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Can an employee's iPod be a security threat?

You bet, says one expert.

Brian McCarthy, vice president of marketing for the Americas for Centennial Software, said his company works with a number of CUs to prevent data theft and other problems that can occur from the inside- where staff members and contractors connect to networked computers. Centennial first introduced its DeviceWall product in April 2005, and recently shipped Version 4.0.

"This is an endpoint security product that provides device, data and desktop control," he said. "Most financial institutions have perimeter security, but people are plugging in portable devices they bring from home-iPods, cell phones, cameras, PDAs. Some of these have a legitimate business purpose; some do not. But, companies have to be able to stop data from being removed."

Threats can be both inadvertent and malicious, McCarthy explained. A worker could accidentally introduce a virus into the system from his or her handheld device. Or, someone could steal data for identity theft or other criminal purposes.

And the ease with which such an operation can be done is frightening.

"Someone with a flash drive can take 60 megabytes of data in less than one minute," McCarthy said. "With DeviceWall, in addition to protecting the computer and the devices, we make sure the data is encrypted. If it falls into the wrong hands or is taken to a competitor, the data is useless. But, if an IT person wants to move data from one machine to another, it is allowed. The key is, it is on the corporate network."

According to McCarthy, financial institutions are among the vanguard in implementing security systems of this type because their data is critical. He said a British company calculated the average impact of identity theft at $250,000.

"The cost to implement a security solution is less than the cost of even one incident of data theft. Credit unions can do that ROI calculation by themselves."

Centennial offers scalable pricing, which McCarthy said puts data security within reach of even the smallest CU. Current credit union customers include Pennsylvania State Employees CU, Mountain America FCU in Utah, and Financial Partners CU in California.

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