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Lost Laptops Incur Great Cost To Companies

April 25, 2009

According to the Ponemon Institute, today’s increased mobility in the workforce has caused laptop computers to be lost or stolen more often, creating a pervasive dilemma risking sensitive business information and incurring great cost to companies.

The most consequential security risks to any given organization are coming from within, according to the study. When the organization fails to control access for employees, temporary employees, contractors and partners, they subject private information to destruction, leakage or theft.  The study’s stated objective is to determine how successfully access control is being achieved.

This study by Ponemon Institute backed, by chip giant Intel says, “It is the Information Age and employees are carrying more information on their laptops than ever before.”

Researchers in this study discovered that after accounting for loss of data, intellectual property, replacement, lost work time and legal expenses, a firm loses $49,246 per lost laptop.

The study explains that carriers of this corporate data are losing their laptops in such places as conference centers, pubs, airports, hotels, rental cars, and taxis.

The data gives indication that even though senior executives may be higher on the corporate ladder, the cost to companies incurred by their lost laptops is usually less than half than that of managers and directors.

Ponemon found that a misplaced laptop costs on average $61,000 for a manager or director, whereas a senior executive is responsible for a mere $28,500.

According to the study, if a laptop is reported as missing on the day it is lost, companies are able to significantly curb the cost of the loss to an average of $8,950.

On the other hand, if a laptop is not reported as missing for a week, the cost increases more than tenfold to an astonishing $116,000.

Oddly, if a missing laptop has a backup system of a stored file in place, the cost to firms is approximately $70,000, where a laptop without a backup only costs $39,250.

A possible explanation is that backup system makes it easier to confirm the breach in data of such private information. Or as Ponemon researchers frankly stated, “…it could be the ignorance-is-bliss hypothesis.”

The severity in financial consequence of losing a laptop can be mitigated and brought down by the use of data encryption to a lesser $20,000.

The Ponemon Institute rates its Cost of a Lost Laptop study as being the first study to estimate a detailed cost report of stolen or lost laptop computers.

Their researchers analyzed 138 cases in the last 12 months in which organizations in the United States reported instances of laptop loss or theft.

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