Category: Software

Windows Security Patches Released

Microsoft Released a security patch on Thursday, May 1st, which fixed all Windows versions of Internet Explorer, including for Windows XP!

XP has been out of support, but with a heavy installed base — estimated at 30% of the world’s computers by some — Microsoft made an exception to its policy by updating the operating system.  At a lot of law firms, there was a visible sigh of relief.  Kudos to Microsoft for doing the right thing.

Personally, I took the opportunity to change my default browser to Chrome, and I don’t regret it.  There are a few software packages I have which are not compatible.  For example, Copernic Desktop Search.  But I only use that for searches internal to my system, so I don’t really care.

In case you’re curious, data from NetMarketShare.com indicates that Windows 7 powers 49.27% of the world’s computers, while Windows 8.0 and 8.1 combined account for only 12.24%.   MAC versions 10.6 through 10.8 combined holds 3.25% of market share.   That number surprises me, as I’m seeing strong growth in the legal industry.

Computer Security Issues – Windows XP, Adobe Flash, Internet Explorer

When Homeland Security issues a warning about new risks of using your computer, you should stop and pay attention.  When mighty Microsoft tells you to temporarily stop using one of their programs due to a security issue, you should stop and pay attention once you’ve recovered from fainting.

Yes folks, our computing environment has just gotten a whole lot riskier, especially when exploring the internet.

First, let me advise you that the issues have not yet been resolved, despite reports issued based on misinformation and misunderstanding.  That’s because we’re dealing with multiple issues, on multiple software platforms.

The issue dealing with Adobe Flash Player was resolved (hopefully) by a security update from Adobe on Monday, April 28.  That problem involved a Flash bug that was attacking computer visitors of a Syrian government web site.  Although that bug was significant, it is not at all related to the major boo-boo in Internet Explorer.  And it’s doubtful it would have impacted too many of you in the legal environment.

The “big” Microsoft bug, which Microsoft is currently scrambling to address with a patch, affects versions 6 to 11 of Internet Explorer.  It potentially gives data thieves the same access to a network computer as a legitimate user.  Microsoft has acknowledged that there have been “limited, targeted attacks that attempt to exploit a vulnerability.”  Excuse me?  It can’t be so limited if Homeland Security is involved, along with every major media outlet.

The security flaw in Internet Explorer comes into play if you click on a bad link.  Not the type which gives you an innocent “404, Not Found” but rather the kind which takes you to a fake web site, where malicious code can be injected into your computer.  Some of these sites are so realistically designed, you have no clue they’re fake and “bad”.

This is the first major security flaw discovered since Windows XP support was discontinued.  That means that when the security patch is issued, both Internet Explorer and Windows 8.0+ will be updated.  Windows XP will remain vulnerable.

What should you do?

  1. Stop using Internet Explorer for now.  Use one of the competitors like Google Chrome or Firefox.
  2. Don’t click on links found on web sites which go outside that site.  Rather, use your “favorites” to get to the other site, or look up the other site and go there directly.  It’s estimated that as much as 40% of legitimate web sites may unknowingly have malicious code on their site.  One example would be replacing a legitimate link with one which misdirects you to a “bad” web site.
  3. Make sure you’re installing all security updates which arrive at your computer.
  4. Be sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software is kept up to date, and is running continuously in the background.
  5. Make sure your firewall is up to date.
  6. If you’re still using Windows XP, make a permanent change to your internet browser choice.  Also, whichever browser you choose, you may want to have your security software checking each site before it actually allows you to land on it.  It will slow your travels, but keep you much safer.

Keep in mind that you will have to get off of Windows XP in short order.  Hey, I don’t like it one bit either!  But keep in mind that law firms must take due diligence in safeguarding client confidentiality.  Knowingly using software which will never receive additional security updates is much like putting your most confidential client documents in a trash bag, and throwing it off the Empire State Building.  It’s not a question as to whether those papers will be scattered on impact, but rather how far they’ll be scattered!

Custom Apps Created by Law Firms – Brilliant Marketing

A terrific next step in education-based marketing strategy is the law firm mobile device app, designed to address a specific client need.  Law Technology News recently reported on  apps designed by Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers, to inform users about anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws.

The Latham & Watkins iPhone and iPad app, which is called the AB&C  Laws Application, was launched on  July 18th.  It is free from Apple Inc.’s iTunes app store. The app serves as a reference tool informing users about anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws  in major jurisdictions around the world. In November, 2012,  O’Melveny & Myers released a similar app with a more narrow scope, which focuses exclusively on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA).  The app can be downloaded free from  Apple Inc.’s iTunes app store. (search: “OMM FCPA”), and is designed for use on the iPhone® and iPad® devices. According to a firm spokesperson, the app has been downloaded 550 times since it  was launched.

