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Lost Laptops Cost Companies Billions, Study Says

Cost of data exposure dwarfs the cost of lost equipment, according to Intel/Ponemon report

A new survey shows U.S. businesses and other organizations are losing billions of dollars due to lost and stolen laptop computers.

But two-thirds of the organizations surveyed do not take advantage of even basic security practices, such as encryption, backup, and anti-theft technologies, the study says.

"The Billion Dollar Lost-Laptop Study," conducted by Intel and the Ponemon Institute, analyzed the scope and circumstances of missing laptop PCs. The survey found the 329 organizations polled had collectively lost more than 86,000 laptops.

In a previous study, Ponemon Institute calculated that lost laptops, on average, cost enterprises an average of $49,246 each in lost data, lost hardware, lost productivity, and breach notification/remediation. Using that figure, Intel and Ponemon calculate that the 86,000 lost laptops cost the 329 enterprises approximately $2.1 billion.

The chance of workers misplacing their laptops -- or having them stolen -- is between 5 and 10 percent during that PC's three-year lifespan, the study says.

The primary methods of keeping mobile PCs safe –- hard disk encryption, data backup, and anti-theft technologies -- are far from pervasive, according to the study. While 46 percent of the lost systems contained confidential data, only 30 percent of those systems were encrypted, and only 10 percent had any other anti-theft technologies. Nearly three quarters of laptops lost were not backed up.

According to the study, 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.

Experts say most enterprises understand the likelihood of laptop theft, but many do surprisingly little to respond.

"Laptops are the greatest risk that I find in my security assessments," says Kevin Beaver, an independent consultant and expert witness for Principal Logic. "It's amazing to me that companies spend millions on vulnerability assessment, but let their employees walk around with unprotected laptops."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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