Homepage: How many names fit on a CD-ROM?

Skip ahead if you know this story. A man who lived in a small European country worked just across the border in the neighbouring principality. Twice a day, on the way to and from work he had to pass through the customs checkpoint. Every evening he'd wheel his wheelbarrow full of straw up to the border where a customs officer would diligently look through the straw trying to find the contraband, but all he ever found was straw. Many years later the two men met socially and the customs officer asked, "I always knew you were smuggling something but I couldn't work out what it was. Can you tell me now?" "Sure!" answered the suspect. "Wheelbarrows!"

I've been reminded of this story a number of times recently - each time I hear of a new case of data theft. Some businesses are built around data, and this data not only has a measurable value, it has a value to people outside the organisation too. Do you keep a list of your customers? Does this list include personal notes about them and their buying habits? Many of you will use a prospect management system like Tracker or Goldmine, and you wouldn't want an outsider getting a copy of the file. Nor would you want an employee to take a copy home. But if an employee did take it into his or her mind to set themselves up in business, how would you prevent them taking a copy of the data?

Diskettes? They'd need a few, but it could be done. Zip or LS-120 cartridges? Easy! On the hard disk of their notebook, on a removable hard disk, on a backup tape or on a CD they've blown at work? What about packing the file with Zip and e-mailing it to themselves at home, or FTPing it over the Internet. There was a recent case in Sydney of someone installing a 2.4GHz wireless Ethernet unit and beaming the signal to a rival building across the street. And you probably wouldn't be surprised to know how many employees have installed auto-answer modems on their work PC so they can dial in from home to access anything they normally can during the day. Finally, the modern-day equivalent of the wheelbarrow might be to carry the data out as hardcopy rather than in an electronic format.