I've read some twaddle in my time, but I'm growing ever-more sick at how so-called security experts can't stop themselves gabbling on about the security threat of allowing iPods to be used in offices. Such 'experts' live in an inverse Narnia, and their attention-seeking notions give me a worse case of indigestion than any amount of Turkish Delight.

Look at the story emanating from the Home Office today, in which the department's getting roundly slammed for buying iPods for some of its top staff.

These iPods aren't perks. They're being used to offer senior staff access to professional video-based training in leadership skills.

iPod-based training works because students can access training resources whenever they like, at home or at work.

Students can watch a training video as many times as they need to in order to remember the lesson, and they can watch them again later on to remind themselves of what they have learned.

Effectively, for senior level staff, such experiments with digitally-connected learning mean essential employees don't need to visit some over-priced training centre to listen to fast-forgotten teachers and digest those ever-present curly white bread sandwiches.

And, once you get past the initial investment in equipment, iPod-based video training can work out cheaper, too. And equipment and lessons can be handed over to other trainees at a later date.

To my mind, climbing aboard the always-connected learning bandwagon is pretty switched-on behaviour from a 'UK.gov' department, and shows the Home Office is exploring different ways technology can help teach and learn.

The fact newspapers don't get this is irrelevant. I write about this stuff and I understand why - and how - it makes sense.

Then along comes the eternal security expert to mouth the constant (and constantly dull) "iPod is bad" mantra.

You see, according to a comment I received this morning (and I won't say who from, as I'm sure all concerned are quite lovely people really, and I don't want to engage in any personal argument) iPods pose a security risk to enterprises and government institutions.


Because it's possible to transfer data to the iPod's drive. And sensitive data needs to be protected from such theft.

Well, yes, sure, but why is the iPod to blame?

You could make the same argument against photocopiers, the memory cards in cameras and mobile phones, CD and DVD writers, FTP access, flash drives, any digital music player, typewriters, cameras and pen and paper.

At the end of the day, security risks are generated by disaffected employees. The best security solution is to keep workers happy.

Here's a few simple tips: treat employees with respect, pay them well, give them autonomy, furnish them with positive feedback; don't ask them to do more than one person's work and free them from the thrall of arrogant, rude or incommunicative managers.

Without fail, organisations that ignore that advice suffer from poor staff retention and weak staff loyalty. And that's a security threat in itself.

IT support departments can help, too. For example, why not disable the USB and FireWire ports on the company or Home Office computers so workers can't just plug in their digital device and nick the data?

But, sadly, offering advice like that doesn't generate column inches. To get the most publicity, you need to use the word 'iPod'.

And it seems to me that when it comes to applying a little iPod magic to help raise their public profile, security researchers are nothing short of wizard.

No doubt next week some other expert will tell us once again that listening to music on your iPod at maximum volume for an extended period can be bad for your hearing.

iPod listening apparently can also get you run over (if you've forgotten your green cross code); make you a mugging victim; and transform you into being super-attractive to men and women.


At the end of the day, it's the human, not the technology. Common sense should prevail, surely.

Right. Rant over.