SC Lawyer, Jan. 2005, #8. Mozilla, Opera and Firefox - Protecting your law firm against internet security issues.

AuthorBy Stephen Shaw

South Carolina Lawyer


SC Lawyer, Jan. 2005, #8.

Mozilla, Opera and Firefox - Protecting your law firm against internet security issues

Mozilla, Opera and Firefox - Protecting your law firm against internet security issuesBy Stephen ShawHeadlines about Internet security blitz the public in a stream of huge numbers and bizarre words: $55 billion in virus-related damage; MyDoom; SoBig; spyware; phishing. These words and numbers often result in one word with which the reader is intimately familiar: lawsuits.

Attorneys need to be familiar with the basics of computer security issues for several reasons. First, corporate and small-business clients are on the front lines of this digital battleground. Attorneys must be informed enough to render competent advice on varied subjects related to computer security such as: liability for privacy breaches; contract issues between companies doing business on the Web, their Web hosts and software providers; liability for employees' conduct; claims related to companies' negligence in securing their networks; and insurance claims for data loss.

Second, and hitting close to home, is the realization that law firms are an obvious target for hackers and dangers such as viruses, worms and spyware. Law firms have high concentrations of networked computers running Microsoft Windows and sensitive information stored on them. File names often are descriptive enough to allow hackers to target the most confidential files. The largest law firms may have a dedicated IT staff attending to their networks, but small and mid-sized firms are less likely to have the resources or knowledge necessary to defend against the sheer quantity and growing sophistication of the threats arrayed against them.

This article will discuss the current threats to law firms and their clients as Internet users, provide an overview of the terminology and technology behind the threats and offer resources and solutions with which firms can protect themselves and advise their clients.

Viruses and worms

Viruses and worms are often referred to under the generic term "viruses," although the two operate in different ways. One anti-virus software provider defines the two as follows:

"A computer virus is a small program written to alter the way a computer operates, without the permission or knowledge of the user. A virus must meet two criteria:

(1) It must execute itself. It will often place its own code in the path of execution of another program; and

(2) It must replicate itself. For example, it may replace other executable files with a copy of the virus-infected file. Viruses can infect desktop computers and network servers alike."

"Worms are programs that replicate themselves from system to system without the use of a host file. This is in contrast to viruses, which require the spreading of an infected host file. Although worms generally exist inside of other files, often Word or Excel documents, there is a difference between how worms and viruses use the host file. Usually the worm will release a document that already has the 'worm' macro inside the document. The entire document will travel from computer to computer, so the entire document should be considered the worm."

One of the most malicious worms in existence right now is the "Netsky.P" worm, although new viruses and worms are released almost daily. Despite its destructive nature, one still can marvel at the ingenuity behind the design. The Netsky worm is automatically activated when an infected e-mail...

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