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Encrypt client communicationwith portal technology

‘Solicitors and their clients are targets of a new wave of fraud’ according to the Sunday Times,February 15th 2015. The article, ‘Who really sent that email?’ highlights the case of increasingly sophisticated tactics used by con artists to delete, intercept and impersonate law firms to steal money. Banks are increasingly taking a hard line, saying that they cannot be held responsible for the lack of security on client email accounts and this is a problem that is on the rise. The number of scam alerts issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority relating to emails is already almost double that of last year so what should law firms be doing to protect themselves and their clients from fraudsters?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has already said that sensitive personal data should not be transmitted by email unless encrypted to current standards but many professional firms including Solicitors and IFAs are still not encrypting email communication. Best practice advice from the ICO recommends: ‘Protection cannot be left to chance and it is no longer enough to do only the bare minimum necessary to comply with the law: proper safeguards have to be built in from the first principles, not bolted on inadequately as, an afterthought.’

New EU Data Protection Regulations are to be introduced this year and the prognosis is for tougher sanctions with fines of up to 2% of turnover. This could have a significant impact on firms that make mistakes.

Secure client communication

One option is not to use email at all and use a secure portal for document exchange that encrypts every item of data going back and forwards to the highest levels as used by the FBI, Government and Banks. Not only is the data encrypted during transmission, all files and data are encrypted in storage in the Cloud making it impossible for hackers to penetrate.

Like Solicitors, Accountants are bound by a duty of client confidentiality and they are increasingly turning to portals to ensure all electronic communication is secure.

Alison Jackson, Director, Lindenhouse Software
Alison Jackson, Director, Lindenhouse Software

The firm, Connollys Accountants, installed an electronic document management and portal solution in response to growing security issues. Declan Connolly, Managing Partner said: “We used to send returns by email but with the tightening of the data protection laws, we considered it vital for the practice to implement portals to ensure all information is encrypted to the highest levels and there is no possibility that our client’s confidential financial information can fall into the wrong hands.”

Use of a portal guarantees that both the firms’ and clients’ documents are completely secure with full traceability, audit trail and compliance.Users are able to publish documents to an individual notifying them via an email address. The document is securely uploaded to the Cloud and an email notification sent to the client advising them that there is a document for their attention and they can access and view documents published to them via the portal website.

It is possible to carry out a range of actions including approve, change the status of, and respond to portal documents. This rapidly becomes second nature allowing digital/electronic signatures to provide a seamless end-to-end sign off process.

Laurence Moore, chairman, Prime Accountants in Coventry is a member of the IT Faculty of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and takes security very seriously. He says: “It had been too easy for us to send emails to clients and attach documents without taking security measures. Now we have the portal in place, electronic document exchange is the default.”

“The portal is part of our strategy to embrace technology and it is a strong differentiator. It’s important to be up to speed and one step ahead. The electronic exchange of documents allows us to be consistent and to provide a standardised approach to client service.”

While fraudsters, are constantly on the look out for ways of intercepting and impersonating firms’ emails, the securing of client communication cannot be left to chance. Use of a document portal guarantees that both the firm’s and client’ documents are completely secure with complete traceability, full auditing and compliance.

Author, Alison Jackson, Director, Lindenhouse Software: one of the UK’s leading developers of electronic document management software for industry and commerce. Their Virtual Cabinet solution (www.virtualcabinet.co.uk) is the preferred document management & portal solution of 27 of the top 100 accounting firms and combines industry strength document management with secure client communication and the electronic sign-off of documents through an integrated portal. The No.1 Portal in the industry serves over 100,000 users and ensures they are ready for the increased scrutiny of new EU Data Protection Laws. Compliance risks are minimised, the client approval process is accelerated and administration costs are reduced.