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The many security implications of today's mobile workforce

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April 28, 2009

Commissioned by Intel, an independent study on notebook security analyzes the potential business costs of stolen or lost laptops and notebooks, suggesting that in an era where the office can be almost anywhere, good security precautions are growing rapidly in importance, and should be at the top of systems admin's priority lists.

Intel wants to better understand the real security problems and solutions associated with lost or stolen laptop computers. The study reveals that sensitive data, not the notebook itself, is the primary factor driving costs upward, especially in light of falling hardware prices these days.

Intel's new study also reveals that use of technology for encrypting data further reduces the financial consequences in most cases.

Analyzing close to 140 instances of lost or stolen laptops, the report based a $49,246 price tag on costs associated with replacement, detection, forensics, data breach, lost intellectual property, lost productivity and legal, consulting and regulatory expenses.

Data breach alone represented a staggering 80 percent of the overall cost of a lost or stolen notebook.

Additionally, the study reveals how quickly a company learns of the missing notebook plays heavily in the eventual cost. The average cost if the notebook is discovered missing the same day is $8,950, according to the study. After more than one week, this figure can rapidly climb as high as a staggering $115,849 and more in some cases.

Performed by the Ponemon Institute, Intel's study calculated that notebooks lost or stolen in airports, taxis and hotels around the world cost their corporate owners an average of $49,246, reflecting the value of the enclosed data well above the cost of the notebook itself.

"For a rapidly growing number of mobile workers, desktop computers have given way to notebooks, rewarding users with the increased productivity and freedom that mobility affords," said Mooly Eden, v.p. and general manager, Mobile Platforms Group.

"As this trend further accelerates, the study suggests that companies need to be increasingly vigilant that their security systems are up for the job. At Intel, providing adequate security not only requires development of effective technologies, such as Intel Anti-Theft Technology™, but also collaboration with the leading providers of encryption, data-deletion and other security services to ensure comprehensive solutions."

Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute says "overall, this is one of the first study to fully benchmark the real true cost of a lost or stolen laptop.

Some of the results are startling to say the least, pointing to the sizable consequences associated with the loss of notebooks and, more importantly, the data inside them that companies must really consider."

The study also found that data encryption makes the most significant difference in the average cost. A lost notebook with an encrypted hard-disk drive is valued at $37,443, compared with $56,165 for a nonencrypted version, according to Dr. Ponemon.

The worker that owns (or used to own) a missing notebook also plays an important role in the total cost. Surprisingly, it's not the CEO's computer that is the most valued, but a director or manager. A senior executive's notebook is valued at $28,449, while a director or manager's notebook is worth $60,781 and $61,040, respectively, according to Dr. Ponemon.

Intel's Anti-Theft Technology is a poison pill solution programmed right into the laptop computer that can be triggered by various internal detection mechanisms or by a remote server to lock a lost or stolen notebook, rendering it completely useless.

For instance, Intel's technology can respond to repeated login failures or the expiration of a timer that requires a notebook to periodically connect to a central server for validating its true owner.

Intel Anti-Theft Technology, which is available from a growing number of PC manufacturers, is frequently offered through companies that provide data-encryption or date-deletion services.

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Source: Intel Corp.

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