Attorney-client confidentiality is a bedrock principle of the American legal system. Candor and free expression between attorney and client is essential in the course of representation.
But lawyers are not immune from cyber security concerns, and despite prudent precautions, some attorneys can fall victims to cybercrime.
The ABA Journal reports a North Carolina attorney inadvertently downloaded a virus that shut him out of his computer system.
Like other businesses, the attorney was targeted via e-mail. He opened a fairly innocuous attachment, and that's when the Crypto Locker virus took over. The article reports that "Thousands of documents stored on his computer were made inaccessible," the attorney reports, "it was actually an email that looked like it was coming from our phone system because our system sends voice mail messages as an attachment.”
The makers of the virus essentially held his computer hostage, and offered him access to his computer if he paid a ransom.
My recommendation for lawyers: regularly back up your electronic files with external hard drives, and keep them in a secure, fireproof place--and consider having a backup copy located outside of your office in a secure and fireproof place. Also consider secure cloud services.
My recommendation for everyone: be careful what you download--schemes like this Crypto Locker extortion ring are pretty sophisticated.
The ABA Journal story is here.
My friend Mark Bentley, who works as a lawyer for the UT System in Austin, commented that their office is not immune from cyberattacks like this one. He adds that these malware can be masked and look like trusted websites and known e-mail senders.