Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Which is more valuable, a notebook computer or the data on it?

I just saw a report on Dow Jones MarketWatch entitled "Ameriprise: Stolen laptop contains client info" which tells us that:

Ameriprise Financial Inc. (AMP) Wednesday evening said it has mailed notification letters to 158,000 clients whose names and internal Ameriprise account identification numbers were stored on a company laptop computer that was recently stolen.

Given the frequency with which notebook computers are stolen, I wonder if it has occurred at all to the thieves or those they deal with that the data on the computer may be worth a lot more than the computer itself.

I have no idea how much a thief gets for a $1,500 computer. Maybe $750 or maybe only $500? But I would imagine that a computer from even a mid-level manager from a Fortune 1000 company would have enough interesting data and presentations and email which might be worth thousands of dollars to a competitor or a stock market speculator looking for tradable information.

I also wonder whether a fair number of these "lost" computers may have even been sold for precisely that purpose.

-- Jack Krupansky


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