Monday, March 2, 2009

The Great Laptop Giveaway at US Airports

(May 5th, 2009: This data produced by this study has been questioned).


image In what can only be called a study with staggering results, a report from the Ponemon people published in June 2008, sponsored by Dell, concluded that over 12,000 laptops go missing each week in US airports, over two thirds of which will never be returned. If we assume that each laptop contains at least 20 GB of active business data, then travel is responsible for almost 20 TB of data unexpectedly exiting the corporate information life cycle each week. The data loss tax being levied on travel is getting very high.

The objectives of the study were to (1) understand how US airports handle lost, stolen of missing laptops on their premises (2) assess how business travellers perceive the risks of data loss. Field research was conducted at 106 US airports, 36 of which are considered large (Bravo class) by the FCC. The table below shows the breakdown of laptop losses at the surveyed airports.

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And where do people lose their laptops? Well, over 70% of the time its at security checkpoints, departure gates or in the restrooms.

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And what security precautions do travellers use to protect the information on their laptops? As expected, passwords are the winner.

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The recommendations from the report are very sensible and pragmatic.

  • Label your laptop so it can be identified as yours or the property of your company
  • Allow enough time to get to your flight in a stress-free manner
  • Carry less and think ahead
  • Take appropriate security measures to protect your information
  • Think twice about the information you carry on your laptop
  • Know who to call if your laptop goes missing (know the process, or create one)

Overall, a great report to read and good factual information if you are having trouble getting management support for rolling out a full disk encryption solution for example.

3 comments:

Michael Janke said...

I saw that study & filed it under 'to blog' but never got around to it.

My first reaction was to the volume of lost laptops. If we are really loosing that many, where the heck are they all going? Is there a big pile of them out back somewhere?

And of course, in theory, each one of them is a potential data loss incident, with all sorts of possible consequences.

Dr. Luke O'Connor said...

Indeed there must be a hugs pile of laptops at those big airports. The scale is amazing

Try to imagine how many USB sticks are being left behind.

Michael Janke said...

The problem may not be so large. It looks like there is plenty of reason to question the methodology. here.

The numbers may be more like a handful per airport per day.