Internet On Trial

Internet On Trial

Modern Day Litigation, Cyber Defamation, and Law in Sports & Entertainment

It’s Time To Change Your Password—YES YOU!

Posted in Email
Password comic strip

Image credit: Flickr/fixedgear

It’s a good idea to check your spam/junk email folder periodically. I usually do it once a day. Most of the time the messages in my junk folder are just that—junk. But occasionally, something important winds up in the spam folder. Usually it’s because the sender forgot to include a subject line, or the body of the email has no content except for a hyperlink (you do know that you should NEVER click on such a link, right?). The latter was the case this morning, when I discovered an email from one of my kids’ teachers in my spam folder, only, in this case the email was actually spam. Apparently, the sender’s email account was hijacked, and used to spam everybody in their contacts list. It happens every once in a while that I get spam from someone I actually know, and I find it more and more puzzling each time it does.

Pro tip: choosing “password” as your online password is not a good idea. In fact, unless you’re hoping to be an easy target for hackers, it’s the worst password you can possibly choose.

The reason I find it puzzling is that in spite of all the news of online security breaches, and the heightened awareness and frequent reminders to use strong passwords for your email and online accounts, people are still using passwords that are easily hackable. It’s true, I have no idea what the password was to the email account that spammed me this morning, but based on the fact that it’s an AOL mail account, and stories like this, I have a pretty good hunch that it was fewer than 10 characters, and probably could be found in any dictionary. That’s because research shows that the most popular password last year was ’123456.’ Make no mistake, the purpose of this blog isn’t to provide handy consumer electronics tips, but when I get spam from  people who are both highly educated and oftentimes business owners, I feel compelled to write a post like this, in hopes that whoever reads it will appreciate the message because it’s coming from an attorney.

A good password is like Chinese arithmetic: it’s unrecognizable, not found in the dictionary, long, and contains letters, numbers, and symbols.

Although it should go without saying, my firm’s retainer agreements now contain a clause about password strength and security. Because most of my clients are fairly tech savvy, I don’t get many questions about this clause, but when I do, I usually send them a link to this blog post written by Jeff Shiner, CEO of a software company that makes one of the top-ranked password protection applications for more than five years. Even though the article is almost three years old the information is still just as relevant as it was when it was written. At the very least, it serves as a starting point for taking control of your online data. Recently, I read a great guide to secure passwords written by data security guru Bruce Schneier. Even if you think you have a good password already, it’s worth checking out.

Privacy Legislation is a Priority for Congress in 2014

Posted in Computer Crimes, Internet & Media Law, Privacy Law
Hidden Message in Credit Card: 'Lost'

Photo credit: Philip Bourchard

In the wake of the recent Target stores and Neiman Marcus data breaches (plus three other well-known retailers, according to this Reuters report) Congress has 20 privacy bills in the works this year, aimed at consumer privacy and data protection. The Personal Data Privacy & Security Act of 2014 (PDF) introduced by New York Senator Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer), along with Senators Pat Leahy (@SenatorLeahy), Al Franken (@alfranken), and Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) expands both civil and criminal penalties for the misuse of personal information mined from retail data breaches. Continue Reading

What Does Your Browser History Say About Your Parenting?

Posted in Internet & Media Law, Litigation & Appeals
Web Browser History

Photo credit: Matthew Simoneau

Most people think about browser history in the context of hiding from your spouse/significant other the fact that you sometimes look at online porn (not that I would know from personal experience), or, perhaps, not letting your kid know that you’ve been reading online reviews about the new bicycle or gadget he’s been hounding you for. Continue Reading

Third Circuit Will Hear GPS Tracking Case En Banc

Posted in New Jersey, Privacy Law, Technology Law
GPS Tracking Map

Photo credit: John Biehler

In October, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals became the highest federal court to decide that police must first have a search warrant before they can install a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. That decision came roughly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court decided that installing a GPS tracking device on a vehicle constitutes a “search” under the Fourth Amendment (which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures). When evidence is obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the usual remedy is suppression—i.e. the prosecution can’t use it in court. This is known as the exclusionary rule a/k/a the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. Continue Reading

What is a great lawyer?

Posted in Uncategorized

There are a lot of lawyers out here. So if you want to be a successful lawyer, you have to differentiate yourself from the crowd. My dilemma, however, is that I try to avoid tooting my own horn (no pun intended). How does one differentiate themselves from others, without showcasing or highlighting the things that make them different (which really means better)?

My friend and mentor David Sparks (@MacSparky) is the kind of attorney that I’ve aspired to become since 25 or so years ago, when I got hooked on the NBC drama series L.A. Law. David writes the very popular blog—not so much about law—MacSparky, where, this week he reflected  on his 20th anniversary as a lawyer. I asked David if I could repost his reflections here, because I felt like they embodied my own sentiments about why it’s great to be a lawyer, and what makes a lawyer great: Continue Reading

The 12 Days of … Privacy?

Posted in Privacy Law

Do you love your smartphone, can’t imagine coping without it by your side 24/7, but at the same time are concerned about your expectation of privacy? Earlier this week, Boston attorney Cynthia Larose posted a great recap and summary of the current law and pending legislation in the areas of biometricsfacial recognition, geolocation (a/k/a GPS tracking) on Mintz Levin’s Privacy & Security Matters.

In 2013 geolocation and biometrics were hot topics. Apple included a fingerp…rint reader on the new iPhone which was either really cool or an epic fail depending on your viewpoint, and Google and the NSA are tracking our every move. Continue Reading

Why Your Business Needs a Social Media Policy

Posted in New Jersey, Privacy Law, Social Media Law
iPhone Social Media Apps

Photo credit: Michael Critz

On December 1st, New Jersey became the 12th U.S. State with a social media password-protection law. Under that newly effective legislation, employers are prohibited from (a) asking employees or employment candidates for their usernames and passwords to their social media profiles; (b) retaliating Continue Reading

Why Registering Your L.L.C. Isn’t Good Enough

Posted in Litigation & Appeals, Startups
Total Venture Capital Investment

Photo credit: Third Way Think Tank

Kentucky attorney Scott Townsend recently blogged about why it’s important for entrepreneurs to establish the proper form of business entity when they start up a new business or venture. Chief among his reasons were to create an identity, and start building credibility for the start-up, and to protect the founders from from personal liability related to the business. Although I don’t disagree with Scott’s reasoning, I don’t believe that neglecting or failing to establish a business entity remains as a significant problem in today’s business law climate. That’s in large part because of the Internet. Forgetting about Legal Zoom, Continue Reading

Legislative Reform Needed to Combat Revenge Porn

Posted in Internet & Media Law, Privacy Law
If it's on the Internet, it isn't private.

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey

The phenomenon known as “revenge porn” is a growing concern for many people, so much so that it’s starting to catch the attention of state legislators, who want to enact criminal statutes to punish its perpetrators. But although it seems like a step in the right direction, there are better ways to combat revenge porn than passing criminal laws.

Continue Reading