Business of Law

Unaware 'Anonymous' Existed Until Friday, Partner of Hacked Law Firm Is Now Fielding FBI Phone Calls

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Unaware until Friday that the hacking collective known as Anonymous existed, partner Neal Puckett has gotten an extensive education in Internet security issues for law firms over the past three days.

The attack that began Friday on Puckett & Faraj could have been much worse, he tells the ABA Journal, and it is some comfort that major organizations such as the FBI and Scotland Yard also were hacked.

He hopes his Virginia-based law firm, which is cooperating with authorities investigating the intrusion, will be back online perhaps later this week, albeit with the help of a new consultant.

The one who previously oversaw the firm’s website, he says, had his servers wiped clean of all client email, not simply the Puckett firm’s material. So, after the consultant spent the weekend getting all his other clients relaunched with backup material, “I don’t think he’s all that eager to keep us as a client,” Puckett said of his now-former website contractor.

The firm’s Google email passwords weren’t secure enough to keep out hackers who may have been using equipment that can rapidly try out multiple possible combinations, according to Puckett. So the firm has changed all of its email passwords and made them more complex. Fortunately, although the email was copied by Anonymous hackers, it wasn’t deleted.

Meanwhile, Puckett is waiting for an opinion from the state bar’s ethics counsel to find out what is recommended concerning the notification he expects to provide to all of the law firm’s current and former clients who may have been exposed.

While it was only several years of email and not the firm’s client files that were illegally accessed, a number of emails had client documents attached, he notes.

Ironically, although Anonymous apparently hoped to find some major documents in a controversial criminal case concerning a U.S. Marine staff sergeant who Puckett & Faraj successfully defended, what was taken was “really innocuous,” according to Puckett.

“We feel bad for our clients,” he said. However, those who hacked the firm “don’t appear to be posting or calling attention to” the stolen emails. Likewise, it appears that Anonymous isn’t interested in hacking into bank accounts or identity theft.

Given the firm’s track record of defending soldiers against the U.S. government that Anonymous frequently criticizes, the firm seems like a strange target for the group, he points out.

“If you have a problem with injustice, how about hacking the prosecutors?” Puckett jokes, adding: “We’ve been trying to laugh so we won’t cry about all this.”

It appears that it will be a while before Puckett’s work routine slows down to a lawyer’s normally busy work day.

“Oh, that’s the FBI calling,” he told an ABA Journal reporter, bringing the telephone interview to a hasty conclusion. “I’ve got to take this.”

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