LinkedIn have just announced a new way they’ve engineered LinkedIn user information into the native iOS mail reader. Have a look at the article here: http://engineering.linkedin.com/mobile/linkedin-intro-doing-impossible-ios#!
In principal, this is an interesting idea – it’s what CMS (Customer Management Systems) have been doing for a long time, which is integrating a database of users/companies into your emails so at a glance you go from email address to user profile to company all in the one spot.
From a user perspective, this is quite neat. Seeing where someone works as part of the email, their job title, other connections saves a lot of time and brain energy when they’re thinking ‘who is this guy?’ – but from a security standpoint this is bad.
LinkedIn’s whole quote on the privacy aspect of this is:
Security and Privacy
We understand that operating an email proxy server carries great responsibility. We respect the fact that your email may contain very personal or sensitive information, and we will do everything we can to make sure that it is safe. Our principles and key security measures are detailed in our pledge of privacy.
That doesn’t say much, apart from ‘Come on.. trust me!’. Firstly, you’ve got to give LinkedIn your email password. Check my previous article as to why this is bad: https://www.adamfowlerit.com/2013/06/02/linkedin-securityinformation-risks-with-exchange/ – a pledge of privacy isn’t going to help you after a catastrophic event.
So, this method is actually worse again. All your emails traverse via LinkedIn’s proxy service, the email gets modified then delivered to your iOS device. Emails are insecure by nature as they traverse the internet in plain text format (excluding things like PGP and other encryption methods that most people/companies don’t use), but having them centrally filtered via a 3rd party means you’re giving them a truckload of information about yourself, who you deal with, your email habits and so on.
Would your company be happy with a 3rd party that you have no agreement with, receiving and forwarding on all your emails? Even if the emails aren’t stored, if LinkedIn was breached again (which they have been before, multiple times), other people could obtain anything from your contacts, to your password and email contents.
oAuth is supported too, which is a safer approach as it can be revoked – but you’re still giving the same level of access while the connection is approved.
Luckily for Exchange administrators, that doesn’t seem to be supported yet according to https://intro.linkedin.com/micro/faq but for Google Apps people, you’ll need to look into how this can be blocked if you want to. If you’ve found out how, I’d be happy to add it to this post.
Update: There is a great writeup from Bishop Fox on several great reasons as to why this is a ‘bad idea’ http://www.bishopfox.com/blog/2013/10/linkedin-intro/