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2019 was a banner year for terrifying data breach headlines, winding their way into our news feeds with over 5,000 data breaches reported, constituting almost 8 billion exposed records. Ree Hodge, “2019 Data Breach Hall of Shame.” cnet.com (Dec. 27, 2019). To put things in perspective, there were more exposed records than the total number of humans currently populating our planet. Because cyber-attacks are such a booming business for evildoers, rest assured that this scourge is not going away any time soon. The staggering numbers of breaches seen in 2019 are surely just a warm-up for what lies ahead, as cyber criminals continue to refine and intensify their nefarious techniques.

The information stored by law firms is among the most sensitive, and thus, desirable data imaginable. Law firm breaches can have catastrophic effects on people’s lives, including wealthy and powerful world leaders. For example, after the hack of the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, the offshore dealings of hundreds of politicians were exposed, including those of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Richard Chirgwin, “’Panama papers’ came from email server hack at Mossack Fonseca,” The Register (April 5, 2016). Even on a lesser scale, if the details of an acrimonious divorce or business deal were exposed after a data breach, it could result in ruination for personal lives and fortunes alike. As the risks associated with storing information continue to grow exponentially greater, attorneys’ ethical responsibility to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the confidential and privileged data they maintain takes on yet greater significance; failure of attorneys to properly understand the technical implications of cybersecurity can result in a devastating impact on their clients.

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