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Lawyers, the Time for Encryption Has Come

By Fleur Harris

October 11, 2016

Data encryption program at Practice 360

Play videoUPDATE: Watch Sharon Nelson and John Simek of Sensei Enterprises, discuss the ethics of encryption and its appropriate use.

Electronic data transmission is routine in our personal and professional lives. However, some of us face greater risk than others when, for instance, sending e-mails or saving documents to the cloud.

Sharon Nelson and John Simek of Sensei Enterprises Inc., a digital forensics company, said it is more important now than ever that attorneys take steps to protect their stored and transmitted data. At the D.C. Bar's annual Practice 360º | A Day for Lawyers & Law Firms Nelson and Simek led the presentation "Encryption Is Now Cheap and Simple—and May Be Ethically Required."

Five years ago, lawyers were reluctant about encryption, according to Nelson, dismissing it as either too difficult, too expensive, or unnecessary. But recent reports on data breaches may give lawyers some pause: over 70 percent of them involve laptops and portable devices, and about 10 percent of laptops are stolen during their usable lives.

Encryption—put simply, turning readable text into unreadable text—sounds complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Nelson and Simek offer a "quick start action plan" for lawyers, which includes:

  • Get an expert to set it up for you
  • Encrypt laptops, smartphones, tablets, and portable drives. (In many devices, it's just a matter of turning encryption on.)
  • Always back up your data
  • Use an e-mail encryption solution for confidential communications
  • Protect your decryption key by using strong passwords
  • Beware of public networks
  • Secure your wireless network using WPA2 encryption
  • Proceed with caution when using the cloud.

"Is encryption difficult? Yes, but you don't want to be doing everything yourself. You want to be using encryption," Nelson said.

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Get the highlights from Practice 360º, including advice from experts on everything from data security to creating an effortless customer experience.