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Attorney Malpractice Free Encryption Software

Avoid Attorney Malpractice, Use Free Encryption Software

by Bill Rounds Esq. on October 24, 2010

Reading time: 6 – 9 minutes

Attorneys are supposed to keep their clients secrets in strict confidence.  It is probably attorney malpractice to disclose client secrets.  And I am not just saying that so you tell me all your juicy gossip.  Better privacy helps our legal system work.   Free encryption software not only helps attorneys protect client secrets, it may be necessary to avoid attorney malpractice.

Huge Identity Theft Risk

Recently I was scanning information on the latest reported data breaches throughout the US.  A data breach is when personal information, like social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc.,  that could be used for identity theft has been compromised.   The Identity Theft Resource Center publishes this figure, along with having a lot of other useful stuff.

The data breaches they report all come from either unsecurely transfering files, accidental compromise, insider theft, theft by subcontractors, or even hackers.  And, the report only contains breaches that were reported in the media.

Companies You Know And Love Have Had Customer Data Compromised

As you scan through the document you notice some very disturbing things.  First, you see a lot of recognizable names that might have some of your data.  AT&T, T-Mobile, Citigroup, Priceline.com, TGI Friday’s to name just a few.   The next thing you might notice is that a lot of those recognizable names have had significant breaches where thousands, and sometimes millions,  of records have been compromised. Here are just a few of the most notable examples out of 113 pages of breaches so far this year.  Holy data security, Batman!

Company Number of Records Compromised
Education Credit Management Corp 3,300,000
JP Morgan Chase – Circuit City 2,600,000
AvMed Health Plans 1,200,000
South Shore Hospital (MA) 800,000
Citigroup 600,000
Blue Cross – Anthem – WellPoint 470,000
Affinity Health Plan 407,000
US Army Reservists, Serco, Inc. 207,000
Massachusetts Secretary of State 139,000

As you scan the document even more, you will notice that a lot of the reported breaches show a red zero indicating no records were compromised.  This is slightly misleading.  A red zero means they don’t know how many records were compromised.  Maybe a big giant red question mark would be more appropriate.

Attorney Malpractice Encryption

Encryption Protects Data And Offers Better Privacy

There are some other things you might not notice.  Hidden away in the data are a few black zeros.  These reflect records that were encrypted and so even though there was a breach, the data remained secure.  This gives us a hint at just how few companies are actually using encryption effectively.

Free Encryption Software

The low number of companies using encryption software is totally ludicrous.  Encryption is incredibly simple to use and there is plenty of free encryption software.  TrueCrypt is  a free, open source program that provides excellent encryption of data and much better privacy.

If you have never heard of TrueCrypt, any other free encryption software, or encryption at all for that matter, encrypting all of your files will take you a total of about 8 minutes.

How To Use Free Encryption Software For Better Privacy

Go to TrueCrypt.org and download the free encryption software. (1 minute)

Go through the tutorial which will walk you through, step by step, how to encrypt and unencrypt files.   Make some dummy document and picture files to practice with. (5 minutes)

Once you are done with the tutorial, encrypt all of your most sensitive files. (2 minutes)

Oh, and here’s a tip.  Check the total size of the files you want to encrypt and estimate how much more encrypted storage space you will want  in the future before you start creating a place to hold your encrypted data.  You will need to specify the size of the encrypted file before making it.

Potential Attorney Malpractice For Not Encrypting Data

Now for one of the most disturbing things that I noticed.  There are several attorneys and law offices on the list.   Holy Attorney Client Privilege, Batman!  This can pose some serious problems for attorneys in the near future, if it’s not a problem already.

Lawyers have strict rules of ethics that they must follow.  Most states prohibit a lawyer from revealing confidential client information.   Some states are even more strict than that.  Plus, lawyers are supposed to act competently to avoid even the accidental disclosure of confidential information.

Given the ease with which even a computer novice can effectively use encryption, it may become the minimum level of competence that lawyers are expected to use to protect their client’s confidential information.  Failure to use that minimum level of competence could lead to sanctions for attorney malpractice, malpractice lawsuits, and more.  Using free encryption software could help avoid attorney malpractice.

Businesses Owners And Free Encryption Software

Business owners, both large and small, should also take note.  There is lots of legislation requiring business owners to protect the data that they collect from customers and clients and to promote better privacy.   If it is this easy to use free encryption software to protect the sensitive data that you use and store, it could easily be the reasonable standard of care in a negligence lawsuit.  It may even be required by law.  Why not spend 8 minutes to potentially avoid millions of dollars in legal fees and damage awards.  Even if that is not the standard now, why risk it.

Talk to your attorney and ask them if they use encryption.  Talk to the businesses you deal with and ask them if they encrypt customer information.  If they don’t,  email them this article, or just tell them about it.  Both you, and they, will be glad you did.

Conclusion

Data breaches happen.  They will always happen, even if every one is using encryption.  But they will happen much less, and much less data will be at risk if more people use encryption.  Judging by the Identity Theft Resource Center statistics, it doesn’t look like very many businesses use encryption for better privacy.  If you are a business owner, attorney, or just a concerned client or customer, send this to your attorney, accountant, business partners, and friends.  They need to know that data is at risk, they may be held liable for a breach, and prevention will take about 8 minutes of their life.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Rounds, Esq. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties. This is merely one article of 123 by .
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