Why Law Firms Should Use VPNs

Lawyers, we know you take confidentiality very seriously. You have to — it’s essential for you to do your job. But if that’s the case, then why are so many of you exposing your clients to major breaches of confidentiality every day? Even worse — you probably don’t realize it. But when you access the internet without a VPN, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

What’s a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it’s a piece of software that encrypts any information coming in and out of a device via the internet. When you log on via a VPN, your computer exchanges a set of secure keys that creates an encrypted tunnel for your data to travel through. It keeps your messages secure from anyone — government, cyber criminals, rival law firms — who might be trying to get their eyes on your confidential information.

But my office already has one!

A lot of law offices today already have an office-specific VPN. But that VPN only protects communication from you to the office (assuming you log in when you’re out) or data being transmitted from the office. It doesn’t protect anything you do on your phone, for example, when you’re not connected to the network.

Or, say you use the same computer for work and personal stuff. If you’re logging online even just to check your email quickly, you’re potentially putting your client’s confidentiality at risk, because that connection isn’t secure. In order to truly protect your client’s information, you need a VPN for every device and you need to use it every single time.

You especially need a VPN for public wifi.

If you’ve ever spent a layover catching up on emails or popped into a coffee shop to get some work done on vacation, you’ve used public wifi. (Note that “public” means anywhere that wifi is accessible to a bunch of people who don’t own it or pay for the connection. Even a cafe with password-protected wifi is “public” because basically anyone can get that password and access it.)

Public wifi is awesome because it gives a lot of people access to the internet. It’s not awesome because it’s really insecure. When you connect via public wifi, you’re basically putting all your information out on display for anyone who knows how to look for it. Sure, the shaggy-haired guy sitting at the table next to you probably isn’t a cyber criminal. But you don’t know that for sure, do you?

Even worse, there’s a trend these days of attackers setting up their own wifi connections that look like, say, a Starbucks wifi but aren’t. If you connect through one of those without a VPN, you’re essentially just handing all of your information over a thief.

So, lawyers. It’s time to take that pledge of attorney/client privilege to the level it needs to be in the digital age. Get yourself a good VPN and use it whenever you connect to the internet on any device. That’s just how it has to be in 2017.

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