Cybersecurity Tech Tip: Heed the Warnings!

According to a report from Radware, 49% of businesses fell victim to cyber ransom attacks in 2016. Many internet attacks, including ransomware, happened to solo practitioners and small firms!

If you’ve neglected to heed the warnings this past year, now is the perfect time to educate yourself and others in your firm!

Start by checking out this free internet safety tutorial from the Goodwill Community Foundation website. The tutorial covers all the basics including introduction to internet safety, creating strong passwords, browser security features, how to avoid spam and phishing, how to handle malware,  the importance of social media safety, plus much more! This tutorial is a great way to educate yourself on some of the basic guidelines you haven’t implemented in your home or practice yet.

Take a moment to read these 7 Cybersecurity Tips (written specifically) for Lawyers by David Lat of Above the Law and ask , “is there any I’m not doing?” If there is, make a list and act as soon as possible to patch any security holes that may be vulnerable to attacks. Also, check out Dark Reading’s What to Watch with Ransomware in 2017 to stay up to date on what ransomware is and how it could affect your firm. Additionally, be sure to review CNA’s Cyber Security Practices for Law Firms.  If you’re still not sure why you should be serious about cybersecurity in your solo or small practice, check out this article from Joseph M. Burton.

While there is so much more to learn about internet safety and cybersecurity, this is a good start. (You have to start somewhere.) Just remember to stay in school and keep heeding the warnings!

Stay up to date with all the latest cyber security information by following SC Bar PMAP on Twitter, the SC Small Firm blog and our website! Email pmap@scbar.org if you need help.

How Lawyers Can Use Social Media In Investigations and Process Service

Special Thanks to the ABA, ABA TECHSHOW 2017, and Amanda Sexton of On The Lookout Investigations for  providing this article for the ABA TECHSHOW 2017 blog. Click here to learn more about ABA TECHSHOW 2017 below and don’t forget to register and save with the South Carolina Bar code EP1710.

Part 1 of 3: Social Media Surveillance

By Amanda Sexton, On The Lookout Investigations

Social media has opened new doors for lawyers when it comes to investigations and process service.

This first post is part of a three-part series designed to walk you through three of the most important uses of social media within investigations and process service including:

  • Social media surveillance vs. traditional surveillance
  • Service of process via Facebook
  • Social media jury screening

Among the many pros of social media, an unexpected one has come up: a low-cost alternative to surveillance for attorneys and their clients.

Surveillance can be expensive, with minimum time frames and sometimes requiring multiple investigators to properly tail a subject. But there’s a cheaper option – powerful programs that dig through social media accounts for useful information.

You can spend anywhere from $1500 for a standard 8-hour day for surveillance with one investigator and with no guarantees the subject will even leave the house, whereas a social media search can be done for as little as $250.

These searches can pull entire profiles while other searches (still MUCH cheaper than surveillance) can create a social media timeline covering hundreds of sites.

Used by private investigators and law enforcement only, these programs can perform some serious magic when it comes to downloading profiles, authenticating and preserving potential evidence and using algorithms to search for specific keywords across profiles with thousands of pages that may be relevant to a case.

Another bonus to social media searches over surveillance – ease of anonymity. What happens if you’re made while following a subject? Forget about it – now they’re onto you. With social media searches there’s the power of remaining anonymous as you browse the internet and deep web searching for pieces of information to pull together to help support or tear apart a case.

While looking through social media profiles, it can be absolutely mind-boggling how much information people share not only about themselves but their friends and family. Social media searches gather all that information and data to create a cheaper alternative to surveillance.

Part 2 of 3: Service of Process Via Facebook: Alternate Service Method

While cases involving service of process via Facebook are still the exception, courts in the United States certainly do seem to be warming up to the idea based on opinions and use of precedent.

Since the issuing of the first court order in the United States approving Facebook as a means of alternate service in Mpafe v. Mpafe in 2011several cases have followed suite. In all of them the same issues have come up:

  • How do we know this is the correct individual?
  • Has there been contact with the individual through this Facebook account? Is the e-mail address connected to this account validated as belonging to the subject? Do the friends and family reflect that of the subject?
  • How certain are we they will see the notice?
  • How often is the subject on Facebook? Are there frequent posts or frequent message communications?
  • Why does this make sense as opposed to another method of alternate service?
  • Is there no known address for the subject? Has due diligence been completed and have attempts at personal service been exhausted?

What does this mean for the future of service of process?