More firms are jumping on board to develop apps.  Fox Rothschild launched its New Jersey Divorce app in June 2013, after taking six months to build it.

I completely agree with legal marketing guru Micah Buchdahl, owner of marketing company HTMLawyers, who is quoted saying, “there are more law firm apps on the market than people may realize. But that  doesn’t mean they are all effective. . . . The reality is that most of these apps that the law firms have developed have  very small usage and really it’s just about saying that you have one . . . If a firm does create an app, the best bet is to be practice-area specific . . . the apps have come down in price and can cost between $5,000 and $25,000 to  create, depending on the app’s sophistication.”

I didn’t say this was a cheap strategy.  I said it was a smart one.

Most firms don’t have the internal resources to develop an app.  Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers had the talent on staff.  I’m not sure whether Fox Rothschild did their own design work on the app, but suspect they did.  When West Virginia-based Spilman Thomas & Battle, which has an office in  Pittsburgh, decided to develop a human-resources-focused app, they turned to  Pittsburgh-based Quest Fore for assistance.  They launched their app, SuperVision in early July, 2013.

There is no doubt that we’re just scratching the surface of the development of law firm apps which are actually useful to clients, rather than being a glorified advertisement for the firm.  Right now this is a strategy which requires a significant investment of time and dollars.  Given increased demand by law firms,  I anticipate that tools will be developed which will make app development an affordable strategy for smaller firms.

 

Document Assembly – Work Smarter Instead of Harder

Repetitive documents are most cost-effectively produced using document assembly software.  I recall reading that approximately 80% of legal documents are mostly repetitive; using boilerplate language.  They provide opportunity to gain efficiency in production by working smart.

Document assembly software provides a user with the ability to create an “interview” or “standard information” form.  It then merges the information into a document.  While one can actually create quite intelligent merges using the native capabilities of Word or WordPerfect, it requires extensive training and skill to actually go beyond a simple merge, e.g. to include if/then logic in the merge.  Using document assembly makes it easier to do advanced work with less training.

Document assembly also makes it easier to ensure consistent collection of data through use of the interview form.  Think of it as your checklist to make sure all the essential information required to produce the document is collected each time.  Use of the interview form also allows for clients to input information directly, with the resulting document draft being delivered to the attorney for review and any additional required customization.

HotDocs is one of the first real document assembly programs to be introduced to the legal community.  According to the HotDocs website, their software is “the platform of choice for 35% of the US document-generation legal market.”  That’s impressive, given that there are some excellent competitors out there, such as DealBuilder, Ghostfill, Pathagoras, and one of my favorites, The FormTool, to name but a few.

HotDocs continues to retain its lead over other programs because most early adopters have continued to use it over the years, in order to preserve the investment of their intellectual capital.  Those who adopted document assembly later, were more inclined to use some of the other, newer programs.  Many are deemed easier to use, based on the feedback I receive from lawyers.  However, it should be said that HotDocs is still a solid program.  For firms which have been users, they will be glad to know that HotDocs now offers cloud-based document generation.  Pricing has yet to be announced.

If you routinely produce documents which lend themselves to automation, such as  wills, loans, interrogatories, leases, and so forth, you would be wise to investigate the excellent choices of software available, which are designed specifically for law firm use.  Remember, you can’t work harder.  You need to work smarter.  Document assembly software is all about helping you work smarter.

Simple Timeline Software

Sometimes you need to create a simple Timeline, but you don’t do it often enough to justify buying expensive application software.  What do you do?

We’re all probably familiar with TimeMap, now owned by LexisNexis.  It was probably the first really good and easy-to-use software designed specifically for this purpose.  It’s become a favorite of trial attorneys and paralegals.  There are always specials at trade shows, like ABA TechShow, and I grabbed it for $99 a number of years ago.

If you don’t do a lot of timelines, or don’t get to the shows, how can you produce a decent Timeline without spending the bucks?  Simple.  You already have tools to do it.  Here are instructions on how to create a Timeline using Excel.  Here are instructions to create a Timeline using the SmartArt graphics feature in PowerPoint.  There’s even free shareware called Timeline, which is a cross-platform application.

All three tips are courtesy of attorney Paula Gibson, on ABA’s LawTech listserv.  Thank you Paula!

Keep Track of Your “Stuff”

We all lose stuff, even if only temporarily.  What if you could “tag” all your stuff with a tracker, so that when misplaced, you could locate it easily on your Smartphone?  That’s what Tile is for.  A Personal Asset Manager to help track one’s stuff.  It’s about time.

