Fact Checked

What is Data Theft?

Rhonda Rivera
Rhonda Rivera

Data theft is not a new occurrence, but it is happening more frequently due to the ease of stealing data with modern technology. There are several different types of data theft, including pod slurping, bluesnarfing, and sneakernet, all of which use different methods to obtain data. Pod slurping is the act of using an iPod® or iPod®-like device to download and take data from a computer. Bluesnarfing is the act of stealing data from another Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phone, laptop or other electronic by linking to it with a Bluetooth® connection. Sneakernet is a method of transferring data from one computer to another with the use of USB flash drives, compact discs (CDs), or other forms of removable storage.

With pod slurping, a data thief is only limited by the capacity of the device he or she is using to steal the data. As technology advances, these devices are becoming physically smaller but are capable of holding more. In fact, even though these devices are normally music players meant to hold a few hundred to a couple thousand songs, they can be filled with enough illicit data to potentially ruin a business. It is usually not immediately obvious that someone is pod slurping because people connect music devices such as iPod®s to computers all the time to charge them, listen to music, or place music on them.

Small flash drives can be used to steal data.
Small flash drives can be used to steal data.

Data theft through Bluesnarfing is a very limited method, but it can still acquire private data like address books, photos, and videos. To Bluesnarf, both the thief and victim’s device must be Bluetooth®-enabled. The victim’s device must be set to discoverable rather than hidden, and must be in range of the thief. Once everything is in place, the thief can begin copying data from the victim’s device to his or her device. This type of data theft is illegal in some countries because it violates privacy laws.

Data theft includes copying sensitive files onto a CD.
Data theft includes copying sensitive files onto a CD.

Sneaknet is perhaps the most common method used for data theft. The term sneakernet is not used solely to describe stealing data, but for any type of file sharing through removable storage devices like USB flash drives. Like music devices, portable storage devices are being designed to be physically smaller but can fit more data than ever. This makes it easy for thieves to sneak data from work to home, which is a growing problem in many workplaces around the world. It is particularly common when an employee quits or is fired.

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Discussion Comments


@miriam98 - I agree. I find it hard to believe however that a data breach could take place using an iPod or a Bluetooth enabled device.

For Bluetooth to work you have to be within range of the device, from what I understand. Is a thief going to stand ten feet next to you to steal your data? I suppose it’s likely but it doesn’t seem practical.

The same goes for an iPod. It’s pretty obvious if you’re sticking an iPod into a computer. Yeah, people do it to download music and charge the batteries, but why would people do it at work? That looks suspicious.

So I agree that the best method for this kind of computer data theft is using an Internet connection. That is, after all, the number one way that identity theft is happening.


I work at a company where we deal with confidential government data. I actually work in a sequestered part of the building. Our manager specifically told us that we were never to bring an iPod or flash drive to work, specifically for the reasons mentioned in this article, for data theft protection.

Of course there are other ways to steal data, like uploading it over the Internet, which frankly is easier than the other methods described here. The fact remains that we do have Internet access.

So in the final analysis prohibiting certain devices in the workplace does nothing in my opinion. The only real data loss prevention method is called the personal integrity of the employee. With that intact you have nothing to worry about. If the integrity is not there, there’s always a way to steal the data.

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    • Small flash drives can be used to steal data.
      By: Andrea Biraghi
      Small flash drives can be used to steal data.
    • Data theft includes copying sensitive files onto a CD.
      By: Alysta
      Data theft includes copying sensitive files onto a CD.