Protecting clients’ (and your) data on public Wi-Fi

As we all know, the model rules of professional conduct and the rules of professional responsibility both clearly state that “a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure….”

So what happens when we’re out and about with our technology (laptop, phone, tablet) and we opt to use public Wi-Fi to get some work done?  Are we inherently violating the above rule if we connect our device to public Wi-Fi?  I think an argument could be made to answer “YES”.

So what do we lawyers do?  We want to be productive while we’re on the road, and mobility is fast becoming more and more a reality in our work lives, but is working on public Wi-Fi too risky?

In today’s post on “Techlicious“, Elizabeth Harper suggests that we take reasonable precautions to protect our privacy when using Public Wi-Fi.  I’ll step further and affirm that Elizabeth’s recommendations are a must for lawyers and legal staff.

I’ve heard umpteen concerns about storing data in the cloud from lawyers throughout the country, but if you think about it, storing data at rest in the cloud is most likely much more secure than walking around with our iPhones with key emails from clients sitting in our InBox.   And when we connect that iPhone to public Wi-Fi….are we teetering on the brink of violating ethical rules?

Thus, not only should you protect your clients by ensuring you have a secure password on your mobile devices, but when connecting to Wi-Fi outside the home or office, follow Elizabeth Harper’s reasonable recommendations (see “Techlicious” link above) to ensure that a Wi-Fi snooper can’t see your data.  And even if you think of yourself as not technology savvy in that a Wi-Fi snooper can outsmart you (simply because you’re not tech-savvy)….at least follow Elizabeth’s recommendations and make it much harder for a data snooping thug to garner any data from your devices.  Frankly….the harder you make it, the less likely that they’ll waste any time trying to hack you and they’ll move on to the lady at the next table in the coffee shop….and her unlocked, wide open file sharing device.


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