ABA Techshow

Hot Topic: Keeping Data Secure at the Coffee Shop

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In an increasingly connected world, lawyers at a coffee shop, a hotel or the airport may jump online to check email, get some work done or send a tweet. But that freedom to access the Internet practically whenever and wherever we want carries risks from thieves, hackers and nosy neighbors—a possible ethical violations of client privacy.

Explaining how to avoid some of those perils was the task of two legal technology experts Thursday at an ABA Techshow presentation called the “Coffee Shop Office: The Ethics of Mobile Computing.”

Co-presenters Sharon D. Nelson, president of Sensei Enterprises, a computer forensics and technology firm based in Farifax, Va., and Tom Mighell, a lawyer and senior consultant with the Dallas-based firm Contoural, offered security tips for using laptops, smartphones and tablets over a public WiFi network. (Mighell was a last-minute stand-in for ABA Journal legal technology writer Dennis Kennedy, who couldn’t attend due to a health problem.)

Nelson cited a study showing that the number of wireless hotspots would grow more than fourfold to nearly 6 million by 2015.

While all lawyers know they have a duty to protect confidential data, she said, they too often regard the threat to confidentiality as more theoretical than real.

“We don’t like to be disconnected, but the more connected we are, the more we have to be careful about how we use” wireless technology, she said.

She and Mighell said users should make sure they are using a secure HTTPS protocol rather than the HTTP protocol and have a secure, 12-character alphanumeric password to log on to their laptops.

Mighell recommended a specific website called Shields Up, that will scan and determine the security vulnerabilities on your computer. He also said that while both Windows and Mac OSX operating systems have basic built-in firewall programs, they don’t offer enough protection.

Mighell also recommended turning off file-sharing unless there is a particular reason for having it on, and to have only one public folder for files that can be shared only when needed.

He and Nelson also recommended scanning your mobile device for malware after using any public WiFi network. And Mighell suggested investing in a good data loss protection program that will detect, monitor and prevent data from leaving your system.

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