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THOUGHT: UK military denies ban on iPods but anyway...
Posted by Arne Hess - on Wednesday, 14.07.04 - 20:50:40 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 6732x
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BBC News Online recently reported about an iPod ban at the UK military which was already denied by a spokesman but the story and thoughts behind it is a good one and also Windows Mobile related:

The Ministry of Defence has denied reports that it has banned Apple's iPod due to fears it could be used to steal sensitive files. News reports said the music player and other portable storage devices had been banned from most sections of its headquarters in the UK and abroad.

The potential security risks posed by portable storage devices that plug into a PC's USB or FireWire ports has been highlighted recently in a couple of reports.


Data to go
As well as holding thousands of songs, an iPod can also act as an external hard drive. And small USB memory sticks are becoming increasingly popular with staff, due to the ease with which they can be used to move files between the home and office.

The iPod can be used as an external hard drive
Press reports suggested that this had led the British military to stop the use of iPods and similar gadgets.
"With USB devices, if you plug it straight into the computer you can bypass passwords and get right on the system," RAF Wing Commander Peter D'Ardenne told Reuters. "That's why we had to plug that gap."

The fear is correct - I think and it's interesting to see how companies deal with this problems. If I take one of my customers I was working for it's funny since I wasn't not allowed to connect my i-Mate Pocket PC or Smartphone via ActiveSync with the office PC but USB was enabled and therefore I could easily plug-in my memory sticks or even better, my 40GB iPod.
ActiveSync was forbidden (and unfortunately Windows requires Admin privileges to install it) because Windows Mobile devices could be used to export data to the device. Heck - I could completely copy my home as well as a couple of network drives per day - using my iPod.

So what's the deal now? Disabling USB? Might becomes even harder in the future since most keyboards and mice are working via USB now, banning MP3 players from offices? Hey, give your employees a little bit fun. It's an frustrating "ban-hype" we see in the industry now. While some companies ban phones which includes digital cameras (and it becomes more and more) I'm pretty sure we are not that far away from getting "high capacity storage" mobile devices banned soon!

How is your company handling this? Are you still allowed to carry your camera enabled cell phone and how is your company handling USB port access?

Cheers ~ Arne

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Posted by Roel Martens on 18.07.04 - 09:09:15

What I don't understand that if a desktop pc is secured by a password and I plugin a usb device I will not be able to do anything except if my usb device cab hack through an usb port into the system which is impossible with an iPOD I think.  Is this not more a security issue on de current infrastructure and making sure that the right person can access the usb port an others are blocked?

Posted by Heinz on 17.07.04 - 13:10:24

To disable the USB port is a easy as can be. Big companies uses software distribution systems and this systems also provides the needed USB drivers. If you plug in an unknown device it simply wont work.

But its true, a lot of companies disable diskette and CD drives but leave the USB port untouched.

Posted by Mike Beardsley on 20.08.04 - 21:11:40


The point is that most security breaches are not from the outside, but from users that have a password and are authorized to log in to the system. USB mass storage devices are a security risk because files that are protected by NTFS permissions while on the network, lose those protections when copied to the USB device because the file system on these devices is FAT. FAT has no access restrictions, so anyone with access to the USB device can read the files on it.

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