The American Bar Association requires lawyers to make “reasonable efforts” to prevent the unauthorized disclosure or use of data belonging to or related to the representation of a client. “Reasonable efforts” can be a bit of a gray area, so it is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to data security. Keep reading for the top tips to proactively manager your risk of a data security breach and protect your clients and your business.
Always use strong passwords
You may roll your eyes at the thought of creating complicated passwords for all of your devices and accounts, but the extra security measures are well worth the hassle. For many of us, it is easy to use the same password across the board, but this is extremely dangerous. Once a hacker cracks one of your passwords, they have access to all of your accounts and devices. Using unique passwords is a crucial step in protecting your data.
Also, stronger passwords are necessary to properly protect your client information from prying eyes. Use a good mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to make your password harder to crack. Avoid using common words or phrases as well as anything personal, like a birthday or anniversary. Hackers can easily find that information online and use it when trying to guess your password.
If you know there is no chance of remembering a dozen unique and complicated passwords, consider using a password saving tool. For example, LastPass is a password manager that keeps all of your passwords in one secure place. You can download the Chrome extension to automatically sign into your accounts without having to remember each password. Many of these password tools also offer free tiers or trials, so you can decide which product works best for your business.
Only work on a secure Wi-Fi connection
Hackers are just waiting for you to access sensitive files or confeditional information over an unsecure Wi-Fi connection. While the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks or the airport may seem convenient, it can actually be very dangerous. These open Wi-Fi networks do not have a high level of security or protection, which can easily allow hackers to access your data.
Unsecure Wi-Fi networks may also be disguised connections set up by cybercriminals. If multiple Wi-Fi options for a business or location pop up, some may be fradulant networks designed to access your data and steal your information. If you do not know and trust a Wi-Fi network, you should not connect to it.
For your office and any work-related activity, you should set up a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN will provide a secure network connection, so you can access the Internet while protecting your clients and your data. Also, stick to visiting sites that have an SSL certificate or begin with “https” to stay as secure as possible. Otherwise, anyone else on your Wi-Fi network can see what you are doing when you’re online.
Set up file encryption ASAP
There is no excuse for law firms of any size to be without encryption. Encrypting your files is a quick and easy process that is free or relatively inexpensive. File encryption will keep your data secure and protected even if it falls into the wrong hands.
Find a free file encryption tool or pay a small fee to encrypt files on all of your devices. It is important to implement encryption practices for everying, instead of just encrypting your laptop or work computer. Your tablet and smartphone should also have file encryption set up, so that you remain protected if you use these devices for work purposes like checking email or accessing files stored in the cloud.
Don’t open risky emails
We have all heard the horror stories about someone opening an email from a stranger or downloading an attachment from a sketchy email. Even if you think you recognize the sender, an email could still be part of a phising scheme. Cybercriminals send countless phishing emails each day, waiting for someone to open the email, click a link, or download an attachment. They can quickly gain access to your data and take control of your device.
You should never open an email if you do not recognize the sender. Also, you should only open attachments if you are expecting them from a trusted sender. Fake emails can be made to look like legitimate contacts in your email address book. Watch out for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and urgent calls to action. Avoiding clicking links and always use the mouse hover feature to check the legtimacy of a link.
Protecting the data of your clients is essential for your business. Lawyers deal with confidential and sensitive data everyday, and they can face severe consequences for neglecting to protect that information. For small or midsized law firms, data security may seem like an expensive and complicated undertaking, but there are many steps you can implement at little to no cost. Making data security a priority for your law firm can help protect you from breaches and manage your data risk proactively, instead of reacting to a disaster.