Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

April 2013 Archives

Need Personalized Email For Your Law Firm? Outlook is Still Free

Years ago, Google Apps was free for any organization that signed up. That meant you, and your fifty closest employees, could get free personalized @yourlawfirm.com Google accounts, which came with Gmail, calendars, and every other Google service.

It was nifty.

Many of us geeks snapped up accounts, even for personal domains with only one user. Alas, Google eventually trimmed the free version to five users, and then to no users. Unless you are a nonprofit organization, or got in before the switch, you'll have to pay to play with Google.

The Death of the Tax-Free Internet?

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Last week, by virtue of a 63-30 procedural vote, the Senate moved forward with a bill called the Marketplace Fairness Act, with a final Senate vote set for May 6, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The bill, if it were to become law, would enable states to force online sellers nationally to collect sales tax with respect to their residents' purchases.

Should You Be Scared of FBI Spyware?

Houston magistrate Judge Stephen Smith rejected a rather vague Rule 41 search and seizure warrant application this week, and you should probably care about it.

As Judge Smith explained it, “the Government seeks a warrant to hack a computer suspected of criminal use.” As Slate describes it, the FBI wanted “to install a spy Trojan on a computer in an unknown location … to covertly infiltrate the computer and take photographs of its user through his or her webcam. The plan also included recording Internet activity, user location, email contents, chat messaging logs, photographs, documents, and passwords.”

Samsung's 'Knox' Smartphone Security Delayed; Worth the Wait?

As the new Samsung Galaxy S4 trickles into the hands of reviewers and consumers, one feature that many were anxiously awaiting is conspicuously absent: the previously announced and now-delayed Samsung Knox (as in Fort Knox), reports The New York Times. 

What is Knox? It’s Samsung’s answer to BlackBerry’s IT security.

BlackBerry’s survival to date is almost certainly due to its industry-leading security features. IT departments, lawyers and all others with a security fetish love the phone for that exact reason. Features like remote wipe for when you leave your BlackBerry at Starbucks (or when that employee defects to a rival company) mean that your sensitive client data won’t end up online. BlackBerry’s secure email service is also a well-loved feature.

WordPress Sites Targeted by Hackers; Strong Password Myths

When it comes to content management systems (or blogging platforms), WordPress is king. As of April of last year, it powered one out of every six websites on the Internet, or 60 million total. One can only imagine that the company’s dominance has increased since then.

Of course, ubiquity attracts hacks. Earlier this week, a botnet went live that uses brute force to crack WordPress installations. A botnet is a series of computers that run malware. The malware uses the computer’s Internet connection to perform specific activities in concert with the rest of the network, such as sending trillions of password attempts at a site until the correct password is guessed (the brute force tactic).

Big Changes for Windows 8? Plus, XP Starts Death March

Though Microsoft has released three major operating system since Windows XP, 39 percent of PCs world-wide still use the venerable, reliable, bullet-proof software, according to the Wall Street Journal. This creates a problem for Microsoft. Not only does it mean that 39 percent of the PCs haven’t had paid upgrades to the new platforms, but it also means that Microsoft has to continue dedicating resources to supporting, and securing, the elder statesman of operating systems.

Not for long, reports the Journal. The final countdown is on — and companies and law firms have one year to either upgrade to a more modern OS, or to purchase a custom support package from Microsoft (the latter is almost certainly a cost-prohibitive proposition).

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

The House has approved the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA, H.R. 624). CISPA allows private companies and the federal government to exchange information relating to cybersecurity threats.

The bill was passed in the face of some concerns that it might provide private consumer information to the government. According to Reuters, President Obama has threatened to veto the bill on the basis that it supposedly does not mandate that companies take the greatest efforts to remove personal information before providing it to the government.

King and Spalding Does Right IT Thing, Blocks Personal Email

Though it may seem a bit heavy-handed to tech-savvy users, and though the email restriction has left Joe Patrice at Above the Law practically apoplectic, King & Spalding did the right thing last week by announcing that as of May 1, they will block access to personal email accounts on work computers.

No Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook, or Yahoo! at work? Whatever will those poor lawyers do?

They could start by using their work email accounts. And for those little excursions into personal space, they almost certainly have smartphones.

Court Remands Child Porn Sentence Because Judge Hates Facebook

Laura Culver is getting another shot at sentencing for her child pornography conviction because the sentencing judge in her case doesn’t like Facebook, TechDirt reports.

And yes, you read that correctly.

House Passes CISPA, Should We Brace for Another Blackout?

Is there anything as delightful as a good Internet protest?

