London has been handed the dubious honour of top destination for laptop theft in EMEA, according to the latest Computer Theft Report from Absolute Software. Leading the global laptop theft hit list was the United States of America, followed by the UK and Denmark in second and third. Chicago was the theft capital of North America (NA) whilst London was the pilfering hotspot of Europe, the Middle East and Africa combined (EMEA).

Despite corporate accounts representing 81% of the licences, only a small number of thefts actually occurred in the office (EMEA: 9.60%, NA: 7.45%). As workforces become increasingly mobile, company assets like laptops are regularly stored or used at home or while on the move. Thefts from residential properties (EMEA: 14.31%, NA: 12.41%) and from the back seat of the car (EMEA: 11.41%, NA: 16%) were some of the most common crimes.

Globally, June and Julyare the peak period for corporate laptop theft, a period where employees are typically on holiday, leaving their company laptop unsecured at home or on the way to their holiday destination. Airports are one of the most common locations for stolen laptops globally, with the majority of thefts taking place in the luggage / storage area (29%) followed by the terminal / boarding area (22%). Ironically, even 12% of thefts take place in the security zone.

For consumers, theft most commonly occurs around the back-to-school or pre-Christmas period when there is an increase in the number of personally-owned computers purchased. Perhaps surprisingly, in EMEA the majority of thefts (40.58%) were from an unknown location due to victims not discovering their loss until well after the device had been stolen or reported missing. In the case of corporate laptops, thisdowntime between realisation and report can be extremely dangerous to security, given the risk of confidential information falling into the wrong hands.

“The cost to business of purchasing new equipment without knowing where existing assets are, as well as the potential fines for data breaches can be very expensive,” said Stephen Midgley, Global VP at Absolute Software. “Regulations dictate a timescale from a breach to when customers must be notified of data loss. Ifcompanies aren’t aware of a lost laptop for days or weeks, compliance with regulation becomes a real challenge and limiting damage to a company’s brand and reputation almost impossible.”

“Laptops contain an incredible amount of sensitive data, from company passwords stored as cookies to customer details auto-saved in spreadsheets. We’ve found that identity theft is one of the top related crimes for laptop theft. Speed is of the essence when it comes to a security breach – a lag in reporting theft could make the difference between successfully wiping data and encryption being cracked and crucial data stolen,” added Midgley.

Absolute Software claims it has made over 24,000 recoveries from 91 different countries. Investigationshave resulted in over 4,000 criminal charges and over £18 million (US$29m) in stolen devices recovered. In 2011 the company exceeded an average of 1,000 investigations a month, with 10% resulting in criminal charges. Several investigations resulted in criminal charges for more serious crimes such as murder, child pornography and fraud.