Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 6/7/2004Off to the BBC for my first appearance on funksome digital channel BBC3. I'm booked to pop up on the 7 o'clock news, presented by one of my broadcasting heros Eddie Mair.

Tuesday 6/7/2004
Off to the BBC for my first appearance on funksome digital channel BBC3. I'm booked to pop up on the 7 o'clock news, presented by one of my broadcasting heros Eddie Mair. We nattered about spyware, and after the show I asked him how he manages to do both the BBC3 TV show and the Radio 4 PM programme, which goes out an hour earlier. "Drugs" he said, laconically -- but the man's clearly in thrall to nothing stronger than a double espresso. Also appearing on the show was Nick Lewis, CEO of Webroot UK , a company that does SpySweeper -- well-regarded anti-spyware software.

"Tell you what," he said afterwards. "I'll email you a copy and you can have a look at it." Fine -- I spend a lot of time trying to decontaminate friends' PCs these days and when it comes to spyware removal software you can't have too much.

Next day, as promised, there was the email with a three-meg attachment. Or rather, there was the email with a snotty note from our email gateway saying "According to company policy, the attachment has been removed". I wouldn't mind, only company policy also seems to include letting through spam of increasingly violent and disturbing natures. Can we keep the useful files and throw away the scum? Only asking.

So we tried via Gmail -- also failed, and we don't know why. Eventually, the long-suffering Nick promised to put a copy on a memory stick and send it via the post. Ah, technology!

But even this avenue could be blocked, if enough people take heed of a report from Gartner. This says that all these funky new gadgets -- memory sticks, digital cameras, iPods and so on -- can function as very capacious portable hard drives and are thus hideous security risks. They can thus act as conduits to deliver tons of nasty spyware and viruses, or virtual carrier bags to half-inch gigabytes of corporate secrets. Companies should ban all such devices from secure areas, said the report.

Which will never work. My phone, my iPod, my PDA and my camera would have to go, as would my keyring USB drive. I don't have a USB drive watch or pen, but I could do, and I've seen some cut-down USB drives that dispense with most of the hardware around the connector and are thus skinny enough to slip behind a credit card in your wallet. And while there's a case to be made that I don't need an iPod or a camera to do my job, PDAs and phones are a different matter.

The answer isn't to ban this stuff, but to secure the ports. Why should a USB port lie on its back and stick its legs in the air begging to be tickled just because a stranger's stuck his drive in? A bit more thought and a little less banning, or none of this stuff will be any use whatsoever.

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