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What is Pod Slurping?

John Lister
John Lister

Pod slurping is to illegally copy data from a computer to a portable storage device. In many cases, this device is a portable media player, and the name comes from the Apple iPod range. Such devices make it easier for a user to steal data without physical detection.

There are two separate but complementary patterns that combine to make pod slurping increasingly more efficient. One is that portable storage devices continue to become physically smaller, making them easier to conceal. Indeed, some USB memory sticks are so small they can be held in a USB slot and concealed entirely by the user's hand. The other pattern is that the storage capacity of such devices continues to grow at a rapid pace. This means that most types of data file can easily be fitted onto a portable device.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Although pod slurping is named after the iPod, this device is not necessarily the best option for data thieves. This is because the storage space device cannot normally be accessed directly without installing and running special software on the relevant software. A data thief is more likely to use a device primarily designed for data storage, such as a USB stick. The main reason to use an iPod or other MP3 player would be because it looks less physically suspicious.

The slurping element of pod slurping gets its name from an application known as slurp.exe. This application is designed to quickly search through particular directories for particular types of file. A common set-up would be to search through the Documents library in Microsoft Windows to find Microsoft Office document files. If slurp.exe is set to automatically run when the device is placed into a computer's USB slot, this means a user could capture all the document files on a computer without even needing to access the keyboard or mouse.

There are several types of data theft that are similar to pod slurping. Bluesnarfing involves using a Bluetooth connection to steal data wirelessly. This should not be confused with Bluejacking, which involves using a Bluetooth connection to send unsolicited messages to wireless devices, either as a prank or a form of spam-like advertising.

Not all types of data theft use rewritable media as is done in pod slurping. In 2010, a US soldier was accused of stealing confidential data by burning files to a data CD. It was alleged that he had smuggled the CD into his work disguised as an audio CD that he pretended to listen to on his computer.

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