Secure The Attachment: Best Practices and Other Tips for Email Attachments
by J.D. Lauritzen of the Innovation in Law Practice Committee
Picture this, if you will. You sit down at your desk to go through your email inbox. Among the emails in your inbox is an innocent looking email from what appears to be a trusted source. You open the email and click on the accompanying attachment. Unbeknownst to you, by opening the attachment, you have given hackers access to your computer to install a virus that tracks your keystrokes. Not knowing that your keystrokes are now being monitored, you access your firm's bank account or other firm-sensitive information. And, boom, just like that, you have given the hackers monitoring your computer access to your firm's bank account or other sensitive information. Think this sounds implausible? Well, think again.
In February 2015, a San Diego lawyer received an email from the United States Postal Service ending in usps.gov. Believing that the email was legitimate, the lawyer opened the email and clicked on the attachment. A few hours later, the lawyer tried accessing his law firm's bank account. The lawyer was transferred to a different web page that asked for his PIN, as opposed to his usual login. Near that same time, the lawyer received a call from an individual that identified himself as an employee of the bank.
The purported bank employee told the lawyer that he had noticed that the lawyer was having trouble accessing his account. The lawyer was directed to type in his PIN, along with what turned out to be a wire transfer code. Having entered the requested information, the lawyer was redirected to a page saying the bank's site was down for maintenance.
A few days later, the lawyer received another phone call from the supposed bank employee. This time, the lawyer was asked to enter the same information as before. The lawyer was told that the information was not working, and that the lawyer was being locked out of his account for twenty-four hours.
Within hours of being told he was locked out of his account, the lawyer discovered that $289,000 had been transferred from his firm's account to a Chinese bank. Frantic, the lawyer reached out to his bank to see what could be done. Unfortunately, the bank informed the lawyer that it could not cover the loss.
The foregoing story is a cautionary tale for lawyers regarding email security. However, email security is not the only issue facing lawyers when it comes to email attachments. Given that reality, this article is focused on providing lawyers with best practices and other tips for sending and receiving emails with attachments.
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