Blocking Outlook App for iOS & Android

imageYesterday, Microsoft announced the immediate availability the Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android preview. These apps are the former app named Acompli, which was acquired by Microsoft in December, last year. It is unlikely that Microsoft will develop and support two similar apps, so one can assume the new Outlook app will replace the current OWA for iOS and OWA for Android (or just OWA for Devices) apps.

The app isn’t without a little controversy:

  • The app stores credentials in a cloud environment from Amazon Web Services for e-mail accounts that don’t support OAuth authorization.
  • The app makes use of a service sitting between the app and your mailbox. This service acts as a sort of proxy (hence it requires those credentials), fetching, (pre)processing and sending e-mail. In some way this is smart, as it makes the app less dependent on back-end peculiarities, using a uniform protocol to communicate with the proxy service.
  • The app does not distinguish between devices (device identities are assigned to your account, which makes sense since the app uses a service to retrieve and process your e-mail).
  • The app does not honor ActiveSync policies, like PIN requirements. While true, this app is not an ordinary Exchange ActiveSync client.

You can read more about this here and here.

In all fairness, when the app was still named Accompli, nobody cried foul. But the app is now rebranded Outlook and property of Microsoft, so it seems this made the app fair game. I hope Microsoft is working behind the scenes to make the new Outlook app enterprise-ready, and I’m sure it won’t be long before we see the app’s services move from AWS to Azure. The whole outrage in the media also seems a bit misplaced, as Connected Accounts in Exchange Online, which will retrieve e-mail from a POP or IMAP mailbox, will also store credentials ‘in the cloud’.

It is recommended to treat the app as a consumer app for now, and you may want to block the app in your organization. I have written on how to accomplish blocking or quarantining faulty iOS updates before. However, in those articles I used the reported OS version to block or quarantine devices. The Outlook app proxy service reports itself as “Outlook for iOS and Android” as device model when querying your mailbox, allowing us to use the DeviceModel parameter for matching.

The cmdlet to block or quarantine the new Outlook app in Exchange 2010, Exchange 2013 or Office 365,  is:

New-ActiveSyncDeviceAccessRule –QueryString 'Outlook for iOS and Android' –Characteristic DeviceModel –AccessLevel Block

or, to quarantine:

New-ActiveSyncDeviceAccessRule –QueryString 'Outlook for iOS and Android' –Characteristic DeviceModel –AccessLevel Quarantine

For examples of alternative blocking methods using TMG or F5, check this article. If you need to specify the user agent string, use “Outlook-iOS-Android/1.0” (or partial matching on “Outlook-iOS-Android” to block future updates of the app as well).

As goes for all mobile devices in enterprise environments, as an organization it may be better to test and aprove devices and OS versions rather than to be confronted with mobile apps with possible faulty behavior after an update or which may violate corporate security policies.