Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

May 2014 Archives

Lawyers Are Failing at Secure File Sharing

How do you correspond with clients and other privileged parties? Unless you're on the Supreme Court, which apparently still uses memos on ivory paper, you probably use email. And if you need to send documents or files to a client, you probably attach them to the email.

What else are you doing? Not much, according to a recent survey -- the majority of lawyers do little more than include a confidentially statement in the email.

Mary Meeker Report: It's All About Mobile

We know what you're thinking: who is Mary Meeker?

She's the Miss Cleo of tech trends, the oracle (no pun intended) of the Internet. Every year, her Internet Trends report provides insight into traffic trends, user behavior, and predictions for the next year. Though her 164-slide presentation contained a lot of information, one trend is especially important for legal marketing: the continued rise of mobile.

Mobile is important? Shocker, right? Any idiot could see that coming.

4 Ways to Protect Yourself on Free Public Wi-Fi Networks

Yesterday, we talked about the WordPress unsecured cookies bug that makes it possible for fellow unencrypted Wi-Fi users to copy your cookie and hijack your site. But WordPress isn't the only site that transmits information through insecure channels -- unless you see the "https://" in the URL (or a padlock icon), you're potentially broadcasting your data to your nosy neighbors.

How do you secure your data? After all, at some point, you'll probably want to stop at a Starbucks, or use your local courthouse's free Wi-Fi. There are a few ways to do so without risking your or your client's sensitive data.

WordPress Security Bug: Don't Log In From Public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi is awesome, especially when you need to need to handle a last minute or emergency client matter and you don't have your own free hotspot available. But like most free things, there is a catch: you're sharing an Internet pipeline with strangers, some of whom may be eavesdropping on your communications.

There are general precautions you can take (which we'll save for a separate post), but suffice it to say: public Wi-Fi is risky, more so when websites haven't implemented best practices for security.

Today's case in point: WordPress.com, and to a lesser extent, self-hosted WordPress sites.

3 Reasons the House's Version of the USA FREEDOM Act Fails

It just gets worse and worse.

If the original proposed USA FREEDOM Act was supposed to be the cure to our NSA snooping ills, the news from earlier this month was bad enough: the House Judiciary Committee passed a neutered version of the bill unanimously. But as a wise man once said, "Don't worry, things will  get worse."

They did.

Earlier this week, the House easily passed an even more neutered version of the "reform" bill, one that is so compromised that critics are saying that it might be worse than the status quo.

The Rise of the Cheap Smartphone is Huge For Lawyers and Marketing

Smartphones for everyone! $100 phones, $30 plans, and abundant free Wi-Fi.

This may mean very little to you directly -- lawyers, it seems, are Apple addicts, and there's no way Apple would ever make a $100 (off-contract) phone. But the implications for advertising, finding clients, and the like are massive.

Why? We've already seen a surge in mobile Internet traffic. More and more people are using their phones as their primary means of surfing the web, finding restaurants and services, and more importantly, finding lawyers. And with an influx of uber-cheap phones from Motorola, Alcatel, and others, the trend is only going to become more pronounced.

3 Tweaks and Apps To Make Windows 8.1 Usable Until Microsoft Does

Windows 8.1.

When it launched (without the ".1"), it was an abomination, at least for those of us without touchscreens. Since then, Microsoft has been slowly backtracking on their mistakes, with the latest rumors pointing to a restored classic-style start menu and full-screen Metro (now called "Modern") apps being crammed back into Windows, complete with the little "X" button that we all missed so much.

If you don't want to wait for the rumored fixes to arrive, however, there are a few add-ons that you can install to bring that functionality to your computer today. This is especially handy for those of you who need computers for your law office now, but are apprehensive about learning a new operating system (which is set to revert many of its new "features" over the next few months).

For those of you with keyboards and mice, this is your guide:

5 (Or More) Mac Apps to Ease Your Transition From Windows

Confession: I am not typing this on my Mac. You see, not only is our blogging software PC-only, but after more than two decades on Windows-based machines, I'm still getting used to Mac OS X shortcut keys. Productivity and deadlines demand that I fall back into old habits with Microsoft, for now.

However, I have found a few programs that are helping me to ease the transition, such as one that adds "missing" features that are present in Windows 7 (Aero Peek and Aero Snap, which we discussed yesterday) and another that helps me learn this foreign (Option? Command? Huh?) keyboard layout.

Mac or Windows 8? Either Way, Prepare for an Adjustment Period

Your paralegal's six-year-old computer just spontaneously combusted. Or you are still running Windows XP. Either way, it's time for new computers in the office. You've heard bad things about Windows 8, but your office has always run on Windows.

Mac OS X or a Windows 8 PC? Learn a new operating system, or learn a new operating system?

Your best bet is to find a leftover copy of Windows 7, though beware of bootlegs on second-hand and auction sites. But if you don't want to pay extra for an operating system, or accidently buy illegitimate software, your options are limited.

European Court Fixes The Embarrassing Google Results Problem

Europe. It's a fine place -- except for France.

Just kidding. Maybe.

The European Court of Justice, which has precedential force over the entire 28-country European Union, just made a controversial ruling that prioritizes personal privacy over an open and honest (if not public-shaming) Internet. And it's all because of the French -- and some Spanish dude.

The Winners and Losers of EFF's 'Who Has Your Back?' Privacy Report

You may have noticed that we're a little bit obsessed with privacy around here. It's not just the NSA revelations, or the private data mining, though both of those are compelling reasons to be concerned. It's because we, like you, are lawyers.

Why should lawyers care? The Fourth Amendment -- it probably should still mean something, and the more the Feds dig in to your data, the less the Amendment means. Plus, we have a duty of confidentiality to our clients, which means data should be kept as secure as possible -- from hackers, data-mining companies, and of course, the government.

