4 Reasons the Comcast-TWC Merger is Bad for Everyone

By now, you’ve all heard about it. Comcast is “merging” with Time Warner Cable (“merging” is what they call it when they buy the other company with Comcast stock instead of Comcast’s cash). The deal is reportedly valued around $45 billion, and the deal is expected to be complete by the end of the year. Given the immense publicity of the merger in the 12 hours since the news was reported, the FCC’s review will need to seem competent. Comcast will make the same arguments: economies of scale, increased competition, and financial savings, etc. Yet just like their promise to be at your house between 8 and noon, you should be very skeptical. If allowed, the Comcast-TWC Merger will have considerable consequences you won’t find in Comcast’s press release. Here are 4 Reasons the Comcast-TWC Merger is Bad for Everyone. 1) Comcast’s current anti-competitive practices will now affect 8-11 million more subscribers. Comcast caps the amount of data users can download, charging considerable fees when those caps are exceeded. It should be no surprise that using streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu dramatically increase the amount of data consumed, increasing the likelihood that users of those services will incur extra fees. Except, if you use Comcast’s Xfinity service to watch the same videos, it never counts against your cap. So if you have Comcast, your cost for using any streaming video service other than Xfinity must also factor for your data threshold fees. Additionally, Netflix has produced considerable evidence that Comcast has actually been throttling the internet speed for anyone using Netflix for streaming video. In fact, of all the... read more

Tweets of Wrath: This Attorney Didn’t Listen

Not long ago, I wrote a post entitled “Tweets of Wrath: Social Media and the Disgruntled Client.” In the event you choose not to go back and check it out (I wish you would, it’s one of my favorite stories), the basics of the post discuss the steps someone should take when responding to a disgruntled client’s social media posts. Remembering that the key rules STILL APPLY to social media, the biggest thing you want to make sure you do is keep confidential information… well… confidential. After that, you really need to remember NOT to injure the client by what you post. In the end, it remains my position that your best bet is to ignore the post the best you can. Well, today I saw this article, talking about an Illinois attorney who decided that she would rather respond… The facts of the case, as described by the article, and confirmed in this complaint filed before the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, are as follows: During the month of September 2012, the attorney, Betty Tsamis (“Respondent”) agreed to represent a Richard Rinehart regarding an employment dispute between Rinehart and his former employer, American Airlines. Rinehart, who had been a flight attendant, was terminated by American Airlines, reportedly due to an alleged assault by Rinehart on a coworker. Rinehart paid Respondent a retainer of $1,500. Between September 2012 and January 2013, Respondent met with Rinehart on at least two occasions, and reviewed Rinehart’s employment file, which she obtained from American Airlines. During January 2013, Respondent represented Rinehart in a telephone hearing with the Illinois Department of Employment Security,... read more

Third-Party Social Media: Ethical or Not?

A new company in Dallas, Texas, WiredForPR.com, is offering third-party social media engagement and blogging services for lawyers and law firms. As detailed by one of my new heroes Kevin O’Keefe in his blog, Dallas attorney/journalist Stephanie Dube Dwilson* is offering a service to lawyers who want to have social media engagement, but  don’t have the time or inclination to do it themselves. (Hereinafter “Ms. [D]Wilson” due to her site and her resume – available here – being inconsistent.) Yet with all that has been published about the potential pitfalls of failing to properly monitor your firm’s social media engagement, can you ethically rely on third-party social media? Wired For PR Ms. [D]Wilson’s website lists the services available to lawyers and law firms in what appears to be a deliberately restaurant-menu style. Beginning with a narrative discussion of what her site offers, Ms. [D]Wilson states: “Your involvement can range from, ‘Set it and forget it,’ to, ‘Run everything by me first no matter what.’ What I mean is this; as a journalist and a licensed lawyer, I can maintain your blog and social media sites with minimal supervision. Most of my clients, however, like to review every single communication before it is released – and I am more than happy to oblige.” All blog articles are ghostwritten, the site explains, and are written by a team of authors that are supervised by Ms. [D]Wilson. “Rest assured that nothing reaches the client’s desk until it has received my personal stamp of approval,” the site states. The Price of Third-Party Social Media The site offers three tiers of complete, hands-off packages for clients: For... read more

More Security Problems for Dropbox?

