Last week's terrorist plot arrests in the UK have led officials there to mandate that laptops and other electronic devices be stored in the cargo holds of aircraft. This is a new reality that IT departments must work through carefully -- especially if similar rules are put into effect in the U.S.
Laptops may well be out of the control of traveling employees for a lot longer than they ever have been. For hours. The gravity of the situation is put into perspective by the fact that security firms have spent a lot of time coaching people on how to make sure their electronic devices don't disappear during the few seconds they are passing through airport scanners.
If corporate travelers need to be careful during those few seconds, the loss of control for hours has to be a big new worry for IT and other executives.
This, of course, is happening in a landscape in which laptops packed with important data seem to be disappearing as fast as Dell and Lenovo can build them. Without doubt, last week's events change the equation. Possible reactions to the new rules on the ground (actually, in the air) include stronger encryption and password protection and more limiting policies on what types of information leave the office.
There are a lot of fine technologies that can help secure devices, but in the final analysis IT departments and the people to whom they report may have to resign themselves to re-evaluating the value versus risk scenario of loading sensitive data onto laptops.
What transpired in the UK should make American companies think even harder about the security of their employees' laptops. Of course, this goes for companies whose workers regularly fly in and out of the UK. Even those whose employees don't, however, should start thinking about the issue.