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. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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