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Law firms must constantly protect themselves from any number of security threats. Dangers include malicious computer viruses and scripts, hackers, and spyware that secretly records your every keystroke and sends that data to marketers. These are just a few of the daily issues that confront information technology administrators; the threats are as varied and numerous as they are real. Firewalls and other security related software must be updated constantly to protect law firm networks from being compromised. As we become increasingly connected through the use of e-mail, handheld devices, instant messaging, and other communication-driven technology, security becomes ever more critical. In most firms, secretaries and attorneys have a general idea of the principal risks and issues associated with network security. IT departments often send out periodic reminders regarding Internet and e-mail policies and regularly apply security patches and other updates. Many firms have developed best practices and procedures for computer usage, and post them on the firm’s intranet or employee handbook, and cover the policies with newly hired employees. But how many of your users are aware of the dangers posed by sending out documents electronically? Amazingly�fewer than you might think. Today, more than 90 percent of documents are created electronically, with little thought to what might be in them other than what is visible to the naked eye. WORD DOCUMENTS AND METADATA Documents created using the Microsoft Corp.’s Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) contain hidden information known as metadata. Some types of metadata are benign and useful, while other types can provide others who view or work on your documents with information you may not want them to know. Every time you create or edit a Word file, certain types of hidden information are stored with and travel with the document. This can include the list of the last 10 authors, the amount of time spent editing the document, changes that have been made to the document as well as to the name of the attached template, custom document properties, and much more. Many legal professionals who are knowledgeable regarding the issues and risks associated with metadata in Word files are often surprised to learn that the Corel Corp.’s WordPerfect and Adobe System Inc.’s PDF files also contain large amounts of hidden information. Rather than purchase and use third-party metadata removal tools, many law firms simply advise users to publish external documents as PDF files before sending, under the assumption they will be metadata free. This is not the case�PDF files contain substantial metadata. Sherry Kappel, vice president of development at Microsystems explains, “Adobe’s integration to Microsoft Office applications provides unparalleled electronic publishing capabilities�but with those capabilities come heightened responsibilities. Are tracked revisions accepted? Comments suppressed? Is document information up to date? Are redaction techniques electronically savvy?” Without checklisting these issues within your document work flow, quality control processes, and job configuration, she says, sending a PDF file is just about the same as sending the editable .doc file itself. REDUCING YOUR RISK OF EXPOSURE Microsoft offers a free (but unsupported) Remove Hidden Data utility that is available from its Web site, which can also help to identify potential risks. Using a third-party metadata tool that integrates with e-mail and document management software can help to reduce the risk of accidental exposure. While third-party add-ins automate the cleanup process, you can also take precautions for minimizing metadata in all applications. Microsoft and Corel both offer tips on how to minimize metadata problems. Here are a few suggestions for users of WordPerfect: •�Comments: Remove a comment by right-clicking on it and clicking Delete, or by viewing reveal codes and dragging the comment code out of the reveal codes window. To prevent comments from containing metadata, from the Tools menu, choose Settings, Environment. Select the General tab and delete the information from the Name and Initials boxes. Unfortunately, the time and date that the comment was made is not removed even when this option is configured. •�Disable undo/redo history: The Undo/Redo option in WordPerfect saves and stores historical information about edits made in the document. To disable this feature, from the Edit menu, choose Undo/Redo History. Click Options and disable the Save Undo/Redo Items with Document check box. Click OK, then Close. •�Summary details: From the File menu, choose Properties and select the Summary tab. Remove the descriptive name, type, creation date, author, and other information you do not want saved with the document. Word 2002 and 2003 contain security options that are designed to remove some embedded metadata, and show whether track changes or comments exist in a document. To display and configure these options, from the Tools menu, choose Options, and select the Security tab. •�Remove personal information from File Properties on save. When checked, most of the information in the File Properties dialog box is removed, as are the last 10 authors and the file path where the document is stored. •�Warn before printing, saving, or sending a file that contains Track Changes or Comments. When checked, this option forces Word to display a warning when a document containing tracked changes or comments is being saved, sent, or printed. •�Make Hidden Markup visible when opening or saving. If a document contains markup and the Reviewing toolbar filter is set to Final, or Original, this security option forces the changes to be visible on Open or Save. These three settings only remove or identify a small set of the potential metadata in a document. Consider using a third-party program for a more complete cleansing. MINIMIZING PDF METADATA There is at least one third-party utility designed to help eliminate the risk of PDF metadata. Appligent has a PDF Utilities and Power Tools page with utilities for cleansing metadata from Adobe Acrobat files. See www.appligent.com/products/applications/utilities/appligent_utilities.html#apgetmetadata. METADATA ETHICS AND OPINIONS As metadata and electronic data deliverables become more prevalent in the courts and in case law, more rules are added to codify the practice of electronic discovery. Currently rules are in place in Texas, New Jersey (Federal District Court), Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Wyoming, and New York. Three questions that need to be asked with respect to metadata are: 1. Do lawyers have a duty to warn clients of the metadata risk? 2. Do lawyers have any kind of duty, in zealously representing the interests of their clients, to look at the metadata in incoming documents? 3. If clients are warned, how do lawyers handle the public relations challenge of explaining why it’s taken so long to bring this to light? Be vigilant. Protect your firm, your clients, and your practice from accidental disclosure. In the case of metadata, the reality is that what you don’t see can, indeed, hurt you. Donna Payne, a member of the LTN Editorial Advisory Board, is president of Seattle’s Payne Consulting Group. Bruce Lewis is vice president of publishing. This article first appeared in American Lawyer Media ‘s Law Technology News.

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