Encryption Technology: A Vital Tool for the Legal Community

February 21, 2013

Cyber EncryptionSecurity of information stored, shared, and processed using computing and communications technology is a critical requirement for legal professionals.  Encryption technology provides a fundamental content security tool for the legal community.  Several forms of encryption are particularly significant when confidential client materials are involved, and legal professionals should have a working knowledge of all of them.

E-Mail Encryption

Electronic mail security is a particularly important concern.  A variety of e-mail encryption systems are widely available to ensure that message content is protected from unauthorized access.  Many of these encryption systems provide useful features in addition to security.  For example, they commonly provide proof of message receipt and block forwarding of messages to third parties.  Popular forms of e-mail encryption software include Hushmail and PGP Desktop Email.

System Encryption

Computer system encryption software makes all data stored on a computer inaccessible or unusable unless the required key is used.  System encryption protects all content stored on a computer, no matter which software application was used to create the material.  System encryption is an important feature for all forms of computing devices including tablet computers and smartphones (Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, for example, provide robust system content security).  Examples of commonly used system encryption software include TrueCrypt, PGP Whole Disk Encryption, and SecureDox.

Back-up Storage Encryption

Back-up data storage devices, such as flash drives, are widely used and must also be adequately secured.  Computer users frequently overlook the importance of encryption in their data storage devices.  A variety of storage devices now incorporate encryption security capability into their standard operations.

Encryption for Shared Files

Electronic document sharing systems are popular with the legal community.  Content sharing systems such as SkyDrive and Dropbox enable multiple users to access the same electronic document from different locations.  Many of these shared content systems involve storage of the documents at third party locations.  Encryption systems, such as Enlocked, now permit users of shared document systems to secure their content more fully through encryption.

Adequate encryption is an essential component of overall computer and communications security measures.  Thoughtful consideration of encryption strategies is a vital aspect of reasonable computer security practices and procedures.  In order to meet their continuing ethical obligation to provide adequate security to confidential client material, legal professionals must be mindful of the full range of encryption capability.

Encryption technology evolves rapidly.  Increased capabilities continue to become available at lower cost and in more convenient formats.  As a result, the legal community must continue to review changing encryption needs and capabilities, expanding and enhancing use of encryption and other digital security measures over time.