4 Steps for Legal Professionals to Stay Safe in Today’s Cyber World
By Judy Stevens
In the cyber world of business, they say there are three types of companies: Those that have been hacked, those that are about to get hacked, and those who have been hacked and just don’t know it yet! The cybersecurity threat has never been greater and, in the legal industry, there is a lot at stake!
There was a great article in the July ’17 edition of the Journal of Court Reporting published by NCRA, the National Court Reporters Association. In the article, there’s a rundown of several antivirus programs for both the PC and the Mac, some free, but most come with a cost. Everyone in the legal industry needs protection. The article emphasized that while the number of choices can be overwhelming and confusing, it’s critical that choosing a solution not be delayed. Security and confidentiality of information are cornerstones of the legal field. As court reporters, we’re “guardians of the record,” a role that all court reporters take seriously.
I’m no technical expert, but I recognize a need for something when I see it! I decided to ask my IT guy if he had to pick just one Antivirus program, what would it be? His answer: Malwarebytes 3.0, which is the paid version ($39.99) of the popular freeware. One of his reasons was “realtime” protection. Not exactly the same “realtime” that we refer to every day in depositions and trials, but substantially the same meaning in that it works instantaneously while you’re using it. Some programs require you to run a scan from time to time but, by then, your computer could already be infected and you not know it. Realtime protection prevents you from getting into trouble with a contaminated file immediately and warns you before the damage is done. Also, Malwarebytes is great for cleaning up after an infection and it “plays well” with other virus protection programs such as Microsoft’s Security Essentials and Defender, in case you are running those as well.
I then asked him for other advice he would offer for cybersecurity both in law firms and court reporting offices alike. Here are some of his thoughts:
- It’s not enough to simply have antivirus software on your computer. You have to make sure you’re getting regular updates. New viruses and ransomware are being developed all the time and it’s critical to stay current with your protection.
- Make sure you’re set to receive operating system updates. In the case of Windows, there are settings that you can choose to either update automatically or manually. Sometimes these updates can take time to download and install and if you’re in a hurry to shut down, the last thing you want to do is interrupt an update. If you think you might be in this situation, then choose the manual update option and update regularly on your timetable. Windows most often will notify you when an update is ready to be downloaded and installed.
- If you work in a legal practice of any size without an IT department, be sure you’re backing up important data at least daily. This can be as simple as copying important files to a USB stick or external hard drive. Windows 7, 8, and 10 all have built-in backup programs, but the best programs are those that let you keep incremental backups in case you need to go back a week or more to do a restore. Our favorite is Acronis True Image which will let you restore the computer’s operating system should your computer crash. Cloud-based backups are great for backing up data, too, such as Carbonite, but they typically won’t allow a full-system restore.
- Be careful what you download onto your computer. Most recent ransomware is being transmitted by downloaded .pdf files. If you don’t know the sender and aren’t expecting something, play it safe and don’t download!
These days, we can’t assume we’ll never be hit with ransomware or another virus. With as many files as legal professionals send and receive each week, we really should consider ourselves as prime candidates for viruses. We have to be smart, be aware of emails from addresses you’re unfamiliar with and carefully scrutinize anything you open or download.