Two hackers are reporting, in a paper they published at USENIX 2013 conference, that they have found more security problems for Dropbox. Using a code published along with their other findings, were even able to intercept SSL data from the Dropbox servers, completely bypassing the two-factor authentication system. The paper, which reports that the purpose of the project is to aid in future development of advanced security systems for software programs such as Dropbox. This is not the first time that hackers have exposed vulnerabilities in the Dropbox system by academic researchers. A previous security vulnerability was discussed in a previous article. Dropbox, which according to the American Bar Association is the preferred cloud-based data storage provider for attorneys, claims over 100 million users worldwide, reporting upward of one billion file uploads daily. PR representatives from Dropbox claim that the research does not actually demonstrate any vulnerabilities in their system. “We appreciate the contributions of these researchers and everyone who helps keep Dropbox safe,” a spokesperson said in an email reply to Computerworld. “In the case outlined here, the user’s computer would first need to have been compromised in such a way that it would leave the entire computer, not just the user’s Dropbox, open to attacks across the board.” The authors of the paper, Dhiru Kholia, with the Openwall open source project and a faculty member at the University of British Columbia, and Przemyslaw Wegrzyn, with CodePainters, reported that they do not believe that Dropbox has not been adequately analyzed for security. Their system, detailed in a recent PC World article, is based on reverse-engineering the Dropbox program. Using the reverse engineering, they... read more

Hackers’ Newest Target: Lawyers

Frightening news out of corners of the security world, the ABA Journal is reporting that hackers’ newest targets include lawyers and law firms. “Cybercriminals tend to focus where the weak spots are,” says Gerhard Eschelbeck, chief technology officer at Sophos, a computer security firm, “[and] law firms are soft targets.” Eschelbeck said that, unlike the movie versions, the hackers he’s talking about are not pimply-faced nerds, or Matthew Brodderick in his parents’ house, but rather nation-states looking for valuable information. “Law firms need to understand that they’re being targeted by the best, most advanced attackers out there,” says Shane M. McGee, general counsel and vice president of legal affairs at Mandiant Corp., a cybersecurity firm. “These attackers will use every resource at their disposal to compromise law firms because they can, if successful, steal the intellectual property and corporate secrets of not just a single company but of the hundreds or thousands of companies that the targeted law firm represents. Law firms are, in that sense, ‘one-stop shops’ for attackers.” So what can be done? As I reported last week in my discussions about the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) movement (BYOD: 5 Steps to Protect Your Client and Save Money and 10 Tips for Developing Effective BYOD Policies), one of the biggest keys is coming up with a policy that will be enforced firm-wide, with universally applicable consequences. What other ways can you and your firm best protect yourself from hackers? The article had these suggestions: Secure all mobile devices by having your IT department/consultant encrypt your sensitive data; Ensure that any contracts you have with cloud-based data... read more

Four Alternatives to Dropbox to Meet Your Firm’s Storage Needs

A little while back, I wrote an article about the security hazards posed by using Dropbox as your firm’s go-to cloud-based data storage, and why you might want to consider alternatives to Dropbox. While ideal for collaboration and portability of documents, the potential security risks inherent in using Dropbox are significant, unless you adopt specialized encryption software. Other major security issues include that one time when they turned off the password requirement for millions of accounts, stripping them of the little security they had. Those security threats are made even more serious when you consider that the recent ABA Tech Survey reported that Dropbox was, by far, the preferred cloud-based data storage service for attorneys. Well, again a tip-of-my-hat to the guys over at PC World, as they have come up with a list of four alternatives to Dropbox, ideal for small businesses such as law firms. 1) Spider Oak Free Storage: 2GB (same as Dropbox) Pricing: $100/year for 100GB, $600/month for 1TB (100 users) Best option for: Security Spider Oak, a cloud-based data storage service that already has numerous advocates in the legal field, is a fully secure online storage and syncing service. All of your data, and your password, are fully encrypted (using a combination of 2048-bit RSA and 256-bit AES encryption). Additionally, unlike the privacy policy at the heart of Dropbox’s little issue discussed above, SpiderOak has a “zero-knowledge” privacy policy, meaning that not even employees of SpiderOak have access to your documents without your password. This little feature also means you’d better freaking remember your password! SpiderOak has a desktop client, available for Windows, Mac... read more

