You don’t have to be a technology wizard to resolve to get smarter about the tech used by your family law firm. Here are six tech resolutions to make if you want to keep your devices running at peak efficiency – and keep your data and your devices safe from viruses, malware, and hacks – in 2020.
By Burton Kelso, Technology Expert
If you’re like most people, you may have resolved to make some specific changes for the better in your life and with your business in 2020. (It has been a month since New Year’s Eve; how are you doing with those resolutions?!) Most New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on improving your relationships, finances, and health. However, with technology playing such a big role in our lives, you need to consider changes to your digital life as well. The good news is that you don’t have to be a technology expert to resolve to get smarter about using your law firm’s tech and devices. Not sure where to start? Here are six tech resolutions that will pay big dividends in terms of security and efficiency, and help you get more from the technology you use in your firm.
6 Tech Resolutions Every Family Law Firm Should Make Now
1. Get Serious About Cyber Security.
Cybercrime was huge in 2019 and it’s only going to get worse in 2020. First, understand that all of your computers and devices have the protection you need against threats on the internet; as long as you keep your computers, smartphones, and laptop devices up-to-date you are protected. Most of the scams and viruses require user interaction in order to cause problems, so be cautious of websites you visit and unexpected emails that show up in your inbox.
If your information was leaked in a data breach, make sure you take action immediately by changing your passwords for your online accounts. If you don’t, your accounts can become susceptible to “credential stuffing,” which is where criminals use your information from a data breach to take over your online accounts. If you are not sure whether your firm’s email has been breached in a data leak, visit www.haveibeenpwned.com. If you’ve been “pwned” (this means “hacked” in geek-speak), change the passwords for any account you’ve used that password for.
2. Be Kind to Your Data – Make Sure it is Safe and Sound at All Times.
Your firm and client data are crucial to your practice, so you should make sure you are backing up that precious data automatically – to the cloud. External hard drives are great, but if you’re like most people, you don’t hook them up to your devices for daily/hourly backups. Any task that requires action on the part of a user is a task likely to be skipped when they get extremely busy. Cloud backup offers the ability to have your device information saved as a backup as soon as you create it on your device. Yes, you can store some of that information in DropBox, OneDrive, or Google Drive, but these cloud storage services don’t offer redundancy. For the best protection, check out www.carbonite.com or www.backblaze.com. For about $70 a year for unlimited backup, you can ensure that all of your firm and client data is safe and secure in the cloud.
3. Keep Your Devices and Accounts Secure.
You want to make sure your computers and smart devices are password-protected and that your accounts have different passwords. If you haven’t enabled two-factor authentication for your online accounts, you need to do it immediately. This way, if your accounts are compromised, criminals can’t get access to your information. Also, consider password storage services – LastPass has individual and team solutions, and it is an excellent choice to keep all your passwords secure.
If your firm requires everyone to change their passwords every 60/90/120 days, please know that it does nothing to secure your accounts. Twenty years ago, it used to take a hacker an average of 90 days to crack your passwords – now, they can crack a “poor” or “average” password in seconds. If your firm keeps forcing lawyers and support staff to change their passwords six or more times a year, they will come up with a system that makes it easy for them to remember their new passwords (like changing a “1” to a “2”). Or even worse: they will start writing them down on sticky notes stuck to their desk or laptop (if they routinely take their laptop home), thereby completely defeating any security your firm has regarding passwords.
4. Show Your Devices Some Love.
If you have a Windows computer, upgrade to Windows 10 right now. Microsoft ended support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020, so if anyone at your family law firm is still running Windows 7, this means you’re vulnerable to many of the threats out on the Internet. If you use Macs at your firm, you need to update to High Sierra, Mojave, or Catalina. Don’t forget about your smartphone, tablets, and your smart home devices: make sure have the latest security updates installed to keep you safe from all of the bad things and people on the Internet. It might be tempting to postpone that lastest computer or smart device update – especially when you’re busy – but you should install them immediately to keep the computers and devices in your business safe and secure.
5. Brush up on Your Ability to Spot – and Deal with – Phony Email.
Phishing emails and emails with malicious attachments are some of the top ways cybercriminals “hack” law firms. You can have the best cybersecurity protection in the world, but if you or one of your staff clicks on a bogus email or falls for a phishing scheme, it can spell big trouble for your firm. Ransomeware, scareware, and data breaches are all things you want to avoid because it can cost your business hours of downtime and can harm your firm’s reputation if you have to report a data breach to your clients. There are many companies that can help you and your staff brush up on your fake email spotting skills, but a good place to start testing those skills is Phishing Quiz. This website with Jigsaw and Google offers a free test that will help you and your staff start the process of learning the difference between a fake email and a real one.
6. Unclutter Your Devices and Get Rid of Old Tech – Safely, of Course.
Do you have hundreds or even thousands of emails sitting in your inbox? Take some time before the end of this month to delete or archive them. If your firm is using a desktop mail like Outlook or a Cloud-based solution like Google, those old emails and attachments are taking up valuable space. The same thing goes for old client files you store on your computer and smart devices – plus the more space they occupy in your hard drive, the slower your computer will run. Instead, you should archive those old files to an external hard drive or your server. If you’re using a secure cloud storage service, you can store them there as well.
When it comes to those old computers and devices, I know you/your firm spent good money on them – but when you can no longer upgrade to the latest operating system, it’s time to get rid of them. Don’t clutter up your law firm with those old devices: take them to your local recycling center or give them away to someone who can still use them. Some places like Amazon offer trade-ins on old technology.
Before you drop them off, however, make sure to wipe all personal and client data from those devices! I cannot emphasize this enough: merely deleting files does not guarantee that someone who knows what they are doing cannot restore them. Smart Devices and Tablets are pretty easy to clean up: just reset those devices to factory defaults and it will completely wipe their data. Windows and Macintosh computers are a little bit harder to clean up.
If they are too old to be useful to anyone, the quick and easy way to ensure that your data cannot be restored is to take the hard drives out of the computers and destroy them with a hammer or drill holes in the drive. If you don’t want to use a hammer or a drill, there are a couple of software tools you can use.
For Windows users, download Eraser. You will have to take the hard drive out of that old computer and hook it up to a computer running Windows, but this program will wipe that hard drive clean.
For Macintosh users, you can boot up your Mac holding down “Command” and “R” simultaneously to boot up into the Mac Recovery Utility. The Disk Utility app offers a way to completely wipe the hard drive so you can donate the computer or take it to a recycling center.
If you follow these six tech resolutions this year, you should have a safer, more efficient, and even more enjoyable digital workplace for you and your team.
Burton Kelso is the Chief Technology Expert and Founder of Integral, a technology company offering service, consulting and problem-solving for clients. He has worked with hundreds of customers across many different industries, and he takes pride in finding solutions tailored to each one’s individual needs. www.callintegralnow.com
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