Data Security for Solo Attorneys Part 1

Despite the constant urge to use the latest and greatest technology, many lawyers overlook technology basics such as security and creating backups.

Here are some easy steps to help protect your computers and the information on them.

Password schmassword

It blows my mind when I see attorneys pull out a laptop, flip it open, and start working. Not having a password when your computer boots and/or awakes for being asleep is insane. Without password protection, someone could take your computer and access everything within seconds.

Does a password make your computer an unlockable vault? Absolutely not. But it is a strong deterrent and should take even the most computer illiterate person less than five minutes to setup.

While we’re on the topic, please don’t use “password” or “yourname” as your password. That’s like leaving your keys on the front seat of your car. Or something a spaceball would do. Think of a phrase, throw in some wingdings symbols, add a number, and top it off with some punctuation.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to turn on your computer’s data encryption. Again, this does not make your computer an unlockable vault. But it adds another level of security and it’s easy to do. It may slow your boot times and take up space on your hard drive, but it is worth it.

Backup your backup

File sync is not backup. Neither is storing drafts of your documents. You should have at least one complete backup, if not multiple/redundant backups to cover yourself in case your office burns down and takes your computer and backups with it.

You can get a good, reliable external hard drive for under $100. Here’s a brilliant idea: buy two, and keep one at home and one at your office. Backup your files in both places. That way, both your house and your office would have to burn down. Yes, I realize $200 is not chump change, but it’s a lot cheaper than a malpractice suit for failing to safekeep your client’s property.

And while you’re at it, spend another $100-$150 or so and sign up for Dropbox with the packrat option, or another file synching service. That means your files will be synced across all computers and stored in the cloud.

As a solo attorney, I know the importance of keeping overhead low. But there are two things to keep in mind. One, you don’t need to buy new external drives every year. Good ones should last for at least two years. Two, file security is everything. And if you can’t justify spending $350 a year (less most years) on backing up your data, I don’t think you’re ready to run your own business.

Wi-Fi is slower and less secure than hard lines

Using Wi-Fi is convenient, but it is also slower than an ethernet connection and can be much less secure. If you can use an ethernet connection while at the office, do it.

It’s unlikely a hacker is sitting in your parking lot, desperately trying to gain access to your client’s wills and trusts. Then again, stranger things have happened. If you don’t know how to secure your Wi-Fi network, here’s a quick and easy guide provided by the government.

Especially if you are in unknown environments, be alert when using Wi-Fi. A few years ago a program called Firesheep allowed a user to access another person’s social media accounts. There’s a good likelihood another program will pop up down the road.

Here’s an easy rule: if you’re in the office stick to a hardline. If you are out and about, be careful about using open wireless networks.

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