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[ISN] Qualcomm secrets vanish with laptop
From: InfoSec News (isnC4I.ORG)
Date: Sun Sep 17 2000 - 23:42:16 CDT
[Moderators Note: I'm posting two stories on the the same subject, The
first being wire copy and the second from the San Diego press where
Qualcomm has its world headquarters. One would have hoped that in
today's day and age that better security would be in place for
corporate executives laptops, This might be the wake up call for
others if it becomes apparent that this was a case of corporate
espionage over a theft of convience. -WK]
By Bruce V. Bigelow
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
September 17, 2000
IRVINE -- Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs' laptop computer disappeared
during a conference yesterday in an apparent theft that could put some
of the company's most sensitive secrets at risk.
The incident illustrates both the power and the risk for executives
who essentially carry the contents of their offices -- including all
the filing cabinets -- in devices weighing a few pounds. A generation
ago, a top corporate executive could carry no more than a briefcase
full of sensitive documents on business trips.
Jacobs said his laptop contained "everything," secret corporate
information, including e-mail dating back years, financial statements
and even personal mementos.
"Wherever I go, it goes," he said. "It's been around the world with me
a couple of times."
Jacobs is Qualcomm's chairman and chief executive officer. His
knowledge of advanced wireless technology helped build Qualcomm into a
multibillion dollar publicly traded corporation and his leadership in
the field has helped to establish San Diego as a center of high
Though Jacobs' IBM ThinkPad PC is valued at about $3,700, the value of
the information it contained is incalculable to Qualcomm and to
Yet it might have been taken by someone who just thought it was a cool
computer and who had no idea what's stored on its hard drive.
The laptop vanished just minutes after Jacobs finished speaking to a
conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers at
the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine.
About 100 business journalists from around the country heard Jacobs
speak. He had used his laptop to give a slide presentation, and he
turned it off and left it on a lectern when about 10 journalists
clustered around him immediately after the talk.
The Qualcomm executive, who was accompanied only by his wife, Joan,
said he was never more than a few feet away from the lectern. When he
turned to pick the laptop up, it was gone.
He said the last thing he saw displayed on his screen was a photo of
two of his grandchildren.
"I want to say we are very sorry this happened," said Byron Calame,
president of the society and an editor of The Wall Street Journal.
It was not a secured area, and conference attendees, hotel employees
"and perhaps others" had access to the room, Calame said.
The loss was reported to Irvine police. "Our officer is investigating
it like a laptop theft," said Irvine police Sgt. Steve Olson.
The Microsoft software on Jacobs' laptop requires a security password
for accessing files. "This will be a test to see if that password
protection really works," Jacobs said.
The computer's data is backed up on a computer at Qualcomm's corporate
headquarters in San Diego, but Jacobs' remarks before the journalists'
group made clear how valuable the information on the computer could be
to many people outside Qualcomm.
The thrust of his presentation was an overview of Qualcomm's patented
technology -- a widely accepted standard for wireless phones -- and
the telecommunication industry's evolution to the next generation of
But the industry is still fragmented, Jacobs said, and Qualcomm faces
intense competition from rivals vying to establish their own wireless
If it turns out industrial espionage or misuse of insider information
is suspected, Jacobs and Qualcomm could ask the FBI to get involved.
Officials said that step had not been taken last night.
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