January 27, 2006 11:25 AM PST

Could your laptop be worth millions?

The average laptop could contain data worth almost $1 million, according to new research.

A report released Friday by security-software company Symantec suggests that an ordinary notebook holds content valued at 550,000 pounds ($972,000), and that some could store as much as 5 million pounds--or $8.8 million--in commercially sensitive data and intellectual property.

The same research, commissioned by Symantec, shows that only 42 percent of companies automatically back up employees' e-mails, where much of this critical data is stored, and 45 percent leave it to the individual to do so.

"It's alarming that executives have mobile devices containing data of such financial value and that very little is being done to protect the information on them," said Lindsey Armstrong, a vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Symantec.

The threat of stolen laptops is a real concern. About 50 percent of respondents to an FBI computer crime survey said their organization had suffered theft of a notebook or other mobile gear in 2005. On Wednesday, investment consultancy Ameriprise Financial, an offshoot of American Express, said the theft of a company laptop had exposed sensitive data of about 230,000 customers and advisers.

The message to businesses is clear, Symantec said: Ensure all data is backed up regularly and that laptops out on the road are thoroughly secure and don't unnecessarily contain sensitive data.

"It is critical that businesses start looking beyond just the price of the hardware and recognize that they also need to invest in protecting the data stored on these machines," Armstrong said.

Past research in the U.K. suggests that as many as 10,000 laptops are left in the backs of British taxis each year and civil servants are among the worst offenders.

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.


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I was a middle manager at BCE emergis, and CTO at the International Air Transport Asscoiation, and in 15 years I have never once seen a laptop that could have been realistically said to have had that kind of value.

It is hard for me to see this as anything but a cynical ploy to curry favour with large corporations so that they can file inflated claims with insurers and generally whip up hysteria where needed.

Give me a break!
Posted by wasserfish (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They weren't talking about
the value of the data to the company so much as its value to the
thieves. You may have information about your credit cards, bank
accounts, or your company's marketing plans for the next year on
your laptop. Since you've got backups, none of that will cost you
much to replace, but a thief can make a bundle with all of it.
Posted by Macsaresafer (802 comments )
Link Flag
One could not agree more that...
... A report released Friday by security-software company Symantec suggests that an ordinary notebook holds content valued at 550,000 pounds ($972,000), and that some could store as much as 5 million pounds--or $8.8 million--in commercially sensitive data and intellectual property"; what should even be of more importance for the future are the methods to be adopted for continuing access to commercially sensitive data and intellectual property that can be worth millions of dollars... whether these are to be stored in the "Open Document Format Standards" that have been agreed by the OASIS Group and/or those which have been proposed by Microsoft and others!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And don't think: I am just a home user!
When one reads the words Enterprise, organization etc, one is tempted to think: oohh well I am just a home user and the worst that can happen to me is that I loose my hardware....

I lost 2 laptops out of the 10 I have owned so far (nice % huh) and calculated the cost of the first loss at least $ 30.000. And that was a system with a 500MB or so disk. I lost most of my research with that one, representing 2 or 3 years of work.

My present system has 180GB and I have a matching external disk for back up, which never travels.

When I lose my laptop, I am back in business within a week at a far lower cost. Demonstrated that with my second loss last year....

Posted by Henriv (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It all depends...
I've migrated data between system upgrades many times. I always put the migrated stuff in a special place other than right at my fingertips. Then over time I see what bits I really needed as I move them out of their crypt and into use.

I'm a pretty heavy computer user, so I depend on a lot of the information on it. Truth be told, I can survive the loss of most of it. If I take the time to perform regular backups at even an hour a week, I may have spent far more time saving my data than recreating it from scratch would take.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Business Education on Security
As this is the 3rd story on laptop information being highly susceptible to theft, I think it's quite obvious that yes, business's need to clue up on safety proceedures.

The Necessity of Security Education for Small Business
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.essentialsecurity.com/Documents/article2.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.essentialsecurity.com/Documents/article2.htm</a>
Posted by 209979377489953107664053243186 (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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