Android Owns the Smartphone Market, But Are Lawyers Buying In?

Seven out of ten smartphones sold today are Android-based. It's strength in numbers: Google, Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC, and probably a few dozen other companies all make Android phones, versus iPhones, which are made by, well, Apple.

Apple may have taken smartphones from boring BlackBerries to full-blown computer substitutes, but it's Android that is dominating the market by flooding the high-end, middle range, low-end, big-screen, little-screen, and everything-in-between ranges with devices.

With such dominance in the wider market, you might be wondering: are lawyers (besides The Droid Lawyer) following the trend?

What Are the Most Important Features for Smartphone Buyers?

Apple or Android or Windows? It's an important consideration, but it's not the most important.

Screen size? Nope.

It must be the camera. Still nope.

How about app selection? Not at all.

Think basics. What is the most annoying thing about your smartphone, regardless of who made it? It's the battery life.

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

People frequently use Snapchat to send messages back and forth with the understanding that those messages will disappear after a designated expiration time.

However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched an investigation and asserted charges that Snapchat messages actually do not vanish as promised. In the wake of those charges, Snapchat and the FTC have settled, according to a recent FTC press release.

So, what is the scoop? Read on.

'Chip and Pin' Credit Cards Coming: Why Your Law Firm Cares

What do the United States, Mongolia, and Papua New Guinea have in common? According to Bloomberg, they're amongst the last few holdouts in a world-wide push to upgrade credit card security. While most of the world, Europe especially, have moved to "Chip-and-Pin" systems, the United States is still plodding along with magnetic strips -- a 1960s technology that makes data breaches far easier to accomplish.

Why does your law firm care? If you take credit cards, you're going to be forced to make a big choice in the next year or two: upgrade your equipment or assume liability for any fraudulent charges.

More on Open Source Casebooks (They Already Exist)

Yesterday, on our Greedy Associates blog, we sang the praises of hypothetical open source casebooks as an alternative to publishers' ridiculous $200 tomes, especially when publishers are considering adopting a leasing model to kill the used book market.

Well, it turns out that open source casebooks aren't so hypothetical after all. We stumbled on one, then another, then another yesterday afternoon. Here they are, from most feature-packed and promising to "good efforts."

Neutered USA Freedom Act Passes House; Is It Good Enough?

Don't "make the perfect the enemy of the good."

That's the motto of proponents of the most recent version of the USA Freedom Act, passed unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. The bill, which is the first of its kind to make it out of committee, contains a number of pro-privacy reforms, including restricting the amount of data collected to "two hops" from the original target and a requirement that metadata requests be approved by a court in all but emergency cases.

The bill is good, and beats the status quo, but is good good enough?

Ransomware Goes Mobile, Holds Phones Hostage for $300

In our younger days, viruses had one purpose: wreak havoc. The creators of worms, trojans, and other malware got little or nothing out of their creations, other than the enjoyment of causing a little death and destruction.

Ransomware was the big breakthrough. Though keyloggers and adware may have brought in a small amount of revenue, nothing has been quite as lucrative as the $5 million per year ransomware racket, where a virus locks down a computer, holding it hostage until a non-traceable payment of $300 is paid to the hackers.

It gets worse: the biggest deal in malware just got bigger by making the mobile jump to Android, reports Ars Technica.

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

By now, we all have heard of potential security problems and risks on the Internet. And most recently, we must worry about which Web browser we use.

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security cautioned Americans last week to refrain from using Internet Explorer because of a significant security flaw.

The New Facebook Audience Network: Will it Work for Lawyers?

We've extolled the virtues of Google's Pay Per Click advertising, which is a great way to target ads at clients who are already looking for you, but just don't know it yet -- Google can mine its trove of users' web browsing habits (via its search engine, Chrome browser, Gmail accounts, and other free services) to target ads to people who are researching or dealing with a legal issue.

Google isn't the only game in town, but they certainly are the biggest, and they have the largest amount of personal data. Last week, however, a different tech behemoth stepped in as a possible rival: Facebook.

'Do Not Track' is a Bust, So EFF Debuts 'Privacy Badger'

"Do Not Track" could've been something major. The DNT standard was introduced as an option that could be toggled by users to tell websites to, you guessed it, stop tracking them with cookies and scripts. Without the option enabled, many sites use these methods to track which sites you visit. (This is why when you look up an item online, but don't actually purchase it, it'll show up in ads on other sites for weeks thereafter.)

Tracking is annoying, invasive, and a threat to your privacy, especially if you share your computer with others.

Internet Explorer Patch Is Here -- Set Up Automatic Updating

On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security advised users to stop using Microsoft's Internet Explorer until a security flaw was patched. That patch, called security update 2964358, is now available.

Users who have automatic updating turned on will not need to take any action because the security patch will be installed for them. Here's is how to make sure you have automatic updating turned on. Please note that you will need administrator permissions. The updating is scheduled (not immediate), so Internet Explorer will not be safe to use until your system updates itself.

MacBook Air Update: Underwhelming, But Price Cut and Sales!

There have been so many rumors swirling about the MacBook Air, from high definition "Retina" displays to a 12-inch redesign, that it'd be hard not to be disappointed by an update to Apple's cheapest ultraportable laptops.

Even still, meh. Earlier this week, the Cupertino-based company, with no fanfare whatsoever, quietly updated its MacBook Air lineup with this change: a 0.1GHz speed increase. This is like someone giving you $1.58 instead of $1.55. This is like being promised candy and getting a single jelly bean. This is like every single year for the Kansas City Royals.

But, on the bright side, Apple did slash prices by $100, leading to even bigger discounts on last year's now totally obsolete models. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)