Devices of doom

January 23, 2014

Many lawyers use their technology at work. What could possibly go wrong?

 

If this year’s Christmas stocking bulged with a brand new tablet, you’ll have added to the 20 per cent of the UK population who own one.

If you found the latest smartphone nestled under the tree, you’re one of more than 60 per cent.

But if you’re keen to take your new toy to work, it’s worth thinking seriously about how you are using it and what you are doing with the information you store.

The issue is clearly high on the priority list of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) which issued a press release this month encouraging organisations to make it their New Year’s resolution to have a clear Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in the workplace.

It’s a striking feature of the technological age that employees are custodians of a vast amount of data – but at what risk?

Typically, lawyers own an array of mobile devices and the line between using them for work and personal life is increasingly blurred. Who hasn’t fired off a quick document to a colleague from their smartphone, dashed off an email to a colleague while running for the 7.56 train or in a fit of pique tweeted rather rashly about a client or colleague?

Employees at all levels are integrating their personal mobile phones, laptops and tablets with work software, and the challenge for law firms and IT departments is managing the associated risks.

So mobile devices are increasingly being used to store client information, work documents and digital communications.

Which is all very useful for facilitating a productive and seamless working routine – but are you protecting the data and security of your devices?

Back it up

It’s no laughing matter when you drop your smartphone down the office loo if it contains vital information and contacts. But whilst you will undoubtedly be the butt of jokes in the office for some time to come, the implications are potentially extremely serious if the data wasn’t backed up.

In the words of the Boy Scouts: be prepared. Check out and comply with your employer’s BYOD policies and procedures. If you don’t know what these are, then ask your employer and read it carefully. Backing up the data at regular intervals is likely to be a fundamental requirement of your firm and critically important.

And if your organisation hasn’t got a BYOD policy, tell them about the ICO’s suggested New Year’s resolution.

Make it secure

Security dangers are potentially huge.

Take the salutary tale of the US journalist, Mat Honan, whose entire digital life was destroyed because of hackers and his failure to back up the data (including client contact details and business information) on various mobile devices. Worst of all, his Twitter account was hijacked and used to post racist and homophobic tweets.

And with law firms increasingly in the front line of cyber security threats, lawyers must remain on guard.

Beware Wi-Fi

A few simple steps can save major embarrassment, disruption and worse.

To protect personal data from unauthorised or unlawful access, the ICO suggests ensuring devices are locked with a strong password and should use encryption to store data on the device securely.

Transfers of data between personal devices and the firm’s systems should be done via a secure channel. The ICO recommends care be taken with untrusted connections such as open Wi-Fi, and warns against using public cloud-based sharing and public backup services unless they have been fully assessed.

If the worst happens, you can prevent lost data from being accessed by registering the device with a remote locate and wipe facility.

Mad as hell

Data (which includes digital communications) is entrusted into your hands as an employee of the firm. And it has never been more imperative to ensure all communications are conducted with the utmost professionalism.

If you’re not careful, the words of journalist Mat Honan may come back to haunt you: “I’m mad as hell for not backing up my data. I’m sad, and shocked, and feel that I am ultimately to blame for that loss.” NL

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