Cyber Security and Data Breach Response

lock“Cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.”  Barack Obama, President of the United States

The Identity Theft Resource Center has documented over 500 data breaches in 2014 through early September.  This represents a 26.2% increase over the same time period last year. The news isn’t any better for the legal profession.

The latest ABA Legal Technology Survey Report notes that “Nearly half of law firms were infected with viruses, spyware or malware last year.”  Fourteen percent of law firms “experienced a security breach last year in the form of a lost or stolen computer or smartphone, a hacker, a break-in or a website exploit.”

Where to Start

With such staggering numbers, it is easy to become overwhelmed.  If you are concerned about cyber security but don’t know where to start, begin here at the ABA Web site. If you are a prolific user of mobile devices, be sure to check out the ABA’s suggestions for Security on the Go.  To understand the state of security in US law firms, read this post by Bob Ambrogi.

Make Encryption Your Best Friend

Encryption is a powerful way to protect sensitive data belonging to you and your clients. The ABA post Playing it Safe provides a good overview.  Since TrueCyrpt is no longer available, check out the following reviews of encryption software: LIfehacker, GFI, PC World, and Gizmo.

You’ve Heard it Before: Use Strong Passwords

It seems we are reminding lawyers every other day about the importance of using strong passwords unique to each account or Web site.  See these recent posts on the ABA Law Technology Today blog:

Firewalls, Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus, Malware Protection

The best protection is comprehensive.  This excerpt from The 2014 Solo and Small Firm Technology Guide provides guidance.  Don’t be afraid to hire an IT expert to help.

Purchase Cyber Liability and Data Breach Coverage

The Professional Liability Fund (PLF) Excess Claims Made Plan automatically includes a cyber liability and data breach response endorsement with these features:

  • Forensic and legal assistance to determine compliance with applicable law
  • Notifications to individuals as required by law
  • 12 months credit monitoring to each notified client
  • Loss mitigation resources for law firms

If you aren’t eligible or don’t wish to purchase excess coverage through the PLF, contact a commercial carrier.

Protect Yourself Against Scams

The security measures outlined above are a good start toward protecting your firm and your clients from scams.  For more complete protection, get educated.  Order the free PLF CLE: “Protecting Your Firm and Your Client from Scams, Fraud, and Financial Loss,” and talk to your bank about fraud protection services.

[All Rights Reserved - 2014 - Beverly Michaelis]

 

 

The State of Law Firm Security

Viruses are More Common at Law Firms than Encryption, ABA Survey Shows

Firms-with-virus

“Nearly half of law firms were infected with viruses, spyware or malware last year, according to the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. At the same time, only a quarter of law firms had any kind of email encryption available for their lawyers to use, the survey found.

Also, 14% of law firms experienced a security breach last year in the form of a lost or stolen computer or smartphone, a hacker, a break-in or a website exploit.”

Bob Ambrogi

Read the full post here.

Critical Security Concerns for Internet Explorer, Flash, and AOL Users

On the heels of Heartbleed, more security concerns:

Stop Using Internet Explorer Now
By now you have likely heard about the security issues with Internet Explorer. However, you may not realize that the US government warned users to quit using IE until Microsoft fixes a security hole that could allow hackers to gain remote access to your computer.

To be safe, download an alternate browser like Firefox or Chrome and avoid Internet Explorer until Microsoft issues a patch. UPDATE: a patch is now available for all Windows users, even XP. Run Windows Update to verify the patch has been installed. in my case, I found it had been downloaded but not installed.

Update Adobe Flash Player
A second security bug involves Adobe Flash Player. This vulnerability permits remote code execution, potentially giving hackers access to your computer. (For those who are curious, the result is the same as the Internet Explorer vulnerability, but the two security issues are unrelated.)

Adobe has already pushed out an emergency security patch which all users should download immediately.

AOL Compromised
In a third security incident, AOL reported a security breach of its email servers. AOL users should change their passwords immediately.

Cyber Security – Horrifying Stats and Tips for Dropbox Users

For the last two weeks, I have been featuring a potpourri of posts gleaned from tweets posted during the ABA TECHSHOW.  Today we explore cyber security with extra bonus tips for good measure.

