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Most Expensive Part of a Lost Laptop Is the Data, Study Says

By Kevin Fayle on May 11, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
A study by the Ponemon Institute in partnership with Intel comes to some interesting conclusions about the cost, on average, to companies of a lost or stolen laptop.

The study determines that the average cost of a missing laptop is $49,246.  That figure only includes about $1600 for the actual replacement cost of the computer itself.  The major cost to the company comes from the likelihood of a data breach.  The report estimates that the average cost of a data breach is $39,297, or 80% of the total cost of the laptop.
According to Mike Spinney of Ponemon, 49% of the respondents to an earlier study thought that the value of a lost computer was greater than or equal to the value of the data that was stored on the computer.  To Spinney, this revealed the need for more extensive data security programs and further education about the importance that data has for a business. 

Some writers have questioned the report's average-cost figures, however.  Jon Stokes of Ars Technica points out that most of the incidents listed in the report cost far less than the $49,246 average.  The remarkable average is a result of a few outliers with a very high cost. 

Still, while the numbers might not seem so alarming after a deeper analysis, the important points the survey makes are worth considering, especially for law firms that deal with large amounts of confidential data and strategies.  The data contained on a laptop could compromise legal work already undertaken or expose a client's secrets to the world, both of which could potentially cost the firm millions.

If that firm is working on a $5 million dollar matter, for example, and the information on a lost laptop causes the case to fall apart, that will have been one expensive laptop indeed.

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