The Cost of a Lost Laptop

It happens millions of times a day: rushing off to the airport and dashing out of a cab to catch a flight; having a distracting conversation at a restaurant; returning a rental car; checking out of a hotel. Someone inevitably forgets a laptop or has one stolen. Each lost or stolen laptop caries some drastic cost and a recent study conducted by the Ponemon Institute has tried to put an estimate on the full cost associated with a lost or stolen laptop.

These are the key findings of the study:

  • The average value of a lost or stolen laptop is about $49,246 when you factor in the replacement cost, detection, forensics, data breach, lost intellectual property costs, lost productivity, legal and regulatory expenses etc.
  • The potential for a data breach occurring makes a lost or stolen laptop costly to the affected company to the tune of about 80 percent.
  • Intellectual property loss is the second highest cost component – about 59 percent of the total cost.
  • The faster the affected company learns of the loss, the lower the average cost – about $8,950 if the discovery is made the same day of the loss and about $115,849 if it takes more than a week to discover that the laptop was lost or stolen.
  • Lost productivity represents about 1 percent of the total cost when employees have downtime due to the loss of the laptop.
  • The most senior level personnel do not experience the highest average cost. The average cost of a lost laptop for a senior executive is $28,449 and the highest average cost for  a manager is $60,781 while a director experiences an average cost of about $61,040.
  • The average cost of a lost laptop with a full backup is $69,899 and $39,253 when there is no backup.  The argument is that this inverse relationship is because the existence of a backup makes it easier to confirm the loss of sensitive or confidential data.
  • There is almost a $20,000 difference between a lost laptop with encryption and one without.
  • The services industry has the highest average full cost – about $112,853, followed by the financial services industry – about $71,820, healthcare ($67,873) and pharmaceuticals ($50,393).
  • The industries with the lowest average cost per lost laptop are retail ($8,756) consumer products ($2,194) and manufacturing ($2,184).
  • The services industry has the highest average data breach cost at $108,699 while the financial services industry has an average data breach cost of $68,862), healthcare ($43,547) and pharmaceuticals ($42,027). Government, retail and manufacturing had the lowest average data breach cost at $12,017, $3,620 and $44 respectively.
  • In terms of intellectual property loss, the technology industry had the highest average cost of $18,205 followed by healthcare ($17,999) and communications ($17,818).

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates that since 2005, about 263 million records have been breached. If we take the average recovery cost of $202 per record as estimated by the Ponemon Institute, that means organizations in the United States have lost a whopping $53 Billion in five years thus making misplaced or stolen laptops one of the costliest exposures most companies face.