Smartphones have become the attorney's ubiquitous mobile office, and as such they can be a repository for all sorts of sensitive client data. Given an attorney's duty to protect confidential client information, an attorney’s phone must be as secure as possible.

Using a smartphone can create a number of potential security risks that attorneys need to be aware of. Technology advancements in mobile communications have made it possible for attorneys to work on the go, but they also at times create 'soft spots' which hackers can exploit. This means that even if your smartphone is in your possession, it is not guaranteed that the data within it is safe from outside access. It is important that you put security features in place that can ensure the data contained in your smartphone is not visible to unauthorized users, or is protected if your phone is missing, lost, or stolen.

Here are some tips for securing your smartphone:

1. Encrypt the data on your phone. Blackberry, by default, encrypts all data – stored and transmitted. Lock your Blackberry with a password; the password is used to encrypt the data. iPhones using iOS 4.1 and higher have encryption hardware, which can be enabled from the settings menu. Most Android phones do not have encryption built into the hardware, but there are several third-party apps that can do the job. TouchDown and WhisperCore offer full disk encryption.  Other apps like Droid Crypt and AnDisk Encryption can encrypt selected files.

2. Ensure that the wireless interfaces to your smartphone like Bluetooth, WiFi, etc are turned off when not in use. 

3. Make sure any websites you browse are https-secured.

4. Install a third-party applications that will allow you to wipe data off you phone remotely in the event of it being lost, misplaced, stolen, etc. Google offers a remote wipe service for account-holders who have enabled Google Sync on an Android device. Other Android apps include MobileDefense and WaveSecure ($19.50/year.) Norton is also currently developing an Android wipe app. Apple provides an app called Find My iPhone, but the wipe service is only included with Mobile Me accounts.

5. There is some debate as to the need for anti-virus protection on mobile devices. Smartphones are definitely less prone to attack from viruses or worms than stationary computers. If you feel the need to use virus protection, make sure to use an app from a reputable company, such as McAfee or Norton. A common way to receive is virus is to download an app from a suspect company.

6. Always ensure that the applications you install on your smartphone are from a trusted source; this is the best way to protect your smartphone from Trojans.

If your device does not offer hardware-level encryption, be sure to install reputable software to make your phone as secure as possible.  Stay up-to date on software updates and alerts for users. Also ensure that when you discard your old smartphone, the data stored in it is wiped and destroyed. Taking these steps will allow your smartphone to become a valuable tool while still protecting the integrity of your clients and your practice.

Kimberly Hanlon
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Kimberly Hanlon

Attorney at Law at Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC
Kimberly Hanlon is an estate planning and small business law attorney in the Twin Cities. She is also a co-owner of MoreLaw Minneapolis, the executive suite exclusively for attorneys in downtown Minneapolis.
Kimberly Hanlon
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