- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004

A recent discussion of the Kanguru USB-style “flash memory” device — a 1 GB solid-state “drive” that attaches to a computer’s USB ports — brought an interesting and disturbing letter from a reader, who wrote “not for attribution.”

Readers may recall some advantages of these flash drives: large capacity ones will let you move files around the office (or to your home computer) with ease, eliminating worry about whether a CD-ROM has enough capacity for a task. The flash drives can be erased and reused, and they can work across platforms, say from a Mac to a Windows PC.

“I like• the idea,” this reader wrote, “so I spoke to my company’s [information technology] director about doing this, at least on a small scale to start with. He gave me a quick ‘dark side’ response to the idea.”

The IT director said the device would be too handy for corporate espionage or, lacking virus protection, the delivery of malicious viruses or worms into a corporate network.

The reader was confronted with a stark response: Not only will his company not purchase USB Flash Drives for employees, but the IT department will “craft a policy for management approval wherein the mere possession of a personally owned Kanguru device on company premises may be grounds for termination of employment.”

Now I have no idea where this reader is employed. I would imagine it is in private industry, since he referred to his “company,” as opposed to an “agency.” He did not disclose the name of his employer, nor its line of business. This reader’s place of business might be a glue factory, or it could be a critical subcontractor to the federal government.

I’m troubled, however, by the objections raised by this reader’s technology manager and have to wonder if that manager has really thought things through.

Perhaps he has: If the company involved is, in fact, a private-sector partner of a federal agency, particularly one connected with national security work, then I can understand the extreme caution such a company must have.

This is why there are companies, many of them around the Beltway, that specialize in highly secure computer systems and hard disk storage. These products are engineered to detect tampering and other intrusions and to respond accordingly.

If, on the other hand, the concern is the theft of intellectual property or dishonesty by employees, there a far different set of issues that need to be addressed, perhaps by senior management.

Employers should make it easy for colleagues to share information and data. The use of USB Flash Drives is a net positive for work groups in my view, not a negative, because they make it easier for teams to work like, well, teams.

If your IT department is getting worried over technology improvements that make working a better experience, they might just benefit from some education in the latest developments in their field.

How might you gain the advantage in such situations? Become an “evangelist” inside your circle for such new technology. Marshal your facts, get the information together, and see how you can present such ideas to senior management to win their approval.

If your leadership won’t listen and refuses to do so more than once, you might want to dust off your resume.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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