Placing a Value on Data

, 2009-08-05

It might seem difficult, but many companies actually have a pretty good handle on what data means to them. The sales organizations in a company know what it costs to acquire a customer, to keep them, to make a sale to them, and more. Or at least they should.

But what about stolen data? What's it worth to someone else? The values aren't always the same thing.

For example, I have an auger attachment for my tractor. I know it's a $600 cost to replace this tool (new), and various lesser amounts depending on what I've bent or broken recently. However my neighbor, who doesn't have a tractor, would value it much less. He doesn't have a way to use the tool, so it inherently just has less value for him.

It can be hard for a company to place a value on stolen data, despite there being sales prices set out in the world for that same data. The link is to an article that discusses what prices people are using when trying to sell stolen identity information, like bank accounts, to other criminals. However those values are likely based on some average amount of money that can be extracted from the information. That's for criminals; for you and I'd hope the value would be lower, or zero, as we wouldn't be using this data.

What's more, Intel surveyed companies and found that the cost of a lost laptop averages out to be nearly $50k. That's half, or more, the cost of a good IT person.  Granted that number might vary widely depending on the company, the person's job function, etc. As more and more people buy laptops, it becomes more and more important that good security is maintained to prevent those losses from severely impacting your company's business.

I think it's worth a little time to assess what your data is worth, and then implement some programs to keep it as safe as you can. Just remember that you can't stop all losses, but by knowing where you have lots of valuable information, you can decide what is worth protecting.

Steve Jones

 


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