7 Steps You Can Take Now to Protect Your Data

lockUnless you’ve been playing ostrich, you’re likely aware that data breaches and ransomware are about as common as Mom and apple pie.  Witness the recent hack of 272 million Gmail, Microsoft, and Yahoo! accounts.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take now that will help protect your data.  [With thanks and all due credit to Lane Powell’s Beyond IP Law post, The Scariest Hack So Far, for inspiring this elucidation of their original list]:

Step 1: Start Using Encryption

For your desktop, cloud-based accounts, mobile devices – anywhere or any place you store or transmit confidential or private information.  For a thorough discussion of how to implement encryption throughout your firm, see Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers, now a book available for purchase on the ABA website.  (Non-ABA members in Oregon can save money at checkout by using the OSB Professional Liability Fund discount code: OSBPLF.)

Step 2: Set Up Two-Factor Authentication for Cloud Services

“The concept of two-factor authentication is that a person cannot access another user’s account without something she knows and something she has. In the case of popular services (like Google or Dropbox), the solution is a strong password plus a secondary code that is sent via text to a smartphone or mobile device.”  Catherine Sanders Reach, Set Up Two-Factor Authentication: What Are You Waiting For?  [Read Catherine’s post for step-by-step directions or search Help in your cloud-based service for assistance in setting up two-factor authentication.]

Step 3:  Erect Firewalls

Firewalls sit between you and the rest of the Internet.  They protect unauthorized access to your computer by ignoring or repelling information that appears to come from unsecured, unknown, or suspicious locations.  The best firewall configuration is a one-two punch:  hardware firewall + software firewall.

Setting up a hardware firewall requires no effort on your part.  While you can buy a stand-alone appliance, hardware firewalls are now automatically incorporated into your router (the box in your office or house installed by your Internet Service Provider).

Software firewalls are installed on your computer system like any other application, and are also easy/breezy since they are typically built into anti-virus software.  (See discussion that follows.)

Step 4: Install Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, Anti-Spyware Programs and Keep Them Updated

This seems pretty explanatory, but let me add some free advice:

  • Don’t disable automatic updates to your virus definition database
  • Run quick scans when prompted
  • Run full scans at least monthly
  • Don’t ignore notifications that your software isn’t running properly

For a list of the best anti-virus utilities for PCs, see this list from PC Magazine.  For a list of the best anti-virus utilities for Macs, check out this MacWorld post.  For other recommendations, run a Google search.

My personal opinion: run far, far away from McAfee.  [I really don’t give a rip that it is “now part of Intel Security.”]  First, McAfee blocked access to my work VPN (virtual private network).  There was no way to set a rule or create an exception and tech support was incredibly unhelpful.  Second, McAfee is notoriously hard to uninstall. Using Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel is only the first step; you must download a separate application from McAfee to get rid of it.  I mention this because McAfee tends to come pre-installed on laptops or desktops purchased from retailers like Best Buy.  What to do?  If McAfee was inflicted on you (pre-installed), get rid of it.  Follow the link above for the uninstaller.  Next, buy Kaspersky.  I have been very pleased with Kaspersky from day one and it has never interfered with my VPN connection.

Step 5:  Run Operating System and Other Software Updates

This also seems self-explanatory.  Mac and Windows OS ship with automatic updates enabled – don’t fuss with this.  If Microsoft or Apple thinks you need a security patch, a fix, or upgrade, let it run.  The same goes for every application installed on your computer:  Microsoft Office, Acrobat DC, Quicken, QuickBooks – let automatic updates run.  If you’re not sure whether automatic updates are enabled, check Help or search the product’s website.  Some programs also allow you to manually search for updates. Acrobat DC is an example.  In the menu, select Help, and choose “Check for Updates…”

Step 6:  Be Ready to Kill Your System If You Suspect a Breach

In the original post which inspired me to write on this topic, author Jane E. Brown comments: “Consider using a “kill switch”— when suspicious events happen, the IT department should automatically be notified and the network should shut down if no protective measures are taken.”

I have known of events that required a kill switch.  One Oregon lawyer was hacked via a phishing email.  The hacker was able to get enough information from the lawyer and the lawyer’s system to contact clients by email and request that they input credit card information to pay their bills. Fortunately, a few clients recognized that this request was outside the lawyer’s usual billing process and called the office.  The lawyer had to pull the kill switch and take other steps, including freezing bank accounts.  This turned out to be a smart move, as within 24 hours the hacker also attempted to withdraw thousands of dollars from the lawyer’s trust account.

Step 7:  Lose Your Device?  Lose Your Credentials.

There are some obvious times when it makes sense to reset or revoke user names and passwords (login credentials):

  • At termination
  • If a network-connected device is lost
  • You experience a security intrusion
  • Your security, privacy, or confidential policies are breached

Final Thoughtsth

None of these steps are difficult, but bouncing back from a security breach is.



[All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis]

Saving Gmail to PDF Using Zapier

Google Calendar in one hourAre you a Gmail user?  Many lawyers are.

