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Qualcomm CEO's Laptop Stolen Following Speech

September 18, 2000|MEG JAMES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A team of techno-sleuths spent Sunday trying to find the stolen computer of Qualcomm CEO Irwin Jacobs after the laptop--which contained valuable company secrets--disappeared after Jacobs gave a presentation to a group of journalists at a conference in Irvine.

Jacobs left his computer unattended for 15 to 20 minutes on Saturday after he finished a speech to the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He was standing several feet away when the computer containing e-mails, financial data and other proprietary information of the San Diego-based wireless communications giant was taken.

Neither police nor Qualcomm security officials had uncovered a motive or suspect by late Sunday.

Jacobs told conference organizers that the IBM ThinkPad laptop--which he used for a slide-show presentation on his company's technology--contained information that could be valuable to foreign governments.

Qualcomm spokeswoman Christine Trimble declined to describe what information was contained in the computer. But Jacobs told the San Diego-Union Tribune that his laptop held "everything," from corporate information and several years' worth of e-mail messages to photos of his grandchildren.

Qualcomm is a leader in wireless technology with $3.9 billion in revenue last year. It designs and manufactures chips for wireless communication devices and is developing voice recognition software and wireless Internet access systems.

Jacobs, 66, who founded Qualcomm in 1985, is the company's chairman and chief executive. He drove from San Diego to the conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine with his wife.

Police estimated the value of the laptop at about $4,000.

Trimble said that Jacobs' system was password-protected and that the data as backed up on a computer at company headquarters.

Still, computer experts say that password-protected computers running Microsoft Windows' operating systems, as Jacobs' was, easily can be breached. The level of security on Jacobs' laptop could not be determined Sunday.

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