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Analyst: iPods a network security risk

Gartner is urging companies to consider banning MP3 players and other gadgets that could be used to carry malware or steal data.

Companies should consider banning portable storage devices such as Apple's iPod from corporate networks, as they can be used to introduce malware or steal corporate data, according to an analyst.

Small portable storage products can bypass perimeter defenses like firewalls and introduce malware such as Trojans or viruses onto company networks, research company Gartner said in a report issued this week.

Analysts have warned for some time of the dangers of using portable devices, but the report points out these also now include "disk-based MP3 players, such as Apple's iPod, and digital cameras with smart media cards, memory sticks, compact flash and other memory media."

Another potential danger is that the devices--which typically make use of USB and FireWire--could be used to steal large amounts of company data, as they are faster to download to than CDs. Additionally, the size of the portable devices means they can be easily misplaced or stolen.

Gartner advises companies to forbid the use of uncontrolled, privately owned devices with corporate PCs and to adopt personal firewalls to limit activity on USB ports.

"Businesses must ensure that the right procedures and technologies are adopted to securely manage the use of portable storage devices like USB 'keychain' drives," the report states. "This will help to limit damage from malicious code, loss of proprietary information or intellectual property, and consequent lawsuits and loss of reputation."

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from London.