In the old days, you actually had to show up to show your dissatisfaction with a policy. But do you really want to hold a sign at a protest? Your arm will go numb and you'll probably lose your voice from chanting a catchy slogan.

And actual sit-ins? No, thank you. People get pepper-sprayed.

Attorney Timekeeper: Cloud-Based Time Tracking is One Trick Pony

This is a great idea. Seriously. Attorney Timekeeper is a simple way to track your billable hours in the majestic cloud. It has a touch-friendly interface. It's a heck of a lot better than using an egg timer or trying to forensically track time at the end of the day ("Well, let's see, there was that phone call, which my phone says was 24 minutes and 15 seconds. Then I went to the restroom ...").

Still, for $50 per month, what's the freaking point?

Want Secure Email and Cloud Storage? Do the Two Step

Getting hacked can be a real pain. You have to change all of your passwords, contact your financial accounts, and pray that there wasn't any truly sensitive information floating around in your inbox (such as a social security number). And if this is your professional account, you likely have sensitive client information in your inbox as well.

Did we mention that more hackers are now aiming their keyboards at lawyers?

Lawyer ethics require you to take reasonable measures to protect your clients' information. What's the new standard of reasonable?

It's the two step.

Congrats to Thomson Reuters: Big Wins at NLJ Readers' Rankings

It's always great to see your teammates recognized for hard work and significant achievements. As a FindLaw flunky, (we're the adopted child of Thomson Reuters and sibling company to Westlaw), I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the various company products that were honored by The National Law Journal's Readers' Rankings.

Westlaw Next is not only one of the biggest names in the legal research game, but it's also the Best Legal Research Vendor for the second consecutive year. It also ranked #1 for it's iPad App and was recognized as the Best Solo Firm/Solo Practitioner Research Vendor. KeyCite took the top spot in Legal Citators and Westlaw Drafting Assistant was named the Best Tables of Authority Solution.

Whew. That's a lot of Westlaw love.

Will This Startup Change Legal Billing or Incite More Disputes?

So, we may have just mocked the use of the term "disruptor" as a played-out descriptor of companies that are attempting to revolutionize an industry, but a new legal billing startup really could be an industry disruptor - just not in the way that they'd hoped.

Viewabill is the startup world's solution to bill-churning (or overbilling) in the legal industry. It allows honest lawyers and firms (cue jokes) to transparently bill everything they do using an always-on platform that a client can access and audit 24/7, reports the New York Times.

Google Wants to Help You in the Digital Afterlife

You have a will. And a living will. A plan for your property, your kids, your pets, and a power of attorney.

But what will become of your email when you’re gone?

Thanks to a new Google feature called Inactive Account Manager, you can start planning for your digital afterlife.

Microsoft is Finally Bringing Office to iOS and Android Next Year

Sick of the myriad of half-baked office substitutes for Android and iOS devices? Take heart, tech geek lawyer: Microsoft is finally coming to the rescue.

According to a ZDnet, a leaked internal Microsoft Office roadmap shows that Office for iOS and Android is set for release in October 2014. Before it arrives to those devices, however, Office will be updated for Windows Blue, Mac OS, and Windows RT. The full schedule is:

Unsurprisingly, Vast Majority of Lawyers are 'Mobile', Use iPhones

Considering the fact that my two-year-old nephew has a smartphone (he likes the talking cat app), it is unsurprising that the vast majority of attorneys are smartphone users. In fact, according to iPhone JD and the 2012 ABA Tech Survey, 89 percent of attorneys use their smartphones for work.

Eighty-nine percent. Big freaking deal, right? Even email counts as work.

The ECPA is So Bad Republicans, ACLU, Unify to Fix It

Grover Nordquist is a hardcore Republican/Libertarian/Conservative. The ACLU, on the other hand, trends strongly towards the left. Their viewpoints are often diametrically opposed, yet they, and we, and nearly all the big players in the tech industry can agree on one thing: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is a steaming pile of horse feces.

Much like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which we ranted about yesterday, it is a tech law of the 1980s, meaning it was devised well before email, social networking, cloud storage, or even the Internet were widely available. Both are relics that could not conceive of the always-on, always-connected, nearly-infinite storage limits of the modern day “information superhighway” (had to toss that one in there).

Hearst Changes Online TOS Because CFAA is a Terrible Law

Hilariously enough, until earlier this month, reading Seventeen magazine or CosmoGirl online was a felony for the vast majority of their readers. No, we're not talking about creepy future prison inmates perusing the latest teen girls' magazines - we're talking about the teens themselves.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Hearst Magazines, as well as a number of news sites, restrict readership to those who are over 18. There are a number of good reasons for this, not the least of which is avoiding any trouble from accidentally displaying mature content on sites open to minors. Think of it as a "CYA" provision.

