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Lost Laptops Cost Billions

An Intel-sponsored study finds that organizations fail to grasp the risk of lost laptops.

Businesses are losing billions of dollars annually as a result of lost and stolen laptop computers, a new study shows.

Representatives from Intel, which sponsored "The Billion Dollar Laptop Study," and the Ponemon Institute, which conducted the study, announced their findings at a media event in San Francisco on Thursday.

The 329 organizations surveyed lost more than 86,000 laptops over the course of a year, the study found. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said that based on these findings and a 2009 survey that put the average cost of lost laptop data at $49,246, the cost to these organizations came to more than $2.1 billion or $6.4 million per organization.

"A lot of organizations are incompetent at protecting information assets," said Ponemon.

Ponemon explained that the value of the lost hardware represented only a small portion of the estimated cost. Most of the cost is linked to the value of intellectual property on these laptops and the fees associated with data breaches and statutory notification requirements.

The study painted a grim picture about lost and stolen laptops. It found that laptops have a 5% to 10% chance of being lost or stolen over three years. Only 5% of lost laptops are ever recovered. Theft accounts for 25% of losses and likely theft for 15%. Sixty percent of lost laptops simply go missing, their fate unknown. Some lost laptops are believed to be stripped for parts.

Intel's interest in this topic can be explained by the fact that it offers anti-theft technology. The latest generation of this technology, Intel Anti-Theft Technology (Intel AT) 3.0, will debut in Intel's Core and Core vPro processor families during the first quarter of 2011. Intel AT provides the ability: to disable access to encrypted data; to prevent the PC from booting; to send customizable messages that display under conditions; to disable a PC after a certain number of login attempts; and to disable a PC when the user has not checked-in as required.

Version 3.0 adds the ability to send a remote 3G SMS message using special cellular hardware to disable the PC, before it can be booted.

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