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  • WisBar News
    October 27, 2017

    Cyber and Workplace Threats: Lawyers Must Plan for Both

    Strategies for countering cybersecurity and workplace threats are the focus of day one of the 2017 Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference, hosted in Wisconsin Dells this week.

    Joe Forward

    WSSFC attendees group

    Stephanie Roberson, Thomas Wazny, and other attendees laugh and chat during a break at the 2017 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference. Check out more photos on the State Bar's Facebook page, or click here.

    Oct. 27, 2017 – Lawyers possess personal and confidential data. Lawyers work on important issues that impact people’s lives. For these reasons, lawyers must pay continued attention to cyber and workplace threats, according to experts who spoke on day one of the Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference in Wisconsin Dells.

    With CLE tracks in substantive law, practice management, technology, ethics and quality of life, a large hall of exhibitors, and featured speakers and events, this State Bar of Wisconsin event annually attracts solo and small firm lawyers throughout the state.

    This year, the program dove right into two scary topics, cybersecurity and workplace safety. But given recent events, in Wisconsin and beyond, taking time to discuss cyber and workplace threats and responses will equip attorneys and firms to be prepared.

    Keep Up on Cybersecurity

    Joseph Granneman

    Cybersecurity expert Joseph Granneman demonstrated how easily hackers can access information and how attorneys can protect themselves and their clients. Check out more photos on the State Bar's Facebook page, or click here.

    Cybersecurity expert Joseph Granneman, CEO of Illumination.oi, made his points crystal clear, using actual hacking experiments to show attorneys how easily hackers can access information when cyber windows and doors are left ajar.

    We hear a lot about large data breaches – most recently the Equifax breach involving the personal and financial data of more than 143 million people – but Granneman says individuals and small businesses are not excluded from the crosshairs.

    Joe Forward Joe Forward, Saint Louis Univ. School of Law 2010, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6161.

    “Lawyers handle a lot of sensitive data, and that makes them a target,” said Granneman. “Anyone who isn’t taking proper precautions is a target.”

    “The paths to get into almost any company, regardless of size, is almost always through phishing, through a bad website vulnerability, some sort of attack inside the browser, through a bad advertisement, or some other browser exploit,” Granneman said.

    And criminals have started to shift their focus on stealing credit card information, Granneman said. “Ransomware is the next evolution to monetize criminal activity because it scales really easily, requires very little investment in technical resources, and it provides an easy anonymous way for them to get paid for their work. It has exploded.”

    Through ransomware, hackers find holes to access your network, encrypt your data, and demand a ransom. If your files aren’t backed up, you’re in a bad spot.

    Lederer Award Winners

    A group of solo practice leaders: past recipients of the John Lederer Distinguished Service Award pose with new awardee, Wm. Pharis Horton. Read more about Horton and his longtime advocacy of solo practitioners. Pictured from left: Nancy Trueblood, Terry Dunst, Wm. Pharis Horton, Nerino Petro, Kathy Brost, and Paul Angel.

    Check out more photos on the State Bar's Facebook page, or click here.

    “Right now, ransomware is pretty simple to prevent just by taking basic security measures – strong passwords, good security patching of your devices,” he said.

    In the future, it may be tougher for lawyers, Granneman said. As ransomware gets smarter, it may begin to target more valuable information, which lawyers possess.

    Password tip: “Eight to 10 characters is the sweet spot for password cracking,” Granneman said. For instance, an eight-character password can take minutes to crack, based on the way those passwords are stored. A 20-character password can take months. Make it more difficult with longer, unique passwords." This is just one of the numerous tips attendees took away from Granneman’s comprehensive talk.

    Workplace Safety

    Sgt. Shawn Engel

    Madison Police Sgt. Shawn Engel, an expert on active shooter responses, shared tips for attorneys on workplace safety and what to do in a worst-case scenario. Check out more photos on the State Bar's Facebook page, or click here.

    We now hear about shootings often, most recently the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Everyone should be thinking about their surroundings with this in mind, the sad truth, says Madison Police Sgt. Shawn Engel, an expert on active shooter responses.

    The message hit home this past March, when the Wisconsin legal community was shocked and saddened to hear about the death of attorney Sara H. Quirt-Sann, one of four victims killed by a gunman in Wausau. She was killed at her law office.

    Attorneys, who often deal with emotional situations and people, should take precautions to ensure workplace safety, including specific security measures, de-escalation training, workplace policies, and thinking about a worst-case scenario. In an active shooter situation, Engel notes three response options: avoid, deny, and defend - in that order.

    “We want people to be thinking, ‘if I can get out of this environment where these shooters are,’ that’s going to be our best and safest option, assuming we can do that without becoming an easy target,” Sgt. Engel said. “We want people focused on that.”

    Krekeler, Knupp, and Roney

    Small-firm practitioners Evan Knupp and Paul Roney flank speaker, sponsor, and conference planning committee member David Krekeler. Check out more photos on the State Bar's Facebook page, or click here.

    Sgt. Engel went into detail on all three responses, using video footage of the 2013 mall attack in Kenya to show how different responses can mean life or death.

    In a second session, other panelists discussed workplace safety, including criminal defense attorney Jessa Nicholson Goetz and family law attorney Daniel Bestul.

    They talked about safety measures their firms have taken to address potential events. From exit doors to consultation policies, small things can make a big difference.

    “We have a policy that we won’t meet with walk-ins,” Bestul said. “If someone, even a client, walks in our office, we may set up an appointment for a half-hour from now, and have them come back. But we feel that a walk-in is a real risk sign, a real red flag.”

    More Sessions

    Select sessions of the Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference will be recorded and webcast on Nov. 13 and 14, and Dec. 7 and 8. These dates are part of the conference registration package – registered attendees can watch the webcast replays for free. Watch your email for more information.

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