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On viruses and verification

In the wake of the Heartbleed mayhem, lawyers may be forgiven for not being in any particular frame of mind to embrace new legal tech as part of their daily routine. Yet there are reasons to be cheerful, not least the consoling (but little-known) fact that Heartbleed was not a malicious attack on the part of hackers locked in their mother’s basement, tending to their acne and bent on bringing about global anarchy, but nothing more than a mistake. A fairly calamitous one, to be sure, but an accident of whatever passes for nature in a computer network. When a volunteer software developer applied some code fixes to bugs in the open-source OpenSSL software project, he unwittingly created the Heartbleed virus, which rather like a verruca (sorry) remained unnoticed for some time.

(As an aside, chambers and firms will doubtless have already implemented their Heartbleed security strategies, but if not this WikiHow guide is as good as any, and should be tended to immediately.)

To respond to Heartbleed with a reluctance to engage with the ever-increasing range of tech open to lawyers would be rather like tending to that pesky verruca with an amputated foot, when a dose of Bazuka gel and a rubber sock in the changing rooms was all that was required. Sure, you’d be unlikely to contract that particular virus again, but would be distinctly hobbled.

Undaunted, then, consider the EU’s latest guidance on the use of e-Signatures. eSignatures are intended to replicate the unique nature of a handwritten signature in the electronic world, thus duplicating the security conveyed by the knowledge that a document has been seen, agreed and signed by the intended recipient. It is defined as data in electronic form which is associated with other electronic data, which serves as a method of authentication.

The new regulations – which all EU member states are obliged to implement – should ensure that individuals and organisations should be confident that the use of eSignature technology will be safe and secure, and enhance corporate efficiency. The benefits for legal practitioners and their clients are readily evident, with significantly increased security and confidentiality, and significantly less in the way of frustrating delays.

Those keen to harness every available tool to ensure they provide the best possible service should look to professional litigation support partners such as Legastat, who can advise on how best to ensure their legal practice meets the expectations of the twenty-first century client.

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