Laptops and Airports: A Bad Mix?

ScreenshotDell is distributing a new research report from the Ponemon Institute titled “Airport Insecurity: The Case of Lost Laptops.” Their headline finding is simple: business travelers lose more than 12,000 laptops per week in U.S. airports. Given that many web workers travel with a laptop containing irreplaceable data, that’s a number to make one sit up and take notice.

Here’s a little perspective for that number: According to the US Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there are about 750 million passengers per year in the United States. A little simple math shows that Dell’s number accounts to one lost laptop for every 1200 passengers. Put another way, if you’ve been on 8 full 727s in the past year, one of your fellow passengers lost a laptop (I hope it wasn’t you!).

The Ponemon study blames feeling rushed, carrying too many items, and worrying about flight delays for the majority of the losses. They make some suggestions for alleviating the problem: labeling your laptop so you can describe it to the airport folks, allowing more time and having a strategy for getting through checkpoints, and calling the airport immediately if there’s a problem (apparently 30% or so of those lost laptops are actually recovered).

They also recommend using some sort of data security on laptop data – which is where Dell comes into the picture. The study was commissioned to promote Dell’s ProSupport Mobility Services, which include laptop tracking and recovery, remote data deletion, hard drive data recovery, and other extended warranty services.

Although the Ponemon study was independent, knowing who sponsored it is enough to make one take it with a grain of salt. The weakest link appears to be the derivation of the 12,000 per week number, which comes from private interviews with security people at 106 airports. The range of estimates per airport varies widely. For example, Lost Angeles International reports 1200 laptops lost per week, while Las Vegas McCarran International, with very nearly the same traffic, comes up with a number of 240. One might be pardoned for thinking that some airports are better (or more honest) at estimating than others.

Photo credit: Flickr user JasonJT.

Have you ever lost a laptop while traveling? Are you prepared to recover your data if you do?


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