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Despite obvious advantages, new IT systems can expose law firms to security risks — everything from hackers to viruses. But risk comes not only from the outside. Your biggest threat may actually come from within your own walls. Consider the statistics: According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 70 percent of information-related crime is committed by angry employees. They can wreak havoc by infecting networks with viruses, deleting critical files, crippling a legal case or compromising client data. HOW TO STRENGTHEN DEFENSES Assess your risks. What should be protected, based on business needs? Are computers accessed by multiple users? Are databases used internally only, or also by vendors, clients and third-party firms? Is software compliant with Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) and other emerging Internet security standards (www.w3.org/p3p)? Seek advice. Technology consultants can be trusted advisers who help you focus on law practice. Look for a local company, with broad experience. Check provider background and customer references. Use antivirus software. Buy and install antivirus software across the firm, and use automatic update and periodic routine examination features. Keep software up-to-date. Stay abreast of updates that correct flaws. Ask vendors if they offer free notification services. Activate automatic-update features and regularly check vendor Web sites. Verify security settings. Check and activate the maximum security settings on Web and e-mail software. Don’t risk weakening default software security settings by changing them. Consider activating encryption and digital signatures. Use a firewall. Firewalls, whether for software or hardware, provide added protection by restricting network traffic. Ascertain the level of protection needed and buy a commensurate firewall. Review logs to monitor suspicious traffic. Create strong passwords. Prevent IT-identity theft by using “strong” passwords that are long (more than seven characters) and include non-repetitive uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Encourage (or require) users to change passwords frequently. Conduct routine security maintenance. Establish a periodic security review schedule to check and change passwords, examine firewall logs, update software and check security notification information. Schedule tasks weekly, monthly or yearly. Read online security newsletters. Ensure physical security. Don’t leave IT systems unsecured. Put critical file servers and e-mail systems in a locked telecommunications closet. Consider raised, anti-static flooring, air conditioning and automatic fire-suppressant systems. Don’t house servers and other IT infrastructure in easily accessible or high-traffic rooms where power cords could easily be unplugged. Physical security is as critical as any other step.

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