by Denis McKay

There’s an old saying that there are two types of solicitor: those that have been sued; and those that haven’t been sued – yet. In today’s climate where it seems that warnings are being issued about scams and security breaches on a daily basis, that should maybe be updated. There are those that have been victims of scams or e-security breaches and those that haven’t – yet. There are so many different types of threat that space prohibits a full run-down of the different dangers and their many variants. In this article therefore, I intend to outline some simple points that should help you keep yourself out of the former category and in the latter category for as long as possible. I do not intend to deliver an in-depth forensic or technological analysis into cyber security.  This article will instead provide a practical insight into the challenges faced by local solicitors’ practices from a moderately tech-savvy practitioner’s perspective.

  1. Anti-virus software

This is such a basic point that I nearly didn’t include it. If you don’t have anti-virus software (and you’re not one of the rapidly diminishing minority that doesn’t use computers), you really are asking for trouble. In fact, you’ve probably already got trouble. Even if you haven’t noticed anything odd, the chances are very good that you will already have some sort of unauthorised access to your systems if you are not currently running a good anti-virus package: a thorough check of your computers by a cyber-security expert would be an essential first step in that scenario. There are many different suppliers offering a wide range of products to suit just about every budget. If you’re not sure how to start looking, or aren’t sure if you have an anti-virus package or not, ask someone who does know: maybe a teenager that you know. Just because your computer occasionally asks to update something doesn’t necessarily mean you have an anti-virus package installed. With the limited possible exception of Apple (“IOS”) devices (and you can get anti-virus systems for Apple devices as well), everything you have that accesses the internet and can connect to your office, should have an anti-virus package. That includes phones and “tablets”. Assuming you have anti-virus software, remember two key things: firstly, it’s not infallible; and secondly, it needs constant updating. People who make viruses are continually updating them and bringing out new ones (remember that viruses are just a type of computer program), so it stands to reason that the software that protects against them needs to be altered from time to time to keep pace. Sometimes in this arms race, the virus-makers get ahead and then you might be vulnerable, even with the best anti-virus software available. Those instances are rare and usually widely publicised, so the chances of getting caught out are low. Updating the software can be a bit inconvenient as you normally notice at least a slow down in your machine while it’s happening (maybe you can’t use the machine at all while it’s updating). However, it’s likely to be a lot more inconvenient if your computers are compromised by a virus. You can usually set a time for updates and periodic scans to run. If you set them for out-of-hours or even over lunchtime, disruption can be minimised (but remember you need to leave the machines running!). Finally on anti-virus software, don’t forget to renew your subscription. This isn’t a one-off cost. In these times of growing financial pressures, people are trying to identify ways to reduce expenses: this isn’t one. Not renewing your anti-virus subscription when it’s due is a false economy. It is inevitable that you will pick up a virus and the resulting costs will be far greater than the cost of the anti-virus subscription: possibly business-ending.

(read the full article in this month’s Folio Magazine)

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