the apps themselves, and security improvements added by Apple to iOS, or Google and Samsung to Android. The recently-released Samsung Knox, for example, promises a more secure version of Android for enterprises, including secure boot and application containers that are designed to add an extra layer of security or business apps. (On a related note, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Samsung has been facing Knox rollout challenges, including delays, code bugs, and frustrated beta testers, including the US Department of Defense.)

Any one of the above three approaches, however, might not meet a business's every mobile device information security requirement. "This is difficult, you can make a decision, and within six months to a year, the decisions you make can be obsolete," said Zambrano. That's especially true if a point-security product that a business has adopted gets supplanted by the operating system developer baking related features into their mobile operating system.

Earlier this year, for example, Apple's rollout of iOS 7 included the ability to create per-application VPN tunnels to the new iOS 7. "Before that, mobile application security vendors were offering the same thing, as an over-the-top solution," Zambrano said. But using it, previously, required stitching together multiple products to do so.

Now, both iOS and Samsung Knox offer the possibility of having the operating system automatically give designated apps their own VPN connection. For that to happen, however, for Juno Pulse users, application publishers will need to tap the AppConnect SDK to make their app compatible with Juniper's technology.

Alternately -- or in addition to that -- MDM software that's compatible with Juno Pulse could be used to require that any application that's managed by the MDM software only gets Internet access via a per-application VPN tunnel, which could then be provided by the Juno Pulse mobile client. "That hasn't been released today, but we're working to support that soon," Zambrano said. Expect integration first with AirWatch and MobileIron, followed by other MDM vendors.

One benefit of Juno Pulse and MDM integration will be the ability to apply different types of security policies, depending on how the device is being used. "That gives us the ability to do deeper mobile context awareness -- who's connecting to the network, and is it personal or corporate?" Zambrano said.

Michael Callahan, Juniper's VP of security product marketing, said that the overriding goal of the Junos Pulse changes was to help businesses get better information security tools on users' devices, preferably without users even having to know it's there.

"That's been a really hard nut to rack," he said, speaking by phone. "A lot of the technologies that have been out there in the past technically worked, but they were so cumbersome for the user that they just routed around it."

Making decisions based on flashy macro trends while ignoring "little data" fundamentals is a recipe for failure. Also in the new, all-digital Blinded By Big Data issue of InformationWeek: How Coke Bottling's CIO manages mobile strategy. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Mathew J. Schwartz


Mathew Schwartz served as the InformationWeek information security reporter from 2010 until mid-2014.

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