Today’s mobile technology brings many opportunities, but has definitive challenges and pitfalls for those of us who spend a good amount of time, well, working in a mobile environment. I certainly learned that the hard way last week.

As I wrote Friday, it had already been a challenging week. But there was one more surprise I had yet to learn. It turns out that when I caught an early flight home from Detroit, I went to Tampa, but my laptop, which I carried on, went to Chicago. 

I was at lunch with a couple people from my office Friday when my cell phone rang. It was a number from Illinois that I did not recognize. Normally I might not take the call like that, but in this case I did. It was a woman who told me her name was Mary Jo, and she was with TSA at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. She asked me to confirm that I owned an Apple MacBook Pro. Naturally I was suspicious, and answered cautiously that, yes, I did own one, and that it was in my carry on case from my trip home the day before. She told me, no, my MacBook Pro was on her desk in front of her, and that the one in my bag belonged to someone else.


She had the phone number of the person who had turned my laptop in, and who by amazing coincidence was missing her identical MacBook Pro. She told me that I would need to ship the laptop I possessed to the rightful owner, and once I provided both a tracking number and a FedEx account number, TSA would ship mine to me. I called and spoke to the mother of the college student whose laptop had crossed paths with mine at the Detroit Security Area. It appears that her daughter did not realize she had the wrong laptop until she was on the plane, and turned it in at Chicago when she changed flights. 

We took care of this immediately, as I was leaving the next day for New Mexico, and would need my laptop there. In the end we do not know if the young lady took my laptop before I took hers, or whether it was the other way around. All I know is I am paying hundreds of dollars overnighting laptops all over the country (mine will catch up with me in New Mexico). I didn’t have the time to quibble about it, quite frankly. 

The irony is I rarely travel with a laptop anymore. My iPad is usually more than sufficient for my needs, unless it is a longer trip or I am speaking somewhere. 

The loss of a mobile tool can present unique security risks for any company. That risk will only increase as devices become smaller and even more ubiquitous in the workplace. In this case our security policies served to make this event an inconvenience, but not the threat it could have been. I do not store sensitive files on my laptop, and while it contains programs that can access our servers and other mission critical systems, our password policy meant that they could not be deployed or accessed. That policy is simple; no employee may ever memorize or store a password on any company device. We strictly adhere to that, and in this case it meant that my laptop could enjoy its little adventure without any concern that it would endanger our company.

It is something to think about, in case a mobile device in your office one day takes a holiday.

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