Managers who believe worker productivity could fall as employees listen to iPods and other miniature digital music players face a greater threat from these devices: pilfered data.
"It's a potential criminal tool," says Purdue University associate professor Marcus Rogers, a researcher at the Indiana school's Center for Education and Research in Information and Security.
Rogers cautions that digital players can swiftly and effortlessly download immense amounts of information. Cyberthieves merely need a small cable to connect the devices to a PC tied to a corporate system. He characterizes iPods and similar gadgets as the 21st-century equivalent of a lock pick and getaway vehicle.
The IT security researcher points out that some palm-sized players can store up to 60 Gbytes of information, which rivals the storage capabilities of laptop computers. Already, he says, digital music players have been used by child-pornography rings because they can store thousands of images, hidden from authorities who might search their PCs. Even a car-theft ring in Britain used iPods: Street operatives maintained data on inventory and orders on their digital music players, hiding the illicit information from police when they stopped suspects.
What should companies do? The first step, he says, is for corporate IT staffs to be aware of the threat. He also suggests companies change policies that control the use of small-form-factor storage devices, including digital music players, and ensure that investigators don't overlook the devices when seeking evidence of cybermischief.
A former Canadian police officer, Rogers says law enforcement has yet to catch up with how criminals use advanced technology. A typical investigator, Rogers suggests, wouldn't think of checking a suspect's pocket if no evidence is found at a workstation. In other words, don't forget to frisk the suspected wrongdoers.