1st World Problem: My Legal Software Has More Features Than I Can Handle

Man, I'm hungry. Look at this menu though. There's like, 67 different kinds of burgers. And what in the heck is the difference between a McDouble and Double Cheeseburger. And CBO? I do like bacon. Hmmm. And look at this - thirty different kinds of soda. Where's Diet Mountain Dew?

You might call it a First World Problem. We're presented with too many choices for too many things - from food to smartphone apps to cable TV channels. It can all be a bit overwhelming at times. One example that instantly comes to mind is cloud storage. How many providers have we reviewed here lately? Six? Seven? And they all pretty much do the same thing.

App Data Permissions Scrutinized; There's an App for That

So, you want to play Angry Birds on your new Android handset. What information from your phone will the bird-slinging, pig-killing app access? Lets see: your location, your phone’s state, and oddly enough — access to SMS (text messaging). Why SMS? They need it to enable in app purchases.

That’s one example of one app which had an uproar back in 2011. Since then, apps have grown in number, functionality, and unfortunately in permission-seeking. Another example is Path, a social networking app that just settled with the FTC for $800,000 after it was charged with collecting information about children, some of which were under 13-years-old, reports Inside Counsel.

Fingerprint Scanners, Voice Unlock Coming to Your Smartphone?

Pick up your smartphone. Do you have a cloud storage app installed, such as DropBox, Google Drive, or SkyDrive? Does that cloud storage drive contain client files? What about the rest of your phone -- are there any sensitive client emails, records, or other data that could harm you, your client, or your business if your phone is accessed by someone with malicious intent?

Data security has always been a hot topic, but it has become especially important in the mobile realm now that professionals and consumers are adopting smartphones and tablets en masse. The more "connected" we become, the more vulnerable we become. (See our recent posts on bypassing Apple and Android lock screens for examples.)

No Scanner? No Worries. Use an App

Giant scanner/printer/copier work centers are pretty fantastic, if you can afford one. A fledgling practice, however, may not have the extra cash to splash on such luxuries.

If you're just getting your practice up and running, a scanner app for your smartphone could get your through your basic scanning needs.

Is Microsoft Becoming the 'Privacy Company'?

If you are a regular reader of FindLaw’s Technologist, you may have sensed our growing consternation with large tech companies’ attack on users’ privacy. Google scans emails and displays advertisements based on the content. Apple deletes emails with the phrase “barely legal teen” without user permission. And Facebook privacy? Don’t even get us started on Facebook.

It’s enough to (almost) make you want to burn your smartphone and move to a cabin in the woods - except, wait, yep, just got an email from a client. Going offline is not really an option, now is it?

6 Euro Nations Prepare for Action Over Google Privacy Policy

It looks like we lawyers aren't the only ones concerned with Google's streamlined privacy policy. Six European nations, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Britain, and the Netherlands are all preparing to take on El Goog (shouldn't it be "Le Goog" in France?) over its refusal to budge on its service-wide privacy policy, reports the New York Times.

For those unfamiliar with the service's controversial privacy policy and terms of service, it allows Google to take users' information from any of their services to target advertising site-wide. Their separate Terms of Service also allow them to use your information "publicly" to "promote" services, though their privacy policy prohibits disclosure of sensitive information to third parties without your consent.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Once upon a time, I was known as Inspector Gadget. Why? Because I wore on my belt three different devices — a mobile phone, an iPod, and a Palm Pilot. The phone was only good for calls, the iPod could only play music, and the non-wireless Palm Pilot was simply a calendaring assistant.

I wondered then whether there could ever be convergence, such that at some point I only would need to carry around one device. Of course, that did happen, but the convergence occurred beyond my wildest dreams.

Prank Employees, Test Security in One Fell Swoop

Preserving productivity. Increasing efficiency. Nothing quite warms the cockles of a manager's heart quite like those phrases. You know what dooms productivity and efficiency? A disabled computer or network. And one of the quickest ways to kill a computer or network is for one of your employees to do something stupid, like clicking on one of those "Your computer is infected. Click here to remove the virus" scams.

Yep. My brother fell for that one last month. A month before that, a college buddy fell for the old phishing scam that captured his Gmail password (and sent spam links to all of his friends and professional contacts). You don't want your employees to make these mistakes. It's also April Fools Day. Increase your own efficiency by tackling both of these issues at once.