Gmail and Google Calendar [sometimes coupled with Google Apps] is a popular alternative to Outlook.  But there is a key issue with using web-based email that lawyers often overlook: messages stored online simply don’t make it to your client file.  If you prefer web-based email and rebel against the idea of downloading messages to a local program on your desktop or laptop, how can you document your file?

This has been a challenge.  Until now.

The Bad Old Days: Saving Messages as Individual PDF Files

Gmail – as stand-alone web-based email – does not offer an easy way to capture a group of messages labeled or stored in a folder online.  If you want to save client emails, you must do so one at a time by printing each message to PDF (or scanning each message to PDF).  This is so incredibly tedious that most lawyers never do it.  Messages are saved online and nowhere else, resulting in non-cohesive client records.

Today’s solution: Zapier

Zapier is one way to solve this problem.  It automatically files Gmail by moving messages for you.  The only trick is the destination, which must be another web-based service or account.  Google Drive and Dropbox are two examples of locations where mail can be saved.  Here is a simple explanation of how the service works.

If you are paperless and storing your client records at one of the supported online destinations, then Zapier can make your client file cohesive.  Everything is in one location and your records are complete.  One of the most popular approaches is to use Zapier to save client email to Dropbox.

Parting Thoughts

“Zapping” your Gmail to the same online location where you keep your other client records seems like a good way to go.  As with any cloud-based solution, there are ethical concerns.

  1. Is Zapier secure?  Zapier stores the data it is moving on your behalf for 7 days, then purges it.  Your credentials are protected by bank-level encryption.  HTTPS or SSL connections are used whenever possible [If the destination app you are connecting to is not HTTPS or SSLZapier cannot “force” that type of connection.]  Users can monitor the task history of Zapier for the life of their accounts to verify activity and data transfer. Read more here.
  2. Is it a good idea to keep confidential and privileged client records in Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or One Drive?  Yes, provided you supplement the built-in protection of your online accounts with a private [client side] encryption product like Viivo.  Problem solved.
  3. Won’t I just be safer if I store files on my own computer?  This is another way to go, but you’ll be stuck with the one-at-a-time process of saving email as described above.  Additionally, the tide of expert thought is shifting to the belief that cloud-based solutions are superior.  See The great IT myth: is cloud really less secure than on-premise?


All Rights Reserved [2016] Beverly Michaelis

2016 ABA TECHSHOW Takeaways: 10 Security Steps to Take Now!

The incomparable Tim Baran from Legal Productivity has done it again. His post, 10 Actionable Privacy, Security & Encryption Takeaways From #ABATECHSHOW is a must-read for all lawyers.  (Important enough that I bumped the post I was planning to publish today.)

Included in Tim’s roundup:

  • Password managers
  • Secure web browsing with HTTPS Everywhere
  • No-track search engines
  • Using false answers to security questions to foil ne’er-do-wells
  • Encrypted telephone conversations and text messages
  • Encrypted files in the cloud
  • Protecting your smartphone camera
  • Using multi-factor authentication
  • Turning on automatic updates
  • Communicating over VPNs in lieu of insecure public WiFi

This is the best of the best.  Take two minutes from your day and read Tim’s post!  While you’re at it, consider subscribing to the Legal Productivity RSS feed for great practice tips on technology, mobile lawyering, marketing, organization, making money, and wellness.

2016 ABA TECHSHOW Wrap Up – 10 Most Important Upgrades

On the heels of the 2016 ABA TECHSHOW, here is a roundup of the top 10 most important upgrades compiled by Jared Correia.  Most involve new features of established case management programs, but there were also important developments in lawyer referral (Avvo), job search resources (Evolve Law), and peer-driven security standards for cloud computing (LCCA).  If you are ever tempted to attend TECHSHOW, you’ll also find a link to an interactive map of where to eat/drink (Gyi’s ABA TECHSHOW Recommendations).

Jared’s Top 10 Upgrades List Includes:

  • Rocket Matter
  • VineSign
  • Smokeball
  • MyCase
  • Evolve Law
  • CosmoLex
  • Clio
  • Avvo
  • Legal Cloud Computing Association (LCCA)
  • Gyi’s ABA TECHSHOW Recommendations (food/drink)

Access the top 10 most important upgrades here.


Seamless Client Intake Webinar

  • Ever wish you could streamline your solo or small firm practice to easily track contacts, client leads, tasks, and reminders?
  • Or send out client intake forms with a few clicks of your mouse, set a due date for clients to complete forms, and automate client reminders?
  • Maybe you’ve been longing to implement eSigning of fee agreement and engagement letters, but you’re not quite certain how to get started.

On January 12, 2016 we offered a free Webinar with Lexicata – the all-in-one client relationship management and client intake solution exclusively for lawyers.

Did You Miss the Program?

No worries!  We recorded it.  It will be available in the next few weeks on the Past CLE page of our Website, free of charge.

We are pleased to make this CLE available to all Oregon lawyers, as Lexicata is really the only product on the market that can offer true client intake online – a feature many lawyers want to incorporate into their practice, but find cost-prohibitive to develop on their own.