Regardless of specialization, lawyers everywhere are familiar with the concept of attorney-client privilege, and the closely related need to protect client confidentiality. Yet, a recent survey conducted by LexisNexis indicates that very few firms are actually taking steps to increase protection of sensitive data. Here are three reasons that needs to change.
1. Email Is Vulnerable
It’s a common misassumption to believe that because email accounts require passwords to log in at both ends of transmission (from both the sender’s account and the recipient’s), that email is a protected means of communication. In reality, however, emails that are sent without encryption are completely vulnerable to hackers. Although the LexisNexis survey mentioned above indicates that only a minority of firms are currently using encryption for their privileged communications, doing so would be a small step for many firms that could make a big difference in data security.
2. File Sharing Is Gaining Popularity
As the volume of data exchanged daily continues to increase, the concept of file sharing grows in popularity too. Unfortunately, the majority of respondents to the LexisNexis survey report that their preferred method of “file sharing” is—again—simply sending everything back and forth by unencrypted email. There are encrypted file sharing services and programs available that could offer an additional layer of security to sensitive data, offering greater peace of mind to attorney and client alike.
3. Confidentiality Isn’t Real Protection
A staggering number of firms—77 percent to be exact—say that they rely on the confidentiality statement at the bottom of every email as their primary defense. While this may offer some level of protection to the firm itself, the clients themselves are rarely protected by any confidentiality disclaimer… not to mention, a few sentences about privileged information doesn’t actually mean that the information contained in the email is protected in any real way from outside threats, which is a concern that needs to take on a higher priority.
Both clients and their attorneys need to recognize the need for heightened security when it comes to data protection. When 89 percent of firms report that their use of unencrypted email is their primary means of client communication as well as internal information exchange, the concern quickly becomes apparent. No matter what your signature line may read, the truth is that promising not to share privileged data isn’t even close to the same thing as protecting that same data against unauthorized access. It’s time for law firms to get serious about data protection in an effort to truly safeguard themselves and their clients.
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