The Worst Cities and Airports for Laptop Theft

A new security report reveals where most laptops are taken.
Business Writers
June 11, 2012

Passing through Chicago? Hang on to your laptop.

A new report says the Windy City is top in the U.S. for laptop theft. Absolute Software, a Vancouver-based firm that offers theft-recovery services for businesses and consumers, analyzed 13,818 theft investigations it conducted in 2011 for its inaugural computer theft report. Roughly 80 percent of the investigations were for corporate clients.

Chicago, the company says, accounted for 12.5 percent of the thefts in the top 20 cities. Next was Houston, with 11.9 percent, followed by Detroit with 11.3 percent. (Internationally, London was tops, followed by Sonder Felding, Denmark and Paris.)

When Most Laptops are Stolen

Peak time for theft of corporate-owned laptop is in June and July, likely because that's when employees are more mobile, and so more likely to leave machines unsecured. (Consumer-owned laptops are most likely to be stolen at back-to-school time and just before Christmas—also the peak time for buying of the machines in the first place.)

Where Laptops Fly Away

In which airport are you most likely to be relieved of your laptop? That dubious honor went to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which accounted for a whopping 18 percent of the thefts in the top 13 most theft-prone airports, all of which were U.S. airports. Miami International Airport took second place with 12 percent, followed by Chicago's O'Hare, Orlando and San Francisco, which all tied for third, with 7 percent apiece. (Germany's Frankfurt Airport was the worst international airport for theft, but it was 14th on the list. The only other international airports to crack the top 20 were Vienna and Manchester, England).

The most airport laptop thefts (29 percent) took place in the luggage or storage area, according to the report. Another 22 percent occurred in the terminal or boarding area, 19 percent were in the "other" category, and 18 percent were taken on the plane itself. Some 12 percent of the thefts took place during check in. As to how most laptops get boosted, the report says:

"Airport theft can be the result of carelessness on the part of the device owner, where they leave their computer unattended, providing the perfect crime of opportunity. We've also seen extremely well-organized rings where multiple criminals work together to distract the device owner and ultimately steal their computer from under their nose."

The company's investigations also have led to the arrest of airport employees, it says, "who use their insider position to take advantage of travellers, stealing computers and reselling them for profit."

Other High-Theft Spots

Letting your kid borrow your laptop? Back up your data and keep it separate from the laptop (not a bad idea to do anyway); the most common place to have a laptop stolen is a school. "Students are less experienced and tend to leave themselves and their property vulnerable," says the report. Next on the list is a residential property, since most people do not lock down laptops at home, followed by laptops stolen from owners' parked cars (not taxis).

How has laptop theft affected you? Are you prepared for it, should it happen?

Business Writers