Business Law Today
Encryption for Lawyers
March 20, 2020
By Daniel B. Garrie & Rick Borden
Why should lawyers be interested in encryption? When you send information (an email message, perhaps a file) electronically, it most likely passes through wires that are used publicly by many parties, or airwaves that are essentially radios. This means that someone may be able to intercept the information along the path and read it. In order to protect information from interception by unintended parties. Technology was developed that makes the information unreadable by normal means. This is called encryption. As will be seen below, encryption also has other uses that are important to lawyers, including message or document verification and identity verification. In the past, encryption has been almost solely in the realm of technical experts. Governments and companies have used encryption to one extent or another to protect communications. However, today even some phone “apps” include encryption. The question is what do lawyers really need to understand about encryption in order to improve how they practice in light of new technology, rules, regulations, and ethical responsibilities? Whether you are a solo practitioner in criminal law or an in-house corporate attorney at a Fortune 100 company, encryption affects many of the issues you encounter, whether you realize it or not. Encryption is a way to make communications that are intended to be private actually remain private. Think of a client coming to your office. You are going to speak with them about a highly sensitive matter. You meet them in the lobby and take them up to your office. You don’t discuss the matter in the lobby, the elevator, or even your firm lobby, until you reach your office or a conference room and shut the door. Encryption is the same as shutting the door to keep communications private.
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