Firms target of e-mail scams

November 23, 2009
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Law firms are being warned that they are the target of “spear phishing” e-mails. The FBI sent out an advisory last week which said that it believed hackers were targeting U.S. law firms and public relations firms.

The hackers are spear phishing – sending unwanted e-mails that appear to be from someone the recipient knows. Traditional phishing e-mails are usually easily identified because they are from names you don’t recognize, or even random characters strung together.

By doing this, it’s more likely for someone to open the message and then click on the links attached. Of course, we know it’s the links that are the dangerous part of phishing scams and the FBI says clicking on the link or opening the attachment will launch a self-executing file. That file, “through a variety of malicious processes,” will attempt to download another file, according to the advisory. The attachments aren’t always .exe files, which are typically some kind of software or program, but may appear to be zip files or photos.

The FBI doesn’t say what info the hackers are looking for or how badly a firm’s computer system and information could be compromised. In fact, there’s apparently no reliable way to know whether the incoming message is a scam.

The lesson for firms: if you are unsure of the e-mail, better safe than sorry in clicking on any links or opening attachments. Perhaps a phone call to the alleged sender would also help clear up any confusion.

Also, how much is too much information put on computer networks? With the push to reduce paperwork, information that was once housed in the firm is now potentially available to anyone with the means of hacking into the system. Law firms contain a mountain of personal information – both on employees and clients. Breaking into a firm’s data system could be a hacker’s dream.

Any firms here in Indiana receive these spear phishing e-mails? How often do you receive scam e-mails and how can you tell if they are real?
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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