In a paid study sponsored by Dell the Ponemon Institute has published a report that claims over 10,000 laptops are lost or stolen every WEEK at US airports. Recovery rates are very low, evidently because most people do not even try. Half the laptops, according to the survey, contain confidential corporate information. These data put into perspective the ruckus caused by the infamous stolen laptops at the VA. There are obviously thousands of data loss incidents that are going unreported. (A good thing, the Data Protection Weekly email would be hard to get through if there were 5,000 cases to report on every week!)
How to avoid losing your laptop at the airport security checkpoint? Tips from a 2 million mile man on Northwest:
1. Place your laptop in the first bin you put on the belt of the X-ray machine. You should put your laptop bag in front of it.
Put the bin with your shoes, belt, purse, wallet, etc. right behind your laptop. And your carry-on bag last. The first thing you should do on the other side is put your laptop in its bag before the other luggage crashes into it and dumps it on the floor. Your other stuff separates it from the person behind you and in front of you.
2. Mark your laptop! Put a sticker on it. I know people hate to do this. But you should identify your laptop in such a way that you can quickly identify it. There are lots of Dell computers our there. I have almost picked up the wrong laptop on many occasions. DO NOT TAPE YOUR BUSINESS CARD TO YOUR LAPTOP. Do not become a target by letting potential laptop thieves know just how valuable your laptop may be. My favorite marker for my Dell Latitude is the white Apple sticker I got with my iPod.
3. If you lose your laptop contact the TSA immediately. Call the airport. Take action. I bet in 99% of the cases you can get it back.
OK, question for the Ponemon study authors: Where do all those unclaimed laptops go? Is there a warehouse somewhere with hundreds of thousands of laptops? Does the NSA grab them? Does the TSA sell them on eBay?
Richard Stiennon is a security industry analyst. He is currently consulting, speaking and writing on all manner of security topics for IT-Harvest, the IT research firm he founded to cover the security space. He was most recently chief marketing officer for Fortinet. He has served stints at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Gartner, and Webroot Software.