Study Finds Missing-Laptop Costs Staggering to Businesses; Few Take Precautions
- According to a new study, more than 300 businesses and other organizations lost more than 86,000 laptop PCs worth a staggering $2.1 billion.
- The majority of these companies with significant amounts of confidential data on their mobile PCs do not take advantage of even basic security practices.
- Transportation venues, such as airports and train stations are not the riskiest places; seemingly safe locations, such as homes and hotel rooms account for more than 40 percent of laptop disappearances.
- Workers face up to a 10 percent chance of losing their laptops, depending on the industry they work in.
SANTA CLARA, Calif., Dec. 2, 2010 –A new survey shows that U.S. businesses and other organizations are losing billions of dollars due to lost and stolen laptop computers. Yet, two-thirds do not take advantage of even basic security practices, such as encryption, back-up and anti-theft technologies.
"The Billion Dollar Lost-Laptop Study," conducted by Intel Corporation and the Ponemon Institute, analyzed the scope and circumstances of missing laptop PCs. The survey found that the 329 organizations polled had collectively lost more than 86,000 laptops worth a staggering $2.1 billion.
"Looking at these results, you can barely fathom the significant financial impact of missing laptops," said Anand Pashupathy, general manager, Intel Anti-Theft Services. "More astonishing, considering the vulnerability of laptops and their data is that the majority of these companies aren't taking even basic precautions to protect them."
Intel commissioned the study to aid in developing and improving its security technologies, including Intel® Anti-Theft Technology, that help protect laptops and their data, but also to help advance industrywide efforts among others with a stake in the problem.
The losses resulted from data breach, lost intellectual property, reduced productivity and legal and regulatory charges, among others.
The study lays the chance of workers misplacing their laptops or having them stolen at somewhere between 5 and 10 percent, depending on the industry that the company is in, during the PCs' expected 3-year lifespans. Of the 11 industries surveyed, educational and research institutions reported the most lost or stolen laptops – at just under 11 percent of their mobile fleets. Financial institutions scored the best, losing only a little over 5 percent of their mobile PCs.
Major Gaps in Protecting Data
"While organizations may be aware of the lost-laptop problem, it became clear as we conducted our research that most organizations, including workers, IT and CFOs, do not fully understand the adverse affect it can have on their bottom line," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "If they did, they'd be much more diligent in protecting their laptop fleets."
The primary methods of keeping mobile PC fleets safe – hard disk encryption, data back-up and anti-theft technologies – are far from pervasive. While 46 percent of the lost systems contained confidential data, astoundingly only 30 percent of those systems were encrypted, and only 10 percent had any other anti-theft technologies. Possibly most surprising, 71 percent of laptops lost were not backed up, meaning not only did organizations lose sensitive data, but any work in progress was gone as well.
Where Did Those Laptops Go?
Somewhat surprisingly, the study confirmed that thieves made off with only 25 percent of the missing laptops, though they were suspected in another 15 percent of cases. The rest – 60 percent – were logged as simply missing.
The study analyzed the three major environments where workers most often part company with their laptops: transportation sites, for example, in airports, train stations or taxis; seemingly safe off-site locations, such as homes, other companies' conference rooms or hotel rooms; and their own offices. While most might suspect that transportation venues see the biggest toll in missing laptops, only one-third go astray there. It is the commonly considered benign off-site locations where the most – a little over 40 percent – laptops are lost or stolen. Workers' offices are the sites for 12 percent of laptop disappearances. Another 12 percent vanished without explanation. Only 5 percent of all lost laptops are ever recovered.
However, while only second in the total number of missing laptops, transportation locations are thieves' venue of choice. For companies reporting the highest theft rates among their missing laptops, thieves pilfered 48 percent at transportation venues, while only 27 percent at off-site locations.
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