Why you need a firewall: a non-technical guide
I’ve never met a lawyer who didn’t care about their reputation. For most lawyers I know, reputation is everything. Some care about the craft more than their behavior. Others care deeply about how their clients view them. Regardless, they all care. Because they all know that their continued success is determined by their reputation.
Can the client trust me? Do other lawyers trust me?
A lot can be said about what it means to trust another person. But the most important thing, I argue, is whether a person, client or another lawyer, thinks that you can keep a secret. After all, clients – and lawyers who refer clients to you – need to know that you can keep news about private matters related to a divorce, taxes, and other business dealings a secret. It’s a necessary component of being a good lawyer.
… whether you personally can keep a secret doesn’t really matter. Today, more and more of what we do and say is stored in a computer. Forever.
The thing is: whether you personally can keep a secret doesn’t really matter. Today, more and more of what we do and say is stored in a computer. Forever.
You may not remember or care about a draft document from 10 years ago, but that hacker does. You may be waiting for a new paralegal to use the computer in the corner, but that hacker isn’t.
Hackers are actively trying to find and expose your clients’ secrets.
Hackers are actively trying to find and expose your clients’ secrets. Not because they care about whatever that draft document says, but because it’s worth a lot to you. It’s worth your entire reputation.
The question, then, is how do you protect your clients’ secrets and your reputation in a digital world?
The question, then, is how do you protect your clients’ secrets and your reputation in a digital world? You start with a properly configured firewall.
Editor’s Note: This article isn’t laden with technobabble.
Understanding firewalls with a metaphor
Before we jump into what a firewall is, I want you to think about a common scenario. You’re very busy, so you instruct your personal assistant to only interrupt you when Really Important Client calls.
You know what happens next.
The personal assistant takes a message for everyone who isn’t Really Important Client. When Really Important Client calls, the call is transferred to you.
The personal assistant faithfully followed your instructions. What happens after the call is transferred isn’t the responsibility of the personal assistant.
A firewall ain’t smart
Your firewall doesn’t care about what happens after you click OK any more than your personal assistant cares about what happens after the call is transferred. Firewalls ain’t smart.
When you click OK, you tell the firewall that you’re ready to receive whatever the website is going to send you. The firewall isn’t responsible for what happens next. If that website is malicious and full of viruses, the firewall lets it through!
Improving firewalls with more metaphor
Let’s go back to our personal assistant scenario.
Really Important Client calls your office as part of an impromptu conference call with other C-levels. Really Important Client seems angry. Despite these red flags, your personal assistant blind transfers the call to you.
I think we can agree that, when that phone call ends, you’re going to ensure that never happens again. At the very least, you expect a warning.
Firewall, be better
The same is true for firewalls. You can adjust rules and policies to meet your needs. If you click on a website that the firewall knows contains malicious code, you want the firewall to warn you – but you have to tell it to do so.
What does a good firewall look like?
Personal assistants and firewalls share similar responsibilities. A good personal assistant would be suspicious of a strange number claiming to be Really Important Client. An unfamiliar voice who purports to be Really Important Client is likewise suspicious. A request for a wire transfer to a new bank account would cause your personal assistant to stop until the request can be verified.
Firewalls keeps your clients’ sensitive information safe and your reputation pristine by monitoring, warning, and restricting suspicious conversations your computer takes part in.
These are some of things firewalls do for your computer. Firewalls keeps your clients’ sensitive information safe and your reputation pristine by monitoring, warning, and restricting suspicious conversations your computer takes part in. When a hacker impersonates Amazon, the firewall stops it.
Some firewalls are better than others
But there is one more thing worth noting when it comes to firewalls. Like a good personal assistant, some are better than others. A lot better. Some are quick learners, can handle more tasks, are easier to instruct, have greater flexibility, and are, generally, more reliable.
You get what you pay for
The router with a firewall from your internet provider is pretty much free. The WiFi router you plucked from your garage from your home? They’re not meant to protect your client’s sensitive information or your reputations. They’re not meant for business.
Even business-class firewalls need to be configured. Perhaps more so. If you don’t, you put your reputation at risk.
Protect your clients, protect your reputation
Your reputation is everything. It goes beyond how you interact with clients or your understanding of the law. It defines whether clients can trust you. Your first step in protecting your reputation is a properly configured firewall. It’s an absolute necessity. In this digital world, your clients’ sensitive information lives forever and is accessible from everywhere. Protect your reputation. Get your firewall properly configured.
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