10 Free Open-Source Alternatives for Small Business

Running a small business, particularly a small law firm, can be expensive. Among all the things you need to pay for, such as office supplies, equipment, and support services, none are as routinely expensive as purchasing software. One license of Microsoft Office will usually run over $200 per user. Little relief can be seen in the future, either, as the subscription models that are available now are even MORE expensive (Office 365, which is flawed and incomplete, will run you $150 per user, with undefined costs to continue using the program in the future). So the fine folks over at PC World have done us all a HUGE favor by creating a list of 10 available open-source alternatives to replace those ridiculously expensive software packages that we have all thought were a necessary and unavoidable part of small business. Without further ado, the 10 Best (but in no particular order) Open-Source Alternatives for Small Business: 1) Office Suite: Libre Office Sporting a full suite of programs, including word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and drawing, LibreOffice is Microsoft Office in a free package. It even uses the exact same file types (e.g. .docx, xlsx, etc.) so that you can easily import documents you already have, view files sent by others, and send your files to people who use the Microsoft Office tools. They even sync with online Content Management Systems and online document storage to provide for easy collaboration. 2) Email: Thunderbird (by Mozilla) Another replacement for (what some believe to be) the overpriced Microsoft option that is used by most businesses: Outlook. Instead of shelling out the $95 per... read more

10 Tips for Developing Effective BYOD Policies

Earlier this week I wrote about the rise of the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) paradigm in modern business. What I did not discuss in detail was the best way to develop effective BYOD policies to guide your firm in the future. These policies will address how you protect your vital client information and firm data while allowing attorneys and staff the flexibility that mobile devices provide, along with the comfort of using their own devices. As such, it is CRUCIAL that the policies are developed with an eye toward the future, and are not assembled haphazardly. Here are my 10 Tips for Developing Effective BYOD Policies: 1) Development of the policy must be transparent and inclusive. This policy will govern what devices your attorneys and staff can use, how they can use them, and will, most likely, limit the ways they can use their devices for personal use. Remember that you’re still pitching this whole program as being beneficial, without regard for the fact that you’re actually pushing a business expense onto your staff. Therefore, everyone should feel like they had input. (For outside assistance, you can always check out some of the mobility management programs, like this one offered by CDW.) 2) The policies must be universal, in both applicability and enforcement. Nobody likes it when someone is able to “pull rank” to avoid doing something that everyone else has to do. Even worse is when someone higher up on the food chain is caught doing something against company policy, but there are no repercussions. For a policy to be effective, everyone has to follow it. The... read more

Top 10 Office Tools You Need to Have (But Didn’t Know Existed)

Scouring the recent news about technology in the law firm and in the courtroom, I came across a wonderful slideshow put together by the guys over at PCWorld.com that informed me that there was office equipment and gear that I didn’t even realize that I needed.  Everyone seems to have little things that bother them in day-to-day activities around the office, or things that could be improved, but had long since accepted the status quo.  Not anymore!  Without further ado, the Top 10 Office Tools you Need to Have… but didn’t know existed! (In no particular order): 1) The Logitec K310 Washable Keyboard That’s right, a keyboard that can be WASHED!  Look at your keyboard right now. Go ahead, I know it’s gross. There’s the crumbs under the keys that have petrified over time, the food smudges on the keys that don’t get used quite as much, and the sticky spot underneath the arrow keys from the soda you spilled last spring. You simply thought it was time to buy a new keyboard… Until now! Equipped with a crumb and dust brush snapped to the underside of the keyboard, it can also be fully submerged in up to 11 inches of water. Price: $40 2) Personify Personify is a Software-as-a-Service program that uses depth sensing cameras (such as Microsoft Kinect cameras) to imbed video of you into your online presentations, allowing you to interact while you present. The perfect software for giving presentations online to groups in remote locations, Personify allows you to navigate through your presentation using the Personify app, or even just your own gestures! There’s even... read more
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