Security Outside of the Office

Technology used to be firmly anchored in the office: bulky desktop computers, closet-filling servers, fax machines, and so forth. But as laptops have surged in popularity, and new technology like smartphones and tablets have emerged, lawyers are increasingly carrying their technology–and their clients’ data–with them outsideof the office.

So how can you secure your technology on the go? Here are a few suggestions:

You Can’t Lose What You Aren’t Carrying

Just because you can fit every single client file you have on a single thumb drive, that doesn’t mean you should. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself when working outside of the office is to minimize the amount of technology and data you’re carrying. Some strategies to consider:

  • Designate a laptop for use outside of the office. When taking the laptop out for a trip or meeting, copy over the files you know you’ll need–and only those files. In a worst case scenario, you’re only going to lose that handful of files.
  • If you have reliable internet access outside of the office, don’t carry any data with you. Leave the data on a secure computer or server back in the office and use a VPN connection to access it only when it’s needed. If you’re comfortable using the cloud, you can achieve the same type of remote access without needing the hardware in your office at all.
  • Bring the right tool for the right job. If all you need to do while away from the office is check your email and surf a few web pages, stick with your smartphone. If you need to do a little bit more–perhaps reviewing a few cases or preparing a draft document–consider using a tablet. You won’t lose your laptop if you leave it in the office.

Encrypt Your Data

There are times when you have to carry your data with you. Perhaps you’re heading out of town and won’t have reliable internet access, or maybe you’re meeting with a client and are planning to deliver a thumb drive full of documents. Whatever the reason, be sure the data you carry outside of the office is encrypted. Software like TrueCrypt or Endpoint will allow you to encrypt individual files, thumb drives, or even a whole hard drive. Data that’s securely encrypted with a strong password will be virtually impossible to access should it be lost or stolen.

Mobile Devices Require Security, Too

A lost or stolen smartphone can easily provide a new owner with access to the old owner’s email, voicemail, and other sensitive data. With a little work, a motivated thief could use that access as a toehold to gain entry to even more of your data and services. Two essential steps to protecting your mobile devices:

  • Require a password to unlock the screen. If your device can’t be locked with a password, get a new device. A password isn’t perfect security but it’ll keep the casual snoop out, and it’ll delay a dedicated hacker.
  • Make sure your device can be remotely wiped, and know how to wipe it in advance. If your device does go missing, you’ll want to be able to remotely wipe it as soon as possible to keep any data it contains private.

Don’t Forget Physical Security

As sophisticated and easy-to-use as security software has become, one of the most basic security steps requires no software at all: controlling physical access to your technology.

  • Don’t let your technology go unsecured and unattended. Leaving your laptop at a table in a coffee shop while you grab a refill, or leaving a laptop bag in plain view in the back seat of a parked car, are invitations to thieves.
  • Get a less obvious bag for your laptop.  There are certain retailers that sell bags exclusively for laptops and other tech gear. The logos on those bags are big shiny beacons alerting potential thieves that the bag contains something worth stealing.  Instead, purchase an appropriately sized protective sleeve for the device and put the sleeve in a less conspicuous bag.
  • Use a computer lock. Most computer equipment sold today, from laptops to LCD screens, include a small slot called a “K-slot” or “security slot” designed to attach to a computer lock. The locks themselves are sold by various vendors, including Kensington and Belkin. Get a lock for your laptop, and make sure it’s securely anchored to something solid and immovable.
  • Mark your technology with asset tags/stickers or etching. Markers make your technology less appealing to thieves, and may help you recover technology — like a laptop — if it’s simply lost rather than stolen.

About Joshua Poje

Joshua Poje
Joshua Poje (@poje) is the Director of the ABA's Legal Technology Resource Center, where he provides technology and practice management guidance to attorneys throughout the country. He is the editor of the annual ABA Legal Technology Survey Report and a frequent speaker and writer on legal technology topics. Follow him on: Twitter | LinkedIn | Google+

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