Packet Rat: Mini devices make the Rat a holiday humbug

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

When the holidays approach, most people grow anxious for the usual reasons: too much time with extended family, holiday shopping madness and people telling them to cheer up.

But the Rat gets winter night terrors thinking about all the new electronic gadgets people will to try to hook up to his network.

For example, take the ever-popular Apple iPod family of music players. This season, many of the unwashed masses who use the Whiskered One's infrastructure will be bopping into work with one of those little buggers clipped to their belt.

Not that the cyberrodent doesn't enjoy legally downloaded, high-fidelity digital tunes as he pedals his bike to the command bunker.

It's just that iPods and other portable music players'and digital cameras, personal handhelds and just about every other portable device showing up in stockings these days'are a giant security threat.

'They're just little portable hard drives,' the Rat explained to his spouse as they settled down for a long winter's nap. 'Hundreds of new external hard drives, which people can use to transfer gigabytes of data to and from their desktops, will be in close proximity to my network. It's giving me the heebie-jeebies.'

'Are you sure it isn't the fruitcake you ate?' she said with feigned concern.

'No, I've got visions of iPods dancing in my head. And they're dancing into my network along with virus-laden family holiday photos. They're dancing out with official-use-only files for quick touch-ups at home. It's a nightmare!'

'So just write a policy against iPods at work,' his spouse suggested.

'Sure,' the Rat replied. 'And I'll have my photo attached to the memo so the angry mob can identify me.'

The truth is, the Rat's agency already has a policy about plugging personal devices into network PCs. 'But it's like telling my kids not to hack into the NMCI anymore,' he recently ranted to his department head. 'They know if they don't get caught, there's no way for me to pin anything on them.'

But security is just one of the Rat's worries. He's also afraid of what's going to happen to his own crew's productivity.

Every year after the holidays, he sees a spike in help desk traffic, and he knows it isn't only about forgotten passwords. Despite bunker policy prohibiting personal devices, his acolytes are all too happy to share their expertise on iPods and camera phones with the general population, often for hours at a time and in between sessions of Halo 2 on the XBox they secreted into a crawl space above the data center.

In bed, the Rat was reminded that his offspring have done the same in the rafters above their room. 'That isn't the sound of tiny reindeer on the rooftop,' he muttered as he swung out of bed to administer bedtime justice. 'Unless Santa uses a rocket launcher.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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