Apple’s music storage play

Today, Computerworld pumped out this piece about Apple’s iPod, and the flexible layer it possesses for storing everyday data in addition to music. The article then goes on to speculate that Apple in the personal storage business, but disguises it as the music business. That all makes a lot of sense.

What hit me hard, however, was the mention of data security issues, and how the popular iPod could be a mechanism for data theft. It is there that I also have to agree, but I don’t think that singling out the iPod serves any real purpose here.

This argument has been floating around for some time – that iPods are a security issue. Governments have even gotten involved, like the UK Ministry of Defense stating that iPods should be banned from the workplace.

The arguments are ridiculous. If you are going to ban iPods, then you might as well ban writable CDs and DVDs, and USB keychain drives. While you are at it, maybe companies should quit purchasing laptops for their employees, as those laptops might get stolen. Or worse, an employee might bring one home and hook it to his insecure wireless access point.

Oh me, oh my, what shall we do? Let me give you a hint – start fricken thinking! We are moving ever further into a miniature computerized world, where the CPU is in the pocket, and the storage fits on postage stamps. What fits on the iPod today will fit on a nickel-sized drive just a few years from now. It is how people treat those storage devices, and how they encrypt the data within, that will determine how secure that data is.

The medium on which it travels is irrelevant.

As an example of how to travel with data, I will give you my two-cents worth of personal methodology. I move with a 12 inch Powerbook, which is as good a target for thieves as any (if not better). Furthermore, I run completely digital, meaning my work, my data, and my documents all reside on this machine. In fact, I paid a service a while back to digitize every paper document I had collected over 30 sum-odd years, and stuff them in to PDF files. They all sit on my hard drive.

Now you must be thinking boy if that laptop disappears my life is toast. Not so. I retain my all my data in password protected zip files, and they are stored on an encrypted section of my drive. That encryption is 256bit AES, and the passphase is a full paragraph. If someone can open that machine, hack the OS X password, crack the drive space’s encryption (which would take a few years), then individually break the passwords of the zip files, well I guess they earned it.

In this day and age, the effort required to crack a code usually exceeds the value of that data (except in cases of national security secrets). In my case, the gap is extremely wide (I treat my data LIKE national security secrets), and it has cost me very little to make it that way.

Once the iPod hits 80gb, I think I will up the ante. I’ll pick one up for data backup (as well as rocking during the morning dog walks), and I’ll store the data the exact same way. And I still won’t be worried.


I was happy to see that a day after I posted the above I uncovered this article, entitled Security for the Paranoid, which confirmed much of my “do-it-yourself-or-die” philosophy regarding security. I was also simply glad to see I am not alone here.

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