Don't Forget About Email

Carl Weinschenk

Put this one in the things-to-keep-an-eye-on file. Internetnews is reporting that a virus named Podloso has been found in the Apple iPod.


It's not dangerous for two reasons: It doesn't seek to steal or destroy data and it only impacts iPods running the Linux operating system, which is an adventurous option chosen by a small minority of high-tech users.


No matter. Seeing "virus" and "iPod" in the same sentence is troubling.


The iPod already has generated at least some attention from the dark side. On the corporate front, concerns revolve around downloading corporate data. The fears extend to all portable storage devices, of course, and grow when connectivity -- in the form of Wi-Fi (such as the new Sansa Connect and, to some extent, Microsoft's Zune) or cellular (the coming iPhone) -- enters the mix. The thread through all these threats, of course, is that the focus is on filching data from the organization.


The less discussed potential problem is using these devices to bypass firewalls and bring viruses into the organization. Though Podloso itself isn't a big danger, companies need to recognize the potential for such exploits.


Podloso is a "proof-of-concept" virus that is designed to set the stage for future exploits, which won't be benign. In 2004, virus writers released Cabir, a proof-of-concept virus aimed at cell phones. Dangerous viruses did follow, but so far the sector has used the lessons learned in the desktop world and an inherently less vulnerable environment to keep problems to a minimum.


The wildcard with Podoloso is the fact that it uses Linux. The question is whether Podoloso was designed solely to set up an attack on the minority of iPod users who use the open source OS. If this is so, Podoloso looks like a challenge in an esoteric geek war.


The other possibility, however, is that its authors think the virus can easily be tweaked to attack the native iPod platform. That would create far more serious dangers. Until the answer to that question is known, corporate security staffs should pay close attention.

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