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Survey: More than 10,000 laptops lost each week at airports

They're most often lost at security checkpoints, the Ponemon Institute says

By Agam Shah
June 30, 2008 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Keep laptops close at airports, because they have a startling tendency to disappear in the blink of an eye, according to a new survey.

Some of the largest and medium-size U.S. airports report close to 637,000 laptops lost each year, according to a Ponemon Institute survey released today. Laptops are most commonly lost at security checkpoints, according to the survey.

Close to 10,278 laptops are reported lost every week at 36 of the largest U.S. airports, and 65% of those laptops are not reclaimed, the survey said. Around 2,000 laptops are recorded lost at the medium-size airports, and 69% are not reclaimed. The institute conducted field surveys at 106 airports in 46 states and surveyed 864 business travelers.

The five airports with the most missing laptops reported were Los Angeles International, Miami International, John F. Kennedy International, Chicago O'Hare and Newark Liberty International, the study said.

Travelers seem to lack confidence that they will recover lost laptops. About 77% of people surveyed said they had no hope of recovering a lost laptop at the airport, with 16% saying they wouldn't do anything if they lost their laptop during business travel. About 53% said that laptops contain confidential company information, with 65% taking no steps to protect the information.

Airports, along with hotels and parked cars, are places where laptops can be easily stolen, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on its Web site. The confusion of going through security checkpoints can make it easy for travelers to lose track of their laptops, making it "fertile ground for theft," the FTC said.

The FTC recommends people treat laptops "like cash." Like a wad of money, a laptop in public view, such as in the back seat of a car or at the airport, could attract unwanted attention. The FTC also recommends using tracking devices such as Absolute Software Corp.'s LoJack, which can help track down a stolen laptop by reporting its location once it is connected to the Internet. Lenovo Group Ltd. last week announced that it would offer the LoJack option in its upcoming ThinkPad SL series of laptops.

Attaching bells and whistles that sound off after detecting laptop motion could also minimize the chances of theft, the FTC says.

Laptop theft is fairly prevalent in the U.S., said Mike Spinney, a spokesman for the Ponemon Institute. In a study conducted by the institute, 76% of companies surveyed reported losing one or more laptops each year, of which 22% were due to theft or other criminal mischief.

Many people are too ashamed to report lost laptops, knowing they left the computers out where they shouldn't have been, Spinney said.

The Ponemon survey was commissioned by Dell Inc., which today announced new security services to commercial customers, including tracking and recovery of lost laptops and data-theft prevention.

Dell's laptop-tracking service uses technology to locate and recover lost laptops, including GPS. The data protection services include the ability to remotely delete data on a hard drive and services to recover data from failed hard drives.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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