Cyber Security – Numbers, Trends, Protecting Your Firm

Tips for Dropbox Users

  • Dropbox security: use third party apps – like Viivo – to encrypt. You own the key. @VIIVOkey happens to be in attendance.… @MrsMacLawyer RT @rocketmatter
  • Dropbox security: use 2 step authentication but put recovery code in safe place. It’s not retrievable. @larryport RT @rocketmatter
  • Also see my post, The 7 Rules of Using Dropbox and search this blog for related Dropbox posts.

Thanks 2014 ABA TECHSHOW tweeters for the tips!  And check out these resources for lawyers posted by the author on Scribd.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2014]

13 Resources for Protecting Data – Courtesy of the FTC

With data breaches in the news on an almost daily basis, how do you protect your law firm’s assets? What advice should you give to your clients?

The FTC offers a list of 13 data security resources to help you get started. From mobile apps to digital copiers and shutting down spam, there is a ton of good advice to be culled from these posts and PDFs: Continue reading

What Lawyers Can Learn from the Yahoo Email Hack

Yahoo, the second largest email service worldwide, reported a security breach last untitledweek which exposed personal information from sent email folders.

The Associated Press reports:

Yahoo Inc. said in a blog post on its breach that “The information sought in the attack seems to be the names and email addresses from the affected accounts’ most recent sent emails.”

That could mean hackers were looking for additional email addresses to send spam or scam messages.  By grabbing real names from those sent folders, hackers could try to make bogus messages appear more legitimate to recipients.

If you correspond with friends, family, clients, or colleagues who use Yahoo’s mail service, scrutinize incoming e-mail carefully to avoid phishing scams. 

This breach has another takeaway for lawyers – you are only as secure as your third party vendors.  The Yahoo and Target breaches were both the result of third-party vendor hacks.  In the case of Yahoo, the information was collected from a third-party database.  In the Target hack, credentials were stolen from a third party vendor.

Lawyers should take this to heart when evaluating their own cyber liability and security – specifically with regard to HIPAA compliance.  If your servers are hosted in the cloud, or you use cloud-based practice management, accounting, or backup solutions, inquire into the security procedures of your vendors.  Remember that encryption is your friend.  All data stored in the cloud should be encrypted – minimally by your vendor.  Better yet: go the extra mile.  Seek out cloud providers who permit you to add your own third party encryption, like Viivo or TrueCrypt, so that you (and only you) hold the final encryption key.

All Rights Reserved [2014]

Beverly Michaelis

You and Your Clients Remain Vulnerable to Scams

In the July issue of the OSB Bulletin, Leonard DuBoff and Christy King offer new advice regarding the latest scams plaguing lawyers:

For example, one of the newer scams involves someone posing as a real estate buyer and contacting a mortgage broker or real estate houseagent instead of a lawyer. The broker or agent then refers the buyer to a lawyer, not realizing that the purported buyer is really a scammer. The attorney often knows the mortgage broker or real estate agent and so doesn’t question the legitimacy of the transaction. A variation on the scam occurs where the scammer asks a lawyer in one area of the country to provide a referral to a lawyer in a different region. Some scammers assume the identity of actual attorneys in order to perpetrate the fraud. They claim to be referring a client — often themselves — for claimed legal assistance.

Learning about the latest scams is one way to keep on your toes.  Here are some others:

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis (2013)

Telephone Scam Hits Washington Lawyers

The Oregon State Bar is warning lawyers of a telephone scam underway now in Washington:

Scam Alert
OSB members:  The Washington State Bar Association is warning its members about a telephone scam in which callers claiming to represent the bar are asking its members for personal information. These calls are not from the WSBA. Although we have no reports of similar calls in Oregon at this time, it has happened in the past and could recur. If you receive such a call do not reveal any personal information.

Posted on the OSB home page August 12, 2013.

Mobile Security Tips from the ABA

Great tips at Law Technology Today on mobile security. Don’t take confidential client data outside the office without taking these precautionary steps:

Encrypt devices
Password protect all technology (phones, tablets, laptops)
Enable remote wiping capability
Limit what you carry when outside the office
Mark your property and don’t leave it unattended
Consider computer locks for laptops
Use less conspicuous carrying cases

Read the full post.