More than 3,000 laptops go missing at major European airports each week, new research by Dell has revealed.
The computer maker also found that 57 per cent of the laptops that wind up in lost-and-found are never reclaimed – primarily because they lack any external identification label.
Airport officials are not allowed to scrutinise the contents of a personal device without legal remit, meaning many valuable devices end up being consigned to the scrapheap.
Commenting on the high proportion of misplaced business laptops, Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute – which was commissioned to carry out the research – urged individual companies to do more to tackle the problem.
He said: “It’s staggering to learn that more than 175,000 laptops are lost or go missing in the major European airports every year, with many containing sensitive information that organisations must account for.
“IT departments must re-evaluate the steps they’re taking to protect mobile professionals, the laptops they carry and company data.”
The airports with the highest number of laptops reported lost, stolen or missing are London Heathrow (900 a week), Amsterdam Schiphol (750) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (733).
Alongside the European data, Dell’s survey also found a similar trend on the other side of the Atlantic, with some 12,000 hapless laptop owners misplacing their machines in American airports every week.
Collectively, that amounts to an annual total of 800,000 laptops going walkabout at major airports in the two regions – an astounding figure which Dell spokesman Graham Hill said is prompting many organisations to rethink their approaches to data management.
Alluding to parallel research that shows more than half (55 per cent) of all business travellers do not take steps to protect sensitive data on their machines, he said Dell is actively seeking to roll out enhanced security technology.
“Laptops will soon become more prevalent than desktops in business,” Hill noted. “Dell is providing services and system features now to keep organisations, their mobile professionals and the company information they carry protected and connected at all times.”
GPS tracking devices and remote data deletion facilities are two of the favoured approaches, but observers insist the first line of defence must inevitably be for passengers to keep closer tabs on their property.
In related news, it emerged this week that customs officials at Australian airports may soon be authorised to search laptops and iPods for illegally downloaded music.