Tips, Tricks and Traps

By Bill Kammer

The Equifax Hack

In September 2017, Equifax reported a data breach that may have disclosed personal information of 143 million persons. That information included birthdates, driver’s license numbers and home addresses — enough to facilitate identity theft when combined with the Social Security numbers also exposed. Class actions are already on file, and Equifax has offered credit monitoring. But the prudent thing may be to protect yourself by implementing security freezes with the four credit-reporting agencies. Those freezes would prevent other people’s attempts to obtain credit, housing and government benefits in your name. Numerous resources are on the internet to teach you how.

Beware Software Upgrades

Recent issues visited upon various companies and law firms throughout the world apparently resulted from employees unthinkingly updating installed software after receiving an email that contained malicious links. Another recent news item reported that the CIA itself had created a bogus software upgrade to steal data from the FBI, DHS and NSA. It’s getting tough to identify the bad guys, but vigilance will always remain a necessary task.

Hackers are Persistent; Some are Quite Ingenious

We have all experienced or been warned about phishing expeditions — often in the context of malicious links suggesting errors in our bank statements — that we change our password, or look at something interesting. The emphasis has been on carefully watching and reviewing incoming emails and not blindly following links found on the internet. Hackers know those guardrails are up, and so they have shifted efforts to social media. For whatever reason, we all have a tendency to trust the origin of Facebook messages and tweets from apparent friends or friends of friends. For that reason, the hackers have shifted to a new strategy. They are inserting malicious links into those social media communications, many with shortened URLs that disguise the malicious destinations.

Google Maps Can Help You Park Your Car

Google continues to provide more services. Now it has linked a new feature to Google Maps available in 25 cities, including San Diego. Google will identify parking garages near the destination you’re headed for and then provide you with walking directions to your final destination.

The Internet of Things Lacks Security

There has been little incentive in the past for the manufacturers for internet of things (IoT) devices to protect those devices from authorized access. There have been many stories about hijacked baby cams that allow persons to yell at infants, and about other webcams and devices that allow intruders access to your private areas. The latest news is the FDA’s report that 465,000 patients need software updates for their implanted pacemakers to ensure against being hacked. Sgt. Esterhaus, in an old TV series, used to say, “Let’s be careful out there.” Nothing has changed in the internet world.

Traveling Lawyers and Burner Phones

Customs and Border Protection personnel have asserted claims to have the authority to search the electronic devices of travelers. Most attorneys have phones, mobile devices and sometimes laptops that contain abundant confidential client information. Hopefully that data is encrypted while stored on the device. Do lawyers have an ethical duty to refuse to give up the passcode to their device if an agent demands it? Maybe the solution is the pundits’ suggestion that attorneys should seriously consider using a burner phone during their travels.

The Rules of Procedure and Evidence Have Changed

The federal civil rules changed in important respects in December 2015. This is not an attempt to cover those changes so much as a warning that judges have sanctioned attorneys who fail to respect the changed scope of discovery and still include arguments based on case law prior to the 2015 changes. Several significant amendments to the Federal Rules of Evidence will take effect in December 2017. They principally concern authentication of computer data and information acquired from the internet or from social media sites. The changes will allow authentication of that evidence without the necessity of providing the trial testimony of a witness.

Technological Competence

The challenges of professional competence continually increase. References to bitcoins, blockchains and artificial intelligence are now filtering into the commentaries and conversations of lawyers. California’s COPRAC has already thrown down the gauntlet, but the trend is nationwide. Nebraska just became the 28th state to adopt a duty of technological competence.

Bill Kammer (wkammer@swsslaw.com) is a partner with Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith, LLP.

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