Next Time, Try SSH of an ISO

Chances are, most of you have no idea what the title of this posting means.  But a few people in the United Kingdom (may not be united for much longer) need to learn that meaning quickly when moving their CD-ROM’s around, as now they have lost two of them with the confidential data of half the families living in the country.

CD’s are so commonplace that it’s really arresting to think about the magnitude of a disaster that involves losing two of them.  The production of these two CD’s themselves, including the labour taken to burn them, couldn’t be more than a few quid.  (That’s pounds sterling, for those on this side of the Atlantic.)  The technology itself, although a wonder, is a quarter of a century old, and has long been surpassed by DVD (single and dual layer,) Blu-Ray and the like.

More specific to the current discussion, however, is the method of transfer.  Most of our computers (especially if you’re using Windows) have all kinds of anti-virus, anti-spam, firewalls and the like for virtual security.  The one thing that many people overlook is the physical security of the equipment and data.  We worry about hackers all the time, but when so much data can be put on such antiquated media and tossed about, we need to take a look at that too.  (Just think of the damage that could have been done with a 4 GB flash drive…)

One way to do the fateful transfer that is now roiling the Brown government would be to have condensed the data onto one or more .iso disk image files, encrypting and protecting them all this while, then uploading them using SSH (secure shell)  to either the destination target or to a common data transfer location.  At least the loss would have had some kind of trace.

None of this is very exotic, and there’s doubtless proprietary solutions that would do better.  (On the other hand, maybe not…)  But then we run into the next problem: the computer literacy of the bureaucrats, which may not be the highest either.  Compounding this problem is the fact that Windows, unlike Unix based systems (Mac OS X, Linux, Free BSD, etc.,) doesn’t have a straightforward method of mounting and viewing disk image files.

In a world where so much data can be transferred with such ease–physical and virtual–it pays to stay vigilant.

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