Leader: Laptop theft is everybody's problem

Why are we getting this so wrong?

Why are we getting this so wrong?

In the past week silicon.com has published a series of articles shedding light on the issue of laptop theft in the UK. And it has made for worrying reading.

The overall trend is upwards - more laptops and more data are being stolen every day across the UK. London is the worst hit, with more than 15,000 laptops stolen in the Metropolitan Police area alone.

But the problem is far from unique to the capital. Laptop theft is increasing across the country - from Devon and Cornwall to Lothian and Borders - and is growing at a greater rate than laptop sales.

Even worse, research reveals a lack of security when it comes to protecting data on laptops. The fact users aren't being given locks to physically secure their laptops is a major concern but it's far from as hefty a concern as the lack of encryption. If the data on these stolen laptops was better protected the theft stats would be far less alarming.

On top of this there's a widespread perception that carrying laptops in dedicated laptop bags marks victims out as targets for thieves - yet it still goes on (just pick them out on your train journey home this evening, or walking along the street). We also published excerpts from crime reports that appear to support this belief.

Of course, no matter what measures are taken, laptops will always get stolen. They are tempting targets - being of great value and easy to carry off. Simply blaming the criminals is not an option. It's a sad fact but we should plan for the worst - especially when it's happening so often and to so many people.

Instead, however, 'duty of care' attitudes towards company hardware also seem to be fading fast. 'I should go straight home, I'm taking the work laptop' has long been replaced by 'sod it, I'll leave my laptop bag on the pub floor'.

Businesses must act to mitigate the risks. Encrypt laptops, provide users with locks to deter opportunists and better educate staff about the threats.

The laptop provides a great opportunity to work more flexibly and more effectively and its use should not be undermined by lazy end-user behaviour or a failure from the business to understand the risks.