Think your PC is locked up safe and sound? Think again. Anyone with a USB memory stick could steal from your system.

This article appears in the February 07 issue of PC Advisor, onsale now in all good newsagents.

While most virus and security threats stem from the internet, there is another, seemingly innocuous, carrier of infection. And many of us leave our PCs completely defenceless.

These days, with sophisticated firewalls, antivirus and spyware tools, it can be the PC's USB port that is its weak spot. Is it any wonder? You don't need to be an administrator to install USB or FireWire devices. Almost anyone could plug in a USB thumb drive and expose your PC to potential threats.

If the threat of viruses isn't worrying enough, the thought of someone using your USB port to steal sensitive data certainly will be. And it's a big problem. Microsoft UK representatives told us of customers who have glued up their staff's PCs' USB ports to prevent such a scenario.

In the wrong hands, storage devices can siphon away valuable cargo faster than the Artful Dodger. And seemingly innocuous iPod music players have been cited as a serious security threat, too.

Known as Podslurping, iPods with their large hard drives, USB 2.0 and FireWire connectivity, can be an ideal tool for file-pilfering. Unconvinced? Head here, where security expert Abe Usher has developed a python program to demonstrate how easy it is to lift data. It's sobering stuff.

With XP's casual approach to USB security, it takes a third-party program to install some serious law and order. Smartline's £22 DeviceLock 6.0 can restrict the use of USB, FireWire, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices, as well as optical and floppy disc drives.

DeviceLock can work in conjunction with the Windows Active Directory, allowing network administrators to apply policies to groups of users, as well as individuals. There's a free 30-day trial at www.devicelock.com, or find it on the February 07 cover disc.