I'm a little bit torn this lunchtime. I've just been chatting with a guy from Centennial software. Since April of this year, Centennial have been rolling out a product called DeviceWall, which basically allows IT managers to see - and block - devices that are being connected to the PCs in their network.
There are some pretty sound security reasons for wanting to do this. Firstly, you don't want someone bringing in a virus from home and inadvertantly spreading it across the whole network. Secondly, if you want for keep the data on your network safe then you don't want people to be able to write it onto a USB drive or burn it on to a CD. The government, banks, the armed forces and so on need to take security seriously and this is a tool that allows them to see exactly what's going on. Equally, firms with a lot of intellectual property to protect need to be just as careful.
But here's why I have mixed feelings. If my IT manager is using this tool, he knows when I've got my MP3 player connected to my PC. Though DeviceWall won't tell him whether I'm uploading the new Madonna track or not, he will know that I've connected a device to my PC. He can also stop me from doing so. Okay, he's a big guy, all he needs to do is tell me he'll break my arms (rumour has it he did this to one poor member of staff many moons ago) if I connect my MP3 player to my PC again and I won't do it. No sir. But he can actually use this tool to block me from doing so - he could also stop me from burning CDs as well. Not that I think he would, but I know I'm not the only person in the world who uses my work PC to store a bit of music that I'll transfer to my player. I wouldn't like to think that someone could just come along and stop me from doing that any more - I consider it to be one of the few perks of my job.
I realise that a few of you out there may very well already be prevented from doing this sort of thing - DeviceWall's been around for months and it's certainly not the only product of this type. The market for this flavour of software is relatively new but is growing fast - interestingly, you won't find many of the traditional security software firms getting involved just yet.
We'll be looking at this particular product and looking at this sector in general in upcoming issues of PC Advisor - but in the meantime I'd like to know what people think about this topic.