Posted by: johnocunningham | February 3, 2013

Cyber-Danger and Client Confidentiality

The winter issue of Boston College Law School magazine offers up a nicely written piece by Frederick Lane on the potential dangers inherent in Web communications by attorneys and their clients.

Lane notes that “the very design of the Internet is such that there are multiple opportunities for copies of any e-mail to be made at various points along its transmission path.” Lawyers would be wise to heed these words, given that FBI security experts have warned that law firms are being targeted by hackers for the kinds of sensitive and valuable information they possess, according to Law Technology News.

Lane suggests that attorneys must be certain that e-mail related to legal matters is sent through a “secure connection,” which at the very least should have a “https” Web address.

Particularly sensitive matters, he asserts, should be sent through a secure e-mail service, preferably one that enables the use of encryption algorithms that protect e-mails from being viewed by anyone other than the intended recipients.

Some e-mail services, such as G-mail, also offer two-factor authentication controls if you want to use those. See: Matt Cutts post on how two-factor authentication works.

Of course, lawyers could try the quick and slinky way of sharing info privately by setting up a joint e-mail account and then saving confidential communications to draft folders, where they will never be corrupted or forwarded, except by those on the joint account. But as Lane notes, this is what General Petraeus tried to do with his biographer (a terrorist technique by the way) and that plan obviously went awry when the biographer forwarded confidential info from the draft file.

As previously mentioned on this blog, the ABA model rules now require lawyers to be familiar enough with technology to protect their clients and represent them effectively, so technology aspects to communications must be mastered. See, for example my post on:

New ABA Ethics Rules Related to Technology; and

What to Master and How under the New ABA Rules; and

New ABA Rules for Guarding Client Communications.

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