It’s important to note that in each case service via Facebook has taken place by court order, after initial service or because personal service couldn’t be attempted. Given due process rights, personal service has remained the preferred method of service.

Given how unlikely it is individuals will ever see a publication, the high cost involved and the purpose of alternate service in due process rights, more courts are seeing Facebook as a viable means of alternate service of the subject.

In Baidoo v. Blood-Dzrakuthe court opinion noted:

“In divorce cases brought in New York County, plaintiffs are often granted permission to publish the summons in such newspapers as the New York Law Journal or the Irish Echo. If that were to be done here, the chances of defendant, who is neither a lawyer nor Irish, ever seeing the summons in print, either in those particular newspapers or in any other, are slim to none.”

When it comes to serving internationally judges are also approving the use of Facebook service, particularly in countries who are signatories to the Hague Convention of the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents. FTC v. PCCare 247, Inc. was the first international case where it was determined that because the country hadn’t objected to Article 10(a) and service by postal channels or to service via electronic means, then service via Facebook was allowable.  Since then judges have relied on this precedent in other cases.

There are many nuances involved in each of the cases where alternate service via Facebook was granted, but the underlying theme is the same – courts are becoming more open to technology and the idea of Facebook as a method of alternate service where the subject may actually see the notice over traditional publication.

Part 3 of 3: Jury Screening Using Open Source Intelligence

Would you choose a juror whose Facebook was full of racist posts?

How about a juror with an Instagram account filled with substance abuse?

Or a juror who tweets about harsh prison sentences, religion, or political affiliations?

In today’s share-everything social media world, lawyers and private investigators have more budget-friendly options available when it comes to jury screening.

With the release of ABA Formal Opinion 466 in 2014, lawyers are free to research potential jurors online with no repercussions (as long as they don’t send an access request).  This means lawyers can also ethically and legally use an investigator who utilizes Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to go beyond Google to gain insight into a potential juror.

With more than 60% of potential jurors having social media profiles, this means there’s a wealth of information waiting out there on more than half of any potential jury.

Previously private investigators had to go through more typical “gum-shoe” investigations to gather information on a potential juror. This involved calling old employers, friends and family members, looking through old records and county court searches.

As technology has moved forward, many private investigators have moved out of the field and behind a computer, utilizing databases, algorithms and OSINT techniques to get the information they need. For lawyers, this means jury screening has become much more affordable to conduct.

While potential juror questionnaires can give some insight, information found on social media can help uncover biases and give you a rough sketch of the individual’s political leanings, opinions and personality.

Every trial attorney knows how important jury selection is to the outcome of a case. The use of OSINT techniques by private investigators and the ability to create a cost-effective, detailed work-up of a potential juror is just one of the many positive impacts technology has had on the legal community.


Amanda Sexton, Director of Corporate Development: On The Lookout Investigations

Amanda Sexton is the Director of Corporate Development at On The Lookout Investigations and DGR –The Source for Legal Support, winners for the past three years of the New Jersey Law Journal’s annual ‘Best Of’ survey. She is currently President of the New Jersey Professional Process Servers Association, a board member of the Legal Vendors Network and attends local and national conferences and training sessions to stay on top of the latest techniques and regulations for both process service and private investigations, including online investigations and social media surveillance.

Amanda blogs at www.dgrlegal.com/blog and www.otlollc.com/private-investigations-blog and can be reached at amanda@otlollc.com.

How Do You Plan to Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet?

Whether you want to network more or get healthier, there are tools and tips available online to help you manage your practice and move forward in the New Year!

You can start by checking out these 22 resolutions and tips from several practice management advisors and Attorney at Work contributors through “Be It Resolved,” a free download created by Attorney at Work and Greenfield Belser. Also, check out the Managing Your Practice website (the South Carolina Bar’s Practice Management Assistance Program website) and www.scsmallfirm.com for resources and tips. Do you have a 2017 practice management resolution you are not quite sure how to accomplish? E-mail pmap@scbar.org for assistance.

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Have you made plans to attend ABA TECHSHOW 2017? Special Pricing Available to SC Bar Members!

Register before January 30th to get early bird pricing!

Once again, the South Carolina Bar has arranged special pricing for its members to attend ABA TECHSHOW 2017 in Chicago, March 15-18, 2017. Bar members and their staff who are not ABA members can save money on the registration price by using this exclusive event promoter discount code: EP1710. First time attendees may view this video and first time experience guide. Attendees who register now before January 30th get early bird pricing! If you have specific questions or want to know more about the conference, contact Courtney Kennaday at pmap@scbar.org.

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