Solo & Small Firm

Encryption and Password Managers – How Secure is Your Computer and Passwords?

By Robert M. Klein
Law Offices of Robert M. Klein (robert@rkleinlaw.com)

In December of 2020, there were reports of a huge hack by Russia of US computer networks. The exact extent of the breach is not yet known. Some reports indicate it included the Treasury Dept., the Dept. of Homeland Security, parts of the Pentagon, and programs we use daily such as Microsoft. The question is this: what can you do to protect your computer and your client’s information?

Professional Responsibility And Conduct Formal Opinion Interim No. 16-0002 states, “Data breaches resulting from lost, stolen or hacked electronic devices and systems are a reality in today’s world.” The digest concludes by stating “Lawyers who use electronic devices which contain confidential client information must assess the risks of keeping such data on electronic devices and computers, and take reasonable steps to secure their electronic systems to minimize the risk of unauthorized access.” This article outlines reasonable steps you can take to comply with your duty of professional responsibility.

First, is your computer encrypted? Many of you may not know there is an easy way to encrypt the data on your computer. If you own a computer with Windows 10 Professional you already have the software you need. It is called BitLocker. (It is part of Windows 10 professional and not Windows Home; if you are in the market for an upgrade, chose Professional.) To turn on device encryption: press the Windows key and go to control panel. Once there go to “System” and search on the right side under the column named “Related settings.” Click on BitLocker setting and follow the steps to turn on BitLocker. Once activated, your data is secured. Even if someone steals your computer, laptop or simply removes your hard drive, the thief cannot access your hard drive data. (Just make sure you must login in to your computer with a password.)

The Apple environment has similar software. It is called FileVault. To turn on encryption, from the Apple menu, select “System Preferences” and then go to the Security & Privacy pane. Select the FileVault tab and click the lock to turn it on. Then, restart your computer.

So, how secure are your passwords? These days, hackers can crack passwords with ease. Here are some tips for safer passwords: use at least eight characters. Use uppercase and lowercase letters, use symbols and numbers. If  you can make your passwords longer (12-14 spaces) that is even better and by using a password manager, the burden of longer passwords varnishes. Another important thing: DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD twice. Today, it is easy to achieve this goal. Use a password manager.

There are no shortages of password managers to choose from. Here are names of some Password Managers: LastPass, 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper, Roboform, Sicky Password. There are many other options. A password manager allows a user to have a different password for every site that requires a password login. This way, if one password is ever compromised, do not worry about any other password being compromised. Many password managers automatically insert your user name and password when you go to a website. This allows for multiple passwords and ease of use.

I have been using the free version of LastPass for many years. It is simple and easy to learn, and I can use it on multiple devices, including my Windows laptop, my Apple cell phone and my iPad. LastPass also has a subscription model which allows you to share with others such as family members or office mates. I am not endorsing LastPass, it is simply the program I have been using and most familiar with. I simply advocating you use a password manager and keep your data secure. It is simple and easy.

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