Running your firm remotely can help you be more productive – but can you keep your clients’ data safe and your devices out of harm’s way? Read on to learn how!
By Burton Kelso, Technology Expert
Over the last five years, technology has evolved to the point where the number of lawyers working remotely has increased substantially. As an Information Technology (IT) professional, I see more solo and small family law firms doing more work on the road, in the courthouse, and from the comfort of their own homes rather than spending time in a traditional brick-and-mortar office.
Although working remotely at least some of the time is becoming the norm, many attorneys aren’t aware of the threats they face. Cybercriminals prey on solo and small family law firms because many of them have relaxed security protocols and they don’t have the continuing support of an experienced IT professional to ensure they are safe from online threats. Your business probably has decent security protection and procedures in place at the office, but it’s crucial that these practices are reflected outside of your firm.
Running Your Law Firm Remotely – & Keeping It Safe From Hackers
Here are 6 smart tips to boost security for you and the people working at your business when working remotely.
1. Set up an Automatic Backup for Your Data.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of backing up your information! When you are working remotely, there are many threats to your data and devices. There’s good old fashioned theft, but there is also the rising threat of ransomware which can completely destroy your data. Now I know you’re probably thinking that your files in Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive keep you safe. Well, think again. If your computer is hit with ransomware, it will infect the files on your computer and on your cloud storage service.
The solution: for Windows and Macintosh laptops, sign up for a subscription for Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) or Backblaze (www.backblaze.com). For as little as $70 a year, you can get automatic, redundant backups of your information. For your mobile devices, sign up for Apple iCloud for $0.99 a month, or free storage with Google Drive and Google Photos, or Amazon Documents and Photos.
2. Password-Protect and Encrypt Your Devices.
Running a law firm, it’s easy to forget that you’re supposed to be protecting your client’s personal information when you’re trying to come up with a winning strategy for a complex case. With a traditional brick-and-mortar firm, it’s just a matter of locking the doors and setting an alarm to protect your devices. When you’re mobile, it becomes harder to protect your devices. A good password can protect your data if thieves steal one or more of your devices. Since most strong passwords are too difficult to remember, a password generator (LastPass.com, for example) that not only creates but remembers your stored logins for you is a good choice.
For the ultimate protection, it’s best to apply data encryption to your laptops and other mobile devices. Data encryption scrambles your data. If you have the password, you are able to view the data. If you don’t, your data resembles that 5,000-piece puzzle you were forced to put together during the holidays. Windows 10 Professional computer users can take advantage of BitLocker (this feature is not in Windows 10 Home, so you will need to upgrade.) Macintosh users can use FileVault to protect your computer. For smartphone and tablet users, it’s just a matter of enabling the password or face recognition on your devices. Data encryption technology makes it virtually impossible for criminals to access your data.
3. Encrypt Your Email.
Many family law attorneys correspond with clients via email. If you or your firm does, you should encrypt your emails. Encryption ensures that outside parties don’t see the contents of your email. Many popular email programs have data encryption as a feature. If you are using products such as Outlook, Mac Mail, and Gmail, iPhones and Android phones have encryption included – just check your settings to enable this protection.
4. Limit Your Use of Public Wifi.
Free Wifi is like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It’s tempting to reach up and grab that apple, but you probably shouldn’t. For the best protection, use your own cellular provider via your smartphone, tablet, or your personal Wifi Hotspot. Cellular offers the best protection because criminals will have to hack into your cellular provider’s network to see what information you’re sharing. If you have to use public Wifi, you need to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This software creates a tunnel that blocks your information from prying eyes keeping your data safe. Tunnel Bear (www.tunnelbear.com) or NordVPN (nordvpn.com) are great VPN packages to use when using public Wifi.
5. Keep Your Devices and Software Up to Date.
To keep your systems healthy and secure, you need to update the software regularly. If you don’t do that, your software gets outdated, and weak spots that are vulnerable for attack can form. That puts your family law firm at serious risk! The internet can be a dangerous place; it’s filled with unscrupulous people trying to do harmful things to your devices that can threaten your business. Viruses and malware are ready and waiting to be downloaded or clicked on by you or someone in your office – one careless action can infect your entire network. Most firms have anti-virus and anti-malware software on their computers to protect you from this. But when your software is out-of-date – or when someone is using a personal tablet or computer without these protections to login from home – you might have vulnerabilities that open up your business for an attack.
6. Avoid Accidents and Careless Mishaps.
Anything can happen your devices when you’re out and about: fire, theft, accidents, or your kids spilling chocolate milk into your laptop’s keyboard, for example. Make sure you have a plan for when things go wrong.
First, get that extended warranty if you can. Not everyone likes Dell laptops, but they offer the best after-purchase warranty out there. Most companies make you ship your computer off for warranty repair, which can take a week or longer. If you have a Dell computer that fails during the warranty period, Dell will send a tech to you. For your tablets and phones, get the extended warranty. Most warranty repair for tablets and phones can get you a new device in a day or two.
Next, track your devices. If your devices get stolen, have a way law enforcement can get them back. For Windows laptops, you can get low-jack to track your devices. For Apple devices, you can turn on Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac. For Android, enable Find My Device.
Finally, just keep track of your devices. Don’t leave them unattended. Don’t let kids play on them. Keep liquids away from them and don’t leave your devices in your vehicle during extreme temperatures.
Running your firm remotely can help you be more productive, but make sure you are doing everything possible to keep your client data safe and your devices out of harm’s way.
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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