The Power of Corporate Memory – Is the Legal Profession Ready?

I ran a panel session last week at the Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum on ‘Information Governance Best Practice’. I wanted to explore how concerned legal CIOs are about security threats and spear phishing in particular.

Mimecast’s Chief Strategy Officer, Matthew Ravden, ran a panel session last week at the Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum on ‘Information Governance Best Practice’ focusing on security threats and spear phishing in particular.

Mimecast’s Chief Strategy Officer, Matthew Ravden, ran a panel session last week at the Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum on ‘Information Governance Best Practice’ focusing on security threats and spear phishing in particular.

Also, how on top of compliance they are in terms of managing the huge amount of data they have and applying policies to it; and finally how predisposed they are to the idea of retaining more, rather than less, so they can apply business intelligence technology to deliver insights to the business.

On security, the reaction was unsurprising but also gratifying. No law firm wants to be the first to suffer a major breach, so there was a great deal of concern about the growing threat of spear phishing, as well as more mundane things like new strains of nasty viruses hovering at the gateway. But – and I have to declare that my panel consisted of three Mimecast customers – it was quite clear that these guys were happy to entrust the job of keeping out bad stuff, and bad people, to us. I talked about the fact that the Snowden/NSA saga seems to have created something of a cloud backlash, but most of the CIOs I spoke to here said that they felt sure that their data was safer in the cloud than it would be if they held it on-premise. This had a caveat – provided you choose the right cloud vendor. This was music to my ears, because we’ve heard a lot about companies insisting on holding encryption keys on-premise because they don’t want the cloud vendor to have theoretical access to it. And it’s ironic to hear this view touted as part of the post-Snowden paranoia, since Snowden created this furor by leaking documents from within.

On compliance, it’s quite clear that legal CIOs have their hands full getting a handle on the data management. And it’s not just data in digital form. Rooms full of files, CDs lying unencrypted in drawers. Lawyers who don’t want to listen to new ideas on good practice for managing data (and not leaving it on buses, or dictating loudly into machines whilst on trains). There’s a lot of cooperation going on between IT and risk and compliance teams, and that would seem to be a very good thing. But getting the information under control, perhaps into a single repository as opposed to multiple siloes, is a long and painful task.

By the time I got to the idea of ‘digital preservation’ vs. ‘defensible deletion’ it was pretty obvious that these firms, on the whole, have enough on their plates without entertaining ideas like ‘corporate memory’ and the suggestion that all data is useful, and it should be kept in perpetuity! Of course, it’s not that simple in the legal sector. Much of the data in the archive belongs to the law firm’s clients, rather than the law firm itself. So keeping it – and worse yet – analyzing it, could cause all sorts of complications.

They will get there, though. There was a presentation at the conference about the use of business intelligence tools to analyse data – albeit mostly financial data – to help the law firm get a handle on how much profit each lawyer is contributing to the business, and how well managed each case is from a commercial point of view. This may seem like baby steps, but if analysis of data in its early iteration can contribute directly to bottom line performance, then we’ll see more and more of it being deployed.

And I fully expect next year to be a different story altogether.


Information Governance Best Practice in Legal – How Do We Get Lawyers to Change?

Here at the Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum this week I’ve been listening to, and participating in, various panel discussions around what constitutes good information governance in the legal industry.

This does seem to be a particular challenge to law firms because there are some very entrenched and outdated ways of working that are very hard to shift, both on the lawyer and client side. The CIOs and Information Architects at this event are clearly trying to make sense of this, and deliver value to the business, but it’s often a slow and painful process.

Matthew Ravden, Chief Strategy Officer, Mimecast chaired a panel discussion at Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum 2014 on ‘Best Practice Information Governance’

Matthew Ravden, Chief Strategy Officer, Mimecast chaired a panel discussion at Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum 2014 on ‘Best Practice Information Governance’

One of yesterday’s panel sessions was all about the use of so-called ‘consumer-grade’ services such as Gmail and Dropbox. As is so often the case, Dropbox was called out as the poster child for dangerous, non-compliant tools that end users inside law firms use to collaborate and send large files. There was a quite clear sense from the CIOs in the room that the use of Dropbox is not ideal, but equally, a somewhat disappointing tone of resignation that it’s too difficult to police. So although the room was split in half with those ‘for’ and those ‘against’, very few were advocating any kind of ban on its use. In fact, it seemed to be considered relatively low risk (in the grand scheme of things) provided the right Ts and Cs were in place to ensure ‘proper’ use, and an acceptance of where accountability might lie in case of something going amiss.

I’ll confess to finding this a bit mystifying. I wouldn’t say that outlawing the use of certain tools is necessarily the way to go – all it’ll do is cause resentment, and force bad practice underground – but surely IT should be guiding users towards tools that fit squarely within the approved corporate framework, and keep sensitive material protected and discoverable. There’s clearly a belief that no matter what’s mandated, it’s very hard to enforce, particularly if the end users are head-strong lawyers. But if the tool that’s been suggested as an alternative offers an entirely frictionless, simple user experience, then it should be quite a simple task to affect a change. Shouldn’t it?

