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07/08/2005

Article: "Attack of the killer iPods"

Attack of the killer iPods

By Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier
Source: LWN.net

Apparently, the latest security threat to the enterprise is Pod slurping. Gartner recommended banning portable storage devices, including iPods, last year, but Abe Usher has taken it a step farther by providing a proof-of-concept application called slurp that could run off of an iPod or other portable storage device. Usher paints a scary scenario to put the fear of iPods in all of us:

An unauthorized visitor shows up after work hours disguised as a janitor and carrying an iPod (or similar portable storage device). He walks from computer to computer and "slurps" up all of the Microsoft Office files from each system. Within an hour he has acquired 20,000 files from over a dozen workstations. He returns home and uploads the files from his iPod to his PC. Using his handy desktop search program, he quickly finds the proprietary information that he was looking for.

Restricting removable storage devices, however, may be much more difficult -- and ultimately futile, since they're easy to conceal and users with physical access to machines also probably have access to other means for sending sensitive information off-site: e-mail or uploading files to web-based storage, for example. Keeping unauthorized users away from systems is one thing, preventing a disgruntled employee from removing documents is another.

Usher's technical suggestions are also interesting. He suggests disabling USB connections in the system's BIOS, using encryption, keeping corporate data on protected network shares and using third-party applications like DeviceLock to lock down access to USB and other removable devices.

Administrators who wish to disable USB connections in the system bios will also need to password-protect the BIOS to prevent a user from simply re-enabling it. Use of encryption for sensitive data is certainly recommended, though training average PC users to actually utilize encryption may be more easier said than done.

Full story at LWN.net

Related articles:
Sharp Ideas: "Pod slurping"
USB and FireWire devices pose security threat
Understand the risks of USB storage devices

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