It won’t happen to me
Cyber horror stories. We share them regularly. The unsuspecting victim receives a “phishing” email. It looks like it’s from a company that already has their data and wants the victim to verify his or her details. The victim visits the verification link contained in the email. He/she is prompted to enter his or her login information into a fake verification form. After obtaining the victim’s ID and password, all hell breaks loose. Other horror stories are less sinister but no less damaging. The PhD student whose thesis is “lost” because it’s not backed up properly and the hard drive dies.
All these stories are the same – about how it went wrong for someone else. When we hear these stories, a part of us believes that those calamities won’t touch us. This confidence is called optimism bias and it is usually a good thing. Despite the possibility of a visit from Murphy, we forge ahead and thrive. Sometimes, this bias is counter-productive – it prevents us from managing risk. The “it won’t happen to me” syndrome can stop us from looking after our own safety.
Unfortunately, these horror stories can also become real for us. Recently, a barrister lost all his data. Thousands of files were eventually recovered, but the file names were not restored. It took nearly three months to manually rename all files. Another barrister lost 14 years of emails due to an operating system that broke down.
These stories are distressing to the individuals concerned. I share them not for shock value, but to turn your attention to cyber security. BCL helped these, and many other barristers, affected by failures of IT hardware and software, those caught in cyber security scams, and those who have made genuine mistakes in clicking on dodgy links or downloading suspect applications, but it sees these issues too often. The restrictions we face during COVID-19 has increased our dependency on technology and there is no better time to manage the risks that such dependence brings. So, BCL has developed a policy that outlines the Bar’s Technology Minimum Standards, so you can review and update your cyber security infrastructure. If you need assistance, please contact the BCL Service Desk on 9225 8888.
If you are uncertain about cyber security, the LPLC and Law & Cyber offer a free one-hour online course which teaches you how to protect yourself from cyber-crime. The LPLC has also produced a Cyber Security Guide for Lawyers, which is a step-by-step guide on how to be cybersafe.
As horror stories go, coronavirus was a little different – in that it happened to everyone. And we fought the villain together. The solidarity of the judiciary, barristers and legal practitioners saved the justice system from grinding to a halt, as we forged a new path through technology. The first four webinars of the Bar’s “In Conversation” series has featured the judiciary discussing how the courts have responded to coronavirus. The Children's Court has also held a webinar, with the President of the Court, Judge Amanda Chambers, and the Chair of the Children's Court Bar Association, Melissa Stead, to discuss the Court’s response. You can view the webinar here with the password CPD1OF2020. The overarching theme of these webinars is that technology formed a solid foundation upon which courts could readjust, innovate and pivot to remote hearings, at least until such time that the world returns to normal.
Many of you have shared some your experiences with remote hearings; they range from seamless to glitchy. However, technology is not a universal remedy and the courts are keen to get back to working as normally as possible, understanding that some restrictions will continue in the foreseeable future. This was reiterated in an ABC report featuring the Chief Magistrate and Sally Flynn QC, and our “In conversation” webinar with the Chief Judge of the County Court covered by Lawyers Weekly. Your stories regarding remote hearings, whether the stuff of ‘horror’ or not, are invaluable to learning from the lessons of the pandemic in the future. A central collection point has been set up by Monash Law and Otago Law where you can anonymously share your story at remotejusticestories.org.
As restrictions ease, it is wonderful to see many of you returning to chambers. In addition to ramping up your cyber security, it also important you maintain your physical safety. It is crucial we all do our part to minimise the spread of COVID-19. To that end, BCL has devised best practice considerations for returning to chambers, which are available here.
I wish everyone a great weekend, and best wishes for planning that first dinner out, haircut, or weekend away, which the Premier has announced will be possible from 1 June.