Minutes of meeting - the Law Society's governance website

10.30am 21 April 2005
Kenneth Byass, Nicholas Bohm, Steve Kelway, Julian Boardman-Weston, Denis
Cameron (telelink)
Robert Bond
Minutes of last E-Law Committee Meeting and Matters Arising.
The minutes of the last meeting were agreed.
Security for e-Conveyancing
Nicholas outlined the Land Registry’s document authentication
prototype pilot to the committee. He explained that it applied to elodgement — which not that many were using — and that only those
participating in the pilot could sign digitally.
Security consultancy for the smaller firm
Dr Simon Davey (ICT consultant) explained some of the security risks
faced by SMEs and the voluntary sector.
He said that just over 80% of charities were using anti-virus software
but that only 55% installed a firewall. He emphasised the need to
install a firewall particularly when using an ASDL (broadband) internet
connection. He also pointed out that anti-virus software needed to be
updated daily to remain effective and often this did not happen.
Password protection was also of serious concern. A recent experiment
at Waterloo railway station had exposed the willingness of commuters
to divulge their passwords to researchers conducting a bogus survey
(with the aim of seeing if they could secure passwords).
Even if passwords were not voluntarily disclosed, easily guessable or
attached to computers with 'stick-it' notes, most were susceptible to
dictionary attacks.
He pointed out that many types of fraud were not prevented by the
use of a digital signature and suggested that users should be aware
that the loss of a PGP private key could mean loss of access to
encrypted documents.
A range of support could be offered to small law firms.
Tailored guidance. An issue was 'have it perfect or have it by
Thursday'. For the small firm, his advice would be 'keep it
Approved suppliers for small firms. How does a small firm
identify value for money from a prospective IT supplier? One
way might be to have, for instance, a directory of IT
consultants who had passed competency checks.
Engage through understanding. Help to increase small firms'
understanding of the business and technical environment
within which IT security measures had to be taken.
Create the right climate. Within the voluntary sector this had
meant creating bodies that were only now getting fully up-tospeed with ICT.
He concluded by suggesting that promoting security to small firms was
a matter of engaging their interest or their fear.
The Committee explored the question of how to engage small firms. In
particular, how was it possible to get a small firm interested in the IT
security problem if: (a) it did not have specialist IT staff and (b) its
finances were extremely tight?
Discussion ensued about awareness raising and the possibility that
some parts of the profession might never take proper IT security
precautions unless they were compelled to do so.
There was further discussion about what practical advice — in the
form of guidelines — might be offered by the Society to the profession.
The e-mail guidelines were one example. Were there others?
Commercial products for e-mail security
Sebastian Stoughton outlined his company's e-mail security product
for law firms.
He proposed that the biggest e-mail risk faced by law firms was
sending an e-mail to the wrong person; the problem was compounded
by not being able to recall an e-mail once it had been sent. He cited a
firm that had lost £6m by sending an e-mail to the wrong 'John Smith'.
He also suggested that most lawyers and their clients simply did not
realise just how insecure e-mail is. If they did, he felt sure they would
apply security measures of the kind offered by Legal eSafe.
The Legal eSafe product addresses the problems of misdirection and
insecurity through a web-based e-mail solution. Some of its
characteristics were that it did not require a change of existing e-mail
addresses, clients required no special software, if messages had not
been picked up their recall was guaranteed, messages were time and
date stamped and it could be used in hostile environments — that is, it
left no record on the browser after use. Product security was based on
the Secure Software Layer (SSL) protocol.
Jon Penney (Intellect – Certified PGP Solution Partner)
Jon outlined the basic principles of symmetric and asymmetric
encryption explaining that the former was much faster (by a factor of
1e4) than the latter but that obviously key distribution was a problem.
PGP as a hybrid cryptosystem solved this problem by using
asymmetric encryption for key distribution and symmetric encryption
for ensuing communications.
He then gave a brief history of PGP from its publication by Phil
Zimmerman in 1991 to the foundation of the new PGP Corporation in
Jon then explained the PGP vision (pervasiveness, use of PKI
infrastructure to deliver benefits that PKI cannot and Open Standards)
and he took the committee through a number of PGP products
including PGP command line, PGP desktop and PGP universal. He
said that PGP 9.0 was due to be released shortly.
Proposal to form an E-Law Security Working Group
The committee engaged in broad discussion on the presentations they
had seen. They concluded that online security can be achieved in a
number of ways but that a practical way forward - particularly in
relation to the Land Registry's current authentication pilot - might be
the formation of a working group. This would explore options to meet
the profession’s security needs and might, in due course, lead to the
publication of a consultation paper.
AOB and Next Meeting
The next scheduled meeting of the E-Law Committee would be on 30