Protecting Your Company’s Privacy

Today more than any other time in history, protecting company privacy is essential. Unfortunately, the number of cases associated with identify theft have not only risen but also moved from personal to business. Over the past few years, a number of large companies and even government agencies have been in the news for having laptop computers and vital information on employees and the organization itself stolen. What makes this so uncomfortable is that usually, the privacy is being threatened from within the very organization that is supposed to secure it.

Keep in mind that while some organizations are at greater risk for thefts, such as credit card companies, banks, or government agencies, even the small mom and pop shops are at risk. Remember, it would only take one instance of information leaking out to put a company completely out of business. The problem is that not only is data being stolen, but often sold to criminals that know exactly how to extract what they want to make a profit – at your expense.

More than ever, it is crucial to do all you can to protect your organization and employees. In today’s flat work force, many employees use laptops rather than desktops. A laptop enables employees to work from any location eliminating downtime for the field employee and increasing the efficiency of communication. However, every time an employee takes the computer out of the office, the potential risk of privacy is increased. Let us say an employee had a laptop with no logon protection. This employee worked in the financial sector of the business and after going to dinner while on a business venture, he returns to the hotel room only to find the laptop gone. Now, without the computer having any type of password protection, anyone can gain access. However, professional criminals can hack anything with or without protection.

In addition to accidents such as this, other situations could arise putting your organization in danger. For instance, if there were a disgruntled employee, perhaps someone passed over for a promotion, or someone who knows his or her job were ending, this individual may feel there is nothing to lose by leaking out or taking vital information. If this person were unstable or just angry, he or she could cause damage to the company through the sharing of trade secrets, personal data or other sensitive information. Then of course, you have people who go to work for companies specifically for the sake of stealing private data. Although this is not as common, it does exist and this practice is growing.

Yet even with Identity Theft and Privacy being spotlighted in the media, companies remain surprisingly vulnerable. Organizations around the globe have no clue to the quantity of sensitive information being leaked out but even worse, no tracking system is in place to find out or to correct the problem. While we often focus on the computer as a source of theft, private data can be taken out of a company in many other ways. For instance, iPods, USB sticks, or any portable device makes downloading information easy and covert. What happens is that in addition to the company and employees being at risk, customer relations could be severely damaged as well due to lack of trust and confidence.

To give you an idea of just how data is being taken out of organizations, 75% is with the use of a portable device, 63% via email attachments, and 59% from content within emails. Sadly, a number of companies were recently surveyed and of those, just 50% stated they had any concern. If you are working hard to build your organization, you need to take this risk seriously. With so many possibilities for privacy to be robbed, it is crucial that you understand the risks and then take appropriate action to correct them. If major data leaks can occur within tightly secured companies such as AT&T, National Audit Office, Veterans Affairs, and Google, then surely you too can potentially be at risk.

Take steps to protect your trade secrets and sensitive private data. This is an area worth making an investment. With the sheer volume of information that is produced daily within a company, it is challenging to ensure security. However, taking time to understand who has access to important data and how to best protect it is well worth the investment of time and money. After all, what would it cost you if your valuable data was lost or stolen?

The Legal Aspect of a Risk Profile and Response

With new and intense challenges seen in Corporate America, more and more companies are turning to the assistance of lawyers to create a risk profile and provide guidance on response. In fact, this issue has become so serious that in the past few years, governmental expectations for better governance have been strongly encouraged, specifically in the area of planning and delivery.

The development of a risk profile is one of the first steps a company should consider, examining both strategy and operational factors. Having a systematic plan in place for managing operational, strategic, and project risk is essential to the success of any business, regardless of size or industry. While using legal support for the creation of a risk profile offers a number of benefits, the primary objectives include achieving corporate objectives, enhancing performance, and reducing risk.

