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Before placing client information in the cloud, legal professionals should ask providers what systems are in place to ensure the information will be kept secure. In cloud computing, sensitive information is stored like other non-sensitive information on large “storage farms.” Legal professionals must also determine whether a certain provider complies with applicable privacy laws regarding sensitive or private information, as not all cloud providers are privy to the laws of certain jurisdictions. For instance, a provider in the United Kingdom is not subject to the same privacy laws to which a provider in the United States is subject. Some of this sensitive data may include personally identifiable information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers and medical information. Ultimately, it is important to fully understand how sensitive data is stored and whether private information is adequately protected.
Along the same vein, though the cloud offers stringent security standards, there is always the potential that hackers or viruses will take control of the stored information. Likewise, data stored in the cloud may be easily manipulated if proper safeguards are not put in place. For example, legal professionals should determine if there are security measures in place that would backup the original information placed in the cloud if the information becomes lost, altered or stolen. This backup copy or image of the original information stored will help alleviate security concerns that arise based on the easy manipulation of cloud-based data.
There are a few simple steps that legal professionals can take to help strengthen security in the cloud. First, it is imperative to frequently change passwords and encrypt information to the greatest extent possible. Second, because information has the potential to be exposed in the cloud as a result of security breaches, legal professionals should consider hiring independent, third-party auditors to review files periodically, which would help reduce the potential for data breaches or file sharing. Before choosing a cloud service provider, legal professionals should research the provider’s reputation and understand what services they offer if calamity occurs. Some cloud providers have had multiple “system downs.” When a system down occurs, access to the information is denied. During this period, there is the added risk that the information might be exposed. By researching the integrity of the provider’s system capabilities, or if previous security breach issues have occurred, legal professionals can better gauge security standards that are in place for their data privacy.
As security in the cloud becomes a more pressing topic in the legal community, legal professionals should focus on what they can do to improve security if they plan to store information in the cloud. It is important scrutinize where data is stored, what happens if the storage center changes and what recovery systems are in place. Regardless of whether a party anticipates litigation, is engaging in discovery or is seeking appeal, lawyers should run a cost-benefit analysis of how quickly they want to locate information stored in the cloud, the cost to recover the data and the resulting security risks. Because legal defensibility is a primary consideration when seeking alternative storage solutions, it is important to proactively implement a checklist of security practices before committing to storing information in the cloud.