Saturday, September 30, 2006

USB flash drives and security

I had a great pleasure yesterday to participate in TechForum's live weekly radio program, discussing security and removable drives. Many thanks to Priscilla and Scott for a great show, filled with good ideas and great questions.

I wanted to expand on a few of those ideas. iPod slurping (the act of using an iPod on someone else's computer to syphon out huge amounts of their data and take it with you) can be a great threat in an enterprise environment. But even worse, I believe Dan brought up the idea of using the iPod with a full-blown Windows installation to get around security measures on the host computer. Taking that a step further, you can now do this with any USB flash drive by installing a modified (read, most likely illegally patched, mock picture courtesy of Tom's Hardware) version of Windows XP that can help you do pretty much anything with the host computer, for good or evil.

And as the technology gets better and better things will get even more interesting. During the show I mentioned a postage-stamp-sized USB flash drive - it's made by Sony and called Micro Vault. Despite its dimunitive size, it can store as much as 2 Gb of data. It's very easy to misplace something of this size. Most employees will treat their corporate laptop with some level of care and protect it from being lost or stolen. The same cannot be said of something so small that it's likely to go through more than one wash-cycle in its lifetime. Yet for the enterprise the consequences of losing that USB drive could be as costly as losing any number of laptops.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Zune vs iPod, a few interesting notes

Here's a few comments on the whole Zune hysteria that may have been overlooked.

Firstly, due to the vertical orientation of the Zune promotional photos some people think that Zune has a wide-screen aspect ratio which is not true. Both iPod and Zune use 4x3 letterbox. iPod's screen is half an inch shorter diagonally, here's Zune's display shown on top of iPod for comparison:

When it comes to Zune's physical size, it is pretty much the same width as iPod, but a bit longer. This image accurately shows their relative sizes:

Some people assumed that Zune has a higher resolution screen which is untrue; both devices use QVGA (320x240). Something I thought was deceptive about the press photos of Zune is the image below. The device screen in the photo must have been composited digitally, after the shot was taken, as the apparent screen resolution in the photo exceeds that of 320x240. This is probably one of the reasons people think Zune has a high-res screen. After adjusting for 320x240 resolution the press photo in question (on the left) looks quite a bit duller (click for the full-size image):

Now, we just need to know Zune's MSRP!

UPDATE: MSRP was announced at $250 and a few unfortunate annoyances have also come to light.