Although company executives could take a stab at creating a risk profile and appropriate response, a legal team can help by establishing definitive and precise action specific to the company and current laws. Federal, local and even industry regulations and laws change frequently making it difficult and cumbersome for a non-legal person to identify all the potential risks. A professional team will have the ability to take a high-level view of the company to identify potential problem areas that might not otherwise be considered.

Typically, if using outside counsel, the firm would start by working with internal personnel to gain a better understanding of the company, as well as its processes, technologies, and techniques. From there, a legal aspect would be considered to define a framework for a comprehensive, risk profile. The focus of the profile would depend on a number of things although areas such as risk management, finances, and legal are at the top of the list. Then, the company would need to have a dedicated team in place internally to implement and manage the risk profile and response.

You could think of a risk profile as a snapshot of the key areas and risks of an organization, coupled with broader areas such as business development, operations, and overall strategic goals. It is critical to understand not only the specific risk factors but the response associated with those risks and how they impact the organization. Using a legal team to help manage risk does not happen in a vacuum without the input of key stakeholders. The executive team and other stakeholders have a responsibility to ensure that the risk response is aligned with the overall objectives of the company. Legal must be kept apprised of the key business objectives to ensure that the risk profile and response reflect what is critical to the organization.

For instance, some companies will get themselves into trouble by missing time-sensitive responses and/or actions, which might include late delivery, tax penalties, going over budget, or a number of things pertaining to the business. Using a risk profile gives management a heads up on the most critical areas to watch for so nothing is missed. In addition, an attorney can assist management in response, teaching them and providing legal advice on the right way to respond should a problem or concern arise.

The legal team should have the capability of working with internal personnel to identify and successfully manage key risks, develop a solid risk profile, and integrate this profile with the overall business plan. Risk management requires comprehensive communication, internal support from the top down and a combined commitment to achieving results. In this way Legal truly becomes a key part of the overall support team that helps your business obtain the desired results.

How Attorneys Add Value to Your Business

For most people, talking to an attorney usually means that someone is in trouble. And if you’re the one who’s calling an attorney, chances are the person in trouble is you or someone you know.

Attorneys are usually best-known as a last resort for helping people stay out of trouble. But attorneys also provide other value-added services to both individuals and businesses.

Maybe attorneys have gotten a bad reputation because of the way society portrays them in the media. After all, attorneys aren’t exactly painted in the most flattering light. We’ve all read about the high-profile cases and the huge million-dollar settlements. We’ve all seen the attorneys portrayed on television as being greedy, indifferent, and overly-concerned with their fees. In fact shows like Boston Legal not only entertain viewers with the antics of their behavior but win awards for doing it! And, of course, we’ve all heard the lawyer jokes.

But despite what you’ve heard or read, or what your personal feelings about attorneys might be, attorneys do provide a valuable and much-needed service in a number of different areas. In addition to their main duties of upholding the law and protecting client’s rights, here are just a few other areas in which attorneys add value to businesses.

  • They help resolve legal disputes
  • They help prevent legal problems or limit their consequences
  • They provide legal representation if you’re arrested for a crime
  • They can handle the legal aspects of starting a business and forming a partnership or corporation
  • They can provide counsel on local, state and federal tax matters
  • They represent your interests in a lawsuit
  • They provide legal counsel when filing for bankruptcy
  • They can protect you against claims from customers or other businesses
  • They can identify business risks you may not be aware of
  • They can help you stay in compliance with rules and regulations in your business or industry
  • They can defend you in court
  • They can handle negotiations on your behalf
  • They can assist with general corporate matters
  • They can assist with mergers and acquisitions
  • They can advise on intellectual property matters such as copyrights, patents and trademarks
  • They can handle matters of Labor and Employment law, workplace safety issues, unions, and government compliance

Now, a lot of these areas of law may not seem very exciting or glamorous. And chances are most wouldn’t make very riveting prime time viewing. But if you’re the one who has the problem, it’s nice to know that there’s a knowledgeable expert available who can help you solve it, and they’re just a phone call away.