Laptop thefts overshadow mobility strategies

With three in every five organizations falling victim to laptop theft, IT managers question the value of mobility strategies that could lead to the exposure of sensitive company data.

The high rate of laptop theft was revealed in the 2005 Australian Computer Crime and Security Survey which found average losses for missing devices topping $22,000 per incident, up from $18,000 in 2004.

Australian IT managers say laptops are a little too mobile making them an opportunistic target for fly-by-night thieves.

Even without measuring the value of the data held on hard drives, Stef Savanah, integration services manager at Wolters Kluwer solicitors, said the cost of the hardware alone makes it a profitable venture for most thieves.

"Stolen laptops definitely amount to a security threat, a problem usually forgotten by most organizations," he said.

Savanah admitted his organization has no specific security policies in place for laptops, only the usual precautions provided to staff using office equipment.

Manuel Bervanakis, University of Victoria client services manager, said on-campus laptop theft is rarely about obtaining sensitive data, or corporate espionage.

"It is more about getting something to sell down the pub, to make a quick sale," Bervanakis said.

Encryption, he said, is one solution or automatically putting data on the SAN so it is uploaded every time a laptop is taken off-site.

"We have 50,000 students on 13 campuses and with fire safety rules each campus has many entry and exit points which means it is hard to rely on cameras to stop theft," he said.

"We have just logged cables around equipment and literally bolted it down."

Commercial real estate firm Terrace Tower Group is one of the fortunate organizations that has no theft problem.

In fact, the situation is so good IT manager Mounty Hidayat has stopped paying business insurance.

"We didn't have any thefts 'touch wood' so we ceased paying insurance," he said adding that laptop theft is really only a problem if sensitive data is stored on the hard drive.

"It isn't a hardware issue but a data issue. It does not make sense to pay premium insurance for laptops, because it works out too expensive; today they are pretty cheap to replace."

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