Legal Profession and Technology: Data Security On The Go
The legal profession has certainly been at the vanguard of mobile technology. Attorneys have made the switch from briefcases full of bulky files to laptops, tablets and smart phones loaded with case notes, docket calendars and briefs.
But this increased convenience and efficiency comes at a cost. Taking your work out of the office and on the go exposes the wired attorney to a plethora of potential data security issues. These range from the annoying (a virus picked up over an offsite client’s network) to the consequential and potentially severe (exposure of confidential data).
Consider the following steps for maintaining the security of your digital information.
At the Courthouse
The efficiency of mobile technology is readily apparent to any attorney who has accessed case files or entered notes in the courtroom via a laptop or smart phone. Yet, your exposure to potential breaches becomes even more pressing once you come out from behind the safety of your firm’s secure network and enter a public space.
Encrypt your laptop. Encrypt your hard drive with software such as True-crypt (http://truecrypt.org), a free, easy-to-use open source encryption program.
Protect your phone. The biggest security risk with your smart phone is simply leaving it behind. Both Android and iOS have free apps that allow you to track the location of a lost phone and even take a photo from the phone’s camera to help reveal its location. More advanced features allow you to remotely wipe all of the data on the phone. While this may not be ideal, it’s still a viable way of protecting the firm’s proprietary data.
At the Client’s Facility
Working remotely at a client’s place of business also exposes you to some digital dangers. It’s easy for malware or viruses to target your laptop when you log into their network. Likewise, incompatible software can easily cause data corruption.
Connect yourself. You can bypass a client’s WiFi system and network (which may be an inviting target to hackers) and connect directly to the Internet with a wireless cellular phone modem adapter (aka an “aircard”). It’s easy to purchase one from your Internet or cellular provider. As with any Internet-connected device, be sure to install the appropriate firewalls and antivirus software.
Keep track of flash drives. Flash drives are so tiny that they’re easy to lose (or steal), and their absence may go unnoticed. Treat flash drives and other portable drives with the same precautions you would any other privileged material. You might also consider encrypting any data you store on them.
With a secure network, you can easily work on files from home after hours or on the weekend.
Create a secure portal. Whether you’re developing a virtual law practice or simply communicating with clients from a home office, you’ll want a secure client portal where you can interact with clients. Programs such as MyCase (http://mycaseinc.com) let you communicate securely with clients in a web-based setting that also allows them to access their case information.
Use secure apps. When storing and transmitting confidential data, make sure the applications you are using are secure (you’ll see “https” in the URL) before proceeding. Don’t enter data unless you’re positive that it will be encrypted. Note that iPads and other mobile device apps do not always have this level of security. While you’re at it, be sure you’re using the safest available browser, such as a current version of Internet Explorer or Mozilla’s Firefox with the NoScript add-on or other pop-up blocker activated.
A Word About Cloud Computing
With the flexibility to access case and client info whenever and wherever, cloud computing is fast becoming a popular choice for attorneys. To compare features, visit the Legal Cloud Computing Association.
For additional security, change the security/privacy default settings in any cloud-based application immediately after you register. Finally, do not use free WiFi hotspots when using any cloud computing application remotely — use a cellular phone modem adapter or aircard instead.