Currently, Tile only works with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad Mini, iPad 3rd and 4th gen, and iPod Touch 5th gen.  And I can’t say it’s really cheap.  One Tile is $18.95.  The more you buy, the more you save per Tile.  Up to 10 Tiles can be put on one account.  You attach, stick or drop your Tile into/onto any item you might lose such as laptops, wallets, keys, guitars, bikes—you name it.

The good news:  The Tile app saves the last GPS location it saw your Tile.  It shows the location on what looks like a Google Map. Tiles come with a built-in speaker so you can easily hear it in close range.  You never need to replace the batteries or even charge your Tiles.

The bad news:  Tiles last a year. You’ll receive a reminder when it’s time to order new Tiles and you’ll get an envelope to recycle your old ones.  So think of it as an annual subscription cost for asset protection.  For an expensive electronic device, bicycle, or even a pet, the annual cost is well worth it.

If this takes off, it will no doubt expand to other operating systems.  I’m intrigued.  Are you?

Beware: Office 2013 Has NON-Transferable License

Normally Microsoft Office software is transferable from one computer to another, as long as it is uninstalled on the old computer.  No more!  Is MS really this greedy, that they would make you buy new software every time you replace a computer?  Apparently, yes.

Thanks to Woody’s Office Watch — to which I have subscribed for years — I have been alerted that the Software License Agreement (the SLA is the newer name of the EULA –End User License Agreement) has changed substantially for Office 2013.  And according to Office Watch, the change is fairly well hidden.

Here is the relevant language Office Watch cited in the SLA:

How can I use the software?

We do not sell our software or your copy of it – we only license it. Under our license we grant you the right to install and run that one copy on one computer (the licensed computer) for use by one person at a time, but only if you comply with all the terms of this agreement. Our software license is permanently assigned to the licensed computer.

or

Can I transfer the software to another computer or user? 

You may not transfer the software to another computer or user. ”

It’s the same wording for both Retail and OEM copies of Office 2013. OEM copies are sold, usually pre-installed, on new computers.

Not satisfied?

The retail boxes of Office 2013 that we’ve seen include only the phrase ‘1 PC’ which is strictly true but doesn’t tell the whole story. We wonder if any ‘Fair Trading’ or consumer protection agency is prepared to take on Microsoft about the lack of clear disclosure of the changed terms?

Amazon is more careful about disclosing the Office 2013 terms. One of the bullet point ‘Product Features’ is:

One time purchase for the life of your PC; non-transferrable

Before concluding this post, and to satisfy myself, I went to the Microsoft Office site.  I searched for the SLA but could not find it so I used their live Chat feature.  The assistant in their online store was kind enough to find me the link so I could download a copy of the SLA and read it myself.  The language is identical to what appears above.  So before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars, be sure you understand what you are paying for.  Because if you buy the software figuring you will just reinstall it on your new computer the next year, you may be in for a nasty surprise.

 

Review of Changes in Latest Apple iOS

One of my favorite blogs is iPhone J.D.  It’s the place to turn to for all things Apple, related to the use of the iPhone and iPad by lawyers.  Their recent blog post, “Apple Releases iOS 6.1″ covers every change in the update, with clear screen shots and explanations.  It’s everything you want to know, and more, clearly written.

Should You Upgrade to Windows 8 OS Software?

I never advise clients to be one of the first to deploy a new version of software, unless they’ve been waiting for a bug fix. This is no exception.  From the pushback in the technoworld, it seems that Windows 8 is getting very mixed reviews.  Now I’m not saying it’s a disaster like Vista was.  Nothing Microsoft produces will likely be as bad ever again as Vista was.  But it seems that preliminary reviews indicate there is minimal gain, and the user interface is so dramatically different, extensive training will be required upon deployment.

I believe I read somewhere that Windows 7 will be available only for a limited time before Windows 8 will be forced upon new computer purchasers.  So if you’ve been holding off, you may want to push up your purchase decision while Windows 7 is still an option.  I have to say, Windows 7 has been delightfully reliable since its introduction. 

TechRepublic just released “The Executive’s Guide to Windows 8” which you can get for free by registering with their site.  Then you can make your own informed decision.  (Or you can keep monitoring my blog.  I’ll let you know when the time has arrived.)  But here’s a hint:  TechRepublic did a survey, and found that 74% of businesses have no plans to deploy Windows 8.

Hundreds of Free Security Software Packages

A tip-of-the-hat goes out once again to Gizmo’s Freeware for providing an updated listing of hundreds of free security software packages, along with reviews and live links.

In the past two weeks I have received literally dozens of spoofed emails from alleged Facebook friends, with toxic links inside.  Thankfully, I never click on links, unless it is clear why it has been sent.  I always think it’s worth a simple email asking that question before taking the risk.  But it reminds me regularly what a dangerous computing world we live in.  Which is why this update from Gizmo’s is even more valuable.

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