Mimecast’s Large File Send product, from an IT point of view, ticks all the boxes for security and compliance. But from the end user’s perspective, it can be pretty much invisible. You just send the large file in the same way you’d send any file. There’s a .lfs suffix if you care to look closely, and you get a pop-up window that gives you some options over how long you leave the file accessible for, if you want a notification that it’s been accessed, and so on.  But other than that, the message to the end user is, ‘you don’t even have to leave Outlook.’ Surely, for this particular use case of Dropbox, or Hightail, or WeTransfer, it’s a no-brainer?  Want to send large files? Go back to email!

All of this is easy to say, of course, but it doesn’t mean that lawyers will necessarily down tools and adopt a different service straight away. If they’ve got used to something, they won’t want to change.

The solution may well be to personalize the problem – or rather, personalize the upside of using a tool like Large File Send.  For example, lawyers like to know when a client has accessed a file, or indeed sent them a file, and Large File Send will alert them as soon as this happens.  With something like Dropbox, it’s likely that the client will put the file on the service and then have to call or email the lawyer to tell them it’s there. Two steps rather than one.

As well as unruly lawyers, the CIOs in the debate pointed to clients’ own practices having a significant influence on the tools that are used to exchange information. But once again, I was left thinking that surely it’s in both sides’ interests to use secure, enterprise-grade technology rather than tools that put data at risk? The same rule applies, though. The experience has to be easy, or the client will stick to what they know best. Again, Large File Send can help here. If you want to receive a large file from a client, simply ‘request a large file’ using Large File Send and the client can upload the document securely and send it to you. They don’t even have to be a Mimecast client.

I resisted the temptation to launch into a sales pitch – in fact I was under strict instructions not to. But for goodness sakes – if you want to send large files, and send them securely – just go back to email!!


Announcing Mimecast’s Office 365 Information Hub

Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of our new Office 365 information hub.

Mimecast's new Office 365 information hub is a collection of Office 365 case studies, videos, white papers and articles.

Mimecast’s new Office 365 information hub is a collection of Office 365 case studies, videos, white papers and articles.

The hub is a collection of Office 365 case studies, videos, white papers and articles for those considering a move to Office 365. The information will be kept up-to-date with the latest thinking and best practice from across the spectrum of IT influencers, system integrators and Microsoft partners.

By making the information easy to find and relevant we hope it will help IT teams about to embark on an Office 365 migration avoid common pitfalls and challenges.

If there’s anything you would like included in the hub please @reply us on Twitter (@mimecast) and we’d be happy to have a look.


Another Day Another Breach – eBay…Now Office

eBay seems to be coping with the hack of its user database. Weeks on from the announcement that its user database had been breached and we’re seeing millions of users change their passwords after receiving notifications from the online auction giant.

If you missed the news, around 145 million eBay users had their email addresses and encrypted passwords stolen when one of eBay’s databases was breached.

We now know that hackers were able to gain access to the user database by compromising three corporate eBay employees and using their credentials to access the eBay network. eBay has also told us that it believes there was no customer data compromised initially, but gives little more information than that.

We can speculate that the attack was most likely perpetrated through a targeted attack in email or a spear phishing attack. If this is right, the corporate employees of eBay who had their credentials compromised would have been sent a link in an email that tricked them into giving away their user details. We don’t yet know if those credentials were eBay’s website username and passwords or if they were network or corporate credentials.

Spear phishing and targeted attacks have become the de facto attack vector for anyone hacker trying to compromise an enterprise. Attackers know that most organizations have been lulled into a false sense of security regarding spear phishing – thinking that their existing legacy anti-spam and anti-virus systems protect them from spear phishing. While it would be true to say the majority of Secure Email Gateway vendors have started to build in protections for spear phishing; we also know that all the recent major and most public breaches have successfully snuck past major security vendors.

This week brings another personal data compromise. Office, a UK shoe retailer has admitted that its website has been compromised to the extent that customer personal data has been stolen. Office is asking all its customers to change their passwords.

Office and eBay are both quick to point out that no “financial information” was stolen. While this seems to be the case, stealing personal data, as in the Office hack, may give the attackers enough information to allow them to steal your identity. Once you lose that, you risk losing that key financial information.

The CIOs and CISOs I talk to are generally worried; none of them want to be the next big breach. They all understand the risks associated with spear phishing and are all trying to educate their users, but many worry constantly about those few users who still click the link in the email, or enter their user credentials in mystery websites.

Protecting against this human risk is a much tougher task, and until we solve that, these big breaches will continue. It’s why new security technology to counter spear phishing like our Targeted Threat Protection service must be combined with effective user monitoring and education if we are to successfully counter this growing threat to our organizations.