Immigration Practice News

Volume 3, Issue 3

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Confidentiality and Confidence: Simple Solutions to Minimizing Risk A Few Technological Safeguards By Lisa Scott T he freedom afforded by technology to lawyers and law office personnel is undeniable; no longer are we bound by the confines of the office desk—or even the office. Technology has allowed us to become more efficient in performing research, managing clients, and completing routine office tasks. We take for granted the myriad technological tools that expand and ease our lawyerly responsibilities. Using Bluetooth, we can talk to our clients on our way walking to court; smart phones let us catch up on e-mails during lunch; and laptops allow us to conduct necessary research anytime, anywhere. Along with increased freedoms and access comes the need for heightened awareness and concerns on a number of fronts. It is our ethical duty to maintain client confidentiality while effectively and competently serving those clients. The use of computer hardware, soſtware, email, Internet, smart phones, and digital photocopiers presents potential issues insofar as confidentiality and competence are concerned. Preparing, storing and transmitting client data electronically always contain some element of risk of inadvertently breeching confidentiality. Office technology, including computer hardware, soſtware, Internet, email, voicemail, smartphones, and digital photocopiers, contains confidential information that requires the identification and implementation of extensive security measures to safeguard client confidences. Working with an IT professional to create and implement an office policy that limits the risks of confidentiality breaches is highly advisable. In addition, the following suggestions can help to reduce the chance of exposure: • Create, use, test and frequently change a strong alphanumeric password by combining letters and numerals with symbols which make it more difficult for someone to hack into confidential client data. Apply the password to your smartphone which oſten contains client email correspondence. using a VPN (Virtual Protection Network). • Secure your computer systems by purchasing and installing a reputable firewall that works on both inbound and outbound transmissions. Avoid "default" settings to further reduce breaches. • Limit soſtware downloads, and prohibit staff from downloading music, videos and accessing other sites which may be infected with malware. • Purchase, install, and regularly update recommended security soſtware including antivirus programs and spyware protections to minimize the risk of compromising date security. • Secure online communications and Internet browsing by installing and • Invest in a soſtware program which will encrypt email so that confidentiality is not breached in the event you misaddress the email. Consider a soſtware program that also encrypts all or portions of storage devices including, hard drives, cd-roms, dvd-roms, and USB drives. • Remove metadata before sending documents to clients. • Purchase and use data-wiping soſtware to erase all confidential data from digital photocopiers, desktops, laptops, and smart phones before replacing them. Having a plan before the crisis strikes is important, and there are many resources available through local and national bar associations to assist you. A graduate of Vassar College and Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Lisa Scott practices law in Illinois. AILA'S ETHICS & PRACTICE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE offers 24/7 assistance to members through the Practice and Professionalism Center. You can find information to help you develop your practice, improve firm management and identify and address ethic issues through the Practice Management library. www.aila.org 4

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