How often have we thought about the amount of our personal information an attorney retains in their files? Whether the attorney is a criminal defense lawyer, an estate planner, a personal injury attorney, or a law firm for corporations, they all have one thing in common: They have a ton of information on clients, and in today's digital world, you can bet it's stored on some sort of computing device.
"As financial institutions in New York City and the world become stronger, a hacker can hit a law firm and it's a much, much easier quarry," Mary Galligan, head of the cyber division of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the New York City office, said.
In 2011, the U.S. government labeled New York City's 200 largest law firms "the soft underbelly" of hundreds of corporate clients.
Ben Schorr, CEO of IT consulting firm Roland, Schorr & Tower, stated, "The biggest threat to law firms' data are its own users who aren't trying to do damage. Untrained lawyers and office personnel are often the No. 1 chink in a law firm's defense."
The threat is real, but it doesn't just apply to lawyers for major corporations. Computer savvy identity thieves can glean enough personal information from lawyers' files to steal your identity without you or your lawyer knowing it's happening. The FBI reported that of known companies attacked, in most cases the attacks had gone on for eight months or more, and the first indication that something was going on was the FBI knocking on their door.
So how do we protect ourselves? How do we know if our lawyers are protecting our data? It's simple: ask them. Ask them what their ethics rules are concerning protecting digital data. Ask about them if their network has been certified by an independent security assessor. If they have a website, log on to it and check their URL. If it starts with https://, the firm is using Secure Socket Layer protection -- or SSL -- for short. SSL employs cryptographic protocols that provide security for communications over networks such as the Internet. New rules require lawyers to either become competent with technology or hire someone who is. If a lawyer can't answer your questions or point to a third-party security certification that should send up a red flag.
Dealing with the law is mind boggling for some people. Have you ever tried to read a court document? They can be pretty confusing. Consulting with an attorney can often help alleviate confusion and uncertainty when dealing with legal issues. However, whether you're a major corporation, or someone who's just trying to plan for the future, you have the same right to privacy, and the right to know your attorney is taking every precaution to ensure that your information doesn't fall into the wrong hands. If they don't, they may find themselves in need of an attorney for violating privacy laws.
Submitted by Taranet Inc.