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pod slurping also podslurping

noun [uncountable]

unauthorized copying of information from a computer to a small storage device such as an iPod

pod slurper

noun [countable]

pod slurp

verb [transitive]

'Pod Slurping Dangerous To Enterprises … a researcher has demonstrated just how easy it is to walk off with megabytes of sensitive material when armed with only the ubiquitous iPod and simple software.'

TechWeb News 17th June 2005

'The temptation embodied in an unattended PC provides the pathway to being pod slurped … There is a basic problem at the heart of pod slurping: growing prosperity and improving technologies continue to increase its potential scale and sophistication. Unlike the hackers and virus-writers of the 1990s, one does not need much skill or equipment to be a pod slurper.'

AME Info 19th April 2007

An unauthorized visitor enters an office after work hours, disguised as a cleaner and carrying an iPod. Making his way from PC to PC, he takes only a few minutes to gather up all the confidential Microsoft Office files on the system. He then slips the iPod in his pocket and leaves the building. No one really knows where he came from, or where he's going. And who is he? – A perpetrator of a security breach now known as pod slurping, which was the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year in 2007.

pod slurping represents a very genuine security risk, with … sales of portable devices hitting record levels, and the copying process being quick and easy to execute surreptitiously

Pod slurping occurs when someone uses a portable USB device (for example an iPod / MP3 player, PDA or memory stick) to download large amounts of information from a computer without the owner's consent. And it represents a very genuine security risk, with USB ports being as 'universal' as their name suggests, sales of portable devices hitting record levels, and the copying process being quick and easy to execute surreptitiously. Research has shown that, once an iPod with sufficient storage is plugged into a computer, it can take as little as 65 seconds to scan the hard drive, find all the Excel, PDF and Word files, and copy them over.

The activity noun pod slurping, sometimes written as a closed compound podslurping, has spawned a related noun pod slurper to refer to a perpetrator. The transitive verb pod slurp is also sometimes used, usually in the passive form, as in be / get pod-slurped.

Background – pod slurping

The security risk posed by pod slurping was first recognised in 2005, when Abe Usher, an expert working for the US security consultancy Sharp Ideas, devised a copying program called slurp.exe, which was used to demonstrate the concept. Usher showed that it was possible to extract about 100MB of business data in as little as two minutes, claiming that a 60GB iPod had the potential to store every business document from a medium-sized company.

The expression data slurping (or sometimes simply slurping) is also now used as a general term for the unauthorized copying of business data onto portable devices. An increasing need to deal with the problem has, in turn, lead to use of the term anti-slurping, as in an anti-slurping mechanism / solution.

The verb slurp came into the English language from Dutch in the mid-17th century. Its conventional meaning is described in the Macmillan English Dictionary as: 'to make loud sucking noises as you drink something', so the analogy in IT contexts is presumably the idea of quickly 'sucking' information from something.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 3rd June 2008.

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