Lawyers urged to encrypt data following Snowden revelations

By Kathleen Hall
Law Society Gazette – UK

Lawyers are being urged to encrypt their data following revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden that the sector is among those at high risk of surveillance threats.

‘What last year’s revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe. Any communications should be encrypted by default,’ he told the Guardian.

Responding to the interview, Law Society president Andrew Caplen said a review of the ramifications of surveillance for lawyers is currently underway. ‘I will be writing to other professional bodies to discuss the impact spying is having on members’ confidential communication with clients or patients,’ he said.

‘I will also be writing to relevant academics, civil liberties groups, lawyers and other experts both nationally and internationally, to invite them to collaborate with us in addressing wider issues on surveillance and the rule of law,’ he said.

The society has also raised concerns about the possible effects of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill that was rushed through parliament by the government last week.

At a Law Society event on cloud computing earlier this month, experts warned that the legal sector should do more to protect its data, as more information is becoming increasingly available online.

Jonathan Goldsmith, secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, said ‘without question’ City firms will have been targeted by cyber-attackers to get access to valuable client information.

‘For example if you had a recent takeover of a big pharmaceutical company, there must be people who are interested in that information and who are attempting to access it though the lawyers.’

According to research from document collaboration company Workshare, 70% of employees could be exposing businesses’ most confidential information by failing to remove sensitive information when forwarding emails.

Nearly half of the 800 respondents were from the legal sector.

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