by Thomas Wailgum

The Million-Dollar Laptop

Apr 20, 20063 mins

Saw this item a little while ago, and I’ve been mulling it over. Given the state of mobile-device theft and loss these days, I think it’s very relevant to the difficult situation facing IT departments.

Symantec conducted a survey with laptop users in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and asked them about the value of their laptops. Among some other notable findings was that the average estimate of their laptop’s value was roughly $974,000. Wow. (The report where I found this was out of the U.K., so they estimated the number at £550,000, or, as they said, more than half a million quid — great word.) Some of those surveyed went so far as to boast that their laptops were worth as much as 5 million pounds! Granted this survey was from Symantec, and we all know what business they are in. But still, that’s a lot of value, even if some of it may be perceived, and what makes the numbers scary is if you start adding up all of the devices that have been reported lost or stolen in your companies.

Now I don’t believe the issue is that employees are losing more company-owned laptops or BlackBerrys than they used to. The problem is threefold: there are more devices out there (which CIOs who I’ve spoken with can attest to); strict government regulations have made companies more aware of just how bad these “laptop losses” can be (as well as the negative PR outcomes), and so they’re handling the incidents with more care (though there’s still a lot more work to do); and more of the thieving masses have realized how valuable the devices are. So if the Symantec data is anywhere close to being “spot on,” as the Brits say, then it’s easy to imagine a new kind of “hostage” situation for corporate IT and security departments:

Thief: “We’ve kidnapped your CEO’s laptop, we know what’s on it, and we want $1 million for it’s safe return. No questions asked.”

CEO: “Oh God, no! I’ve got our financial reports on there … and data on that acquisition we were about to make … and those sales figures that I wasn’t supposed to put on my laptop!”

IT Staffer: “We’ll take care of it, sir.” (Thinking to himself: You fool.)

CEO: “Give them anything they want. Just get me laptop back! It’s also got photos of my kids on there, and I can’t lose those!”

Well, it could happen someday. Maybe it already has.

Do you think that estimation is too high? Too low? For more on this see my mastering mobile madness story, which contains a primer for many of your mobile device management questions. Also check out Russ McGuire’s Weigh In on “Is Mobility a Power or Danger?” Good question.

And good luck!