How Lawyers Can Protect Against Wi-Fi Security Risks

Sometimes you just need to get out of the office for a change of pace. Working outside of the office can boost productivity, but it also presents security risks if you use a public Wi-Fi network.

For lawyers, data security is everything. If you find yourself out and about, be sure to follow these tips for protecting your data.

Use your smartphone to create a personal network

Most smartphones allow tethering—using your phone as an internet connection for another device. Depending on your wireless provider, tethering might be free, or it can be an additional expense. For example, iPhone owners who use AT&T have to pay an additional fee to use tethering.

If you have tethering, create a personal network with a password. That will allow you to access the internet from another device, but the connection is not public. Sam has used his phone running Android to do this and it really worked well. This way, your data is not exposed to the public Wi-Fi network.

Almost every lawyer uses a smartphone. Using your phone to create secure network is one of the best possible uses.

Use your home computer to create an encrypted network

Even though I am one of the tech geeks at Lawyerist, this one is a little tough to explain. Essentially, using your home computer and free software, you can create a secure middle man (or tunnel) that allows you securely browse on an open Wi-Fi network.

In order to do this, you need a home computer that is always on and connected to the internet. That computer becomes a proxy—accessing the internet without directly accessing the internet. Using another piece of free software, you can then login into your home computer. Everything that goes back and forth is encrypted and blocked from coffee shop snoopers. If your data is encrypted, hackers will have a hard time accessing it.

Explaining this is more difficult than actually doing it. If you have two ounces of tech-savvy, give it a shot.

Block Firesheep with Blacksheep

Firesheep is a free extension that allows users to snoop into your Twitter and Facebook account and piggyback access. If you are using Facebook, someone running Firesheep can use your account too.

Fortunately, another free application called Blacksheep will alert you if anyone is using Firesheep to access accounts. Notably, it does not block Firesheep, but if you are aware someone is using Firesheep, that means it is time to shut things down.

Having your social media accounts hacked is not the end of the world, but it also easy to prevent. Take the necessary steps to keep your data secure when using a public Wi-Fi connection.

Randall Ryder
Randall Ryder is the Director of Appellate Advocacy & Lecturer in Law at the University of Minnesota Law School.

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