More on Laptop Losses – How many go missing?

Yesterday’s posting prompted a few questions about industry averages for the number of laptops that go missing. Such data would be very useful for business cases and benchmarking performance. Of course these figures vary across organisations and over time, depending on factors such as the mobility of staff, the degree of public transport used, and the vulnerability of the business environment.

One indication of the scale of the problem can be taken from surveys of City taxi drivers sponsored by Pointsec, a security vendor. They show that a surpringly large number of electronic devices are left behind in London black cabs. A survey carried out a few years ago showed that in the last half of 2004, 63,135 mobiles, 5,838 PDAs and 4,973 laptops were left behind in London taxis. One hopes that most of these were deposited in police stations and eventually recovered by their owners. The figures from similar Pointsec surveys in the USA are much lower (5-10%) because fewer executives use taxis. But these figures demonstrate just how forgetful staff can be. Pointsec also point out that 60% of identity theft arises from lost or stolen equipment.

Education and regular reminders are needed. My experience is that left unchecked, a typical organisation can expect to lose up to 5% of their laptops per year. But this figure can be reduced substantially to below 1% by smart, educational initiatives. Mobile phones and PDA losses will of course be much higher. They are at present less of a concern, though a growing one with increasing amounts of data being stored on them. It would be interesting to hear other experiences and views on levels of laptop or PDA losses.

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It would be good to know how many laptops are lost or stolen but for the most part they are never reported outside of the department that loses them. Laptops are not valuable enough to claim on corporate insurance policies. The value of the information that is held on the laptop is rarely if ever considered. Trying to change the mindset of staff that information without a physical form can be worth more the the equipment it is held upon is difficult if not impossible. Better to have processes in place that protect the information from inevitable losses (automatic, mandatory full disk encryption). Though that will not protect against staff removing reams of hard copy.
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