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Pod slurping

This term gained a minor accolade at the beginning of February 2008 when it was voted as their choice for the word of 2007 by the Australian Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year Committee.

It refers to a computer security problem that has been worrying the experts ever since small portable data storage devices began to be easily available. These can hold very large amounts of data and can easily be linked to office computers to download data. The term is named for Apple’s MP3 player, the iPod. Though this is usually thought to be just for storing and playing music, it can actually store any sort of digital data. The term has been expanded to refer to any storage equipment that can be connected to a computer via USB or Firewire ports, which includes such devices as memory sticks. These can be so easily concealed that the risk of industrial espionage is very great.

So far as I can discover, the word first appeared in an item in Information Week on 20 June 2005, though it was widely publicised by an article in New Scientist less than a week later that was widely picked up by other media. The New Scientist article quotes the US American security expert Abe Usher, who seems to have invented it. The verb, pod slurp, is also known.

Device Sentry — Stops pod-slurping and other forms of data theft by preventing thieves from mounting iPods, thumb drives, or other external USB or Firewire devices without authorization.

BusinessWire, 6 Feb. 2008

Although 61 percent of respondents had never heard of “pod slurping” (the downloading of corporate data to an iPod), 67 percent believe that iPods and similar devices are a threat now.

Wireless News, 29 July 2007

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 16 Feb. 2008

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 16 February 2008.