Affinity Consulting Blog

Last summer we published a series of three articles on how a lawyer can use a cheap Google Chromebook as part of his/her law practice. Last year's articles focused on the relatively low-powered Samsung Chromebook with an ARM processor similar to what you find in cell phones and tablets. Late last year, several companies released new Chromebooks featuring the latest dual core Intel Celeron processors based on the Haswell architecture. These processors offer more processing power and extended battery life.

One of the new models is the HP Chromebook 14. As the name implies, it is larger than most Chromebooks with its 14 inch screen. Although less portable than last year's Samsung Chromebook, its added power and comfortable screen size can make it a more well-rounded travel companion for the mobile lawyer.

This is probably the simplest, but most effective, Word tip ever. It can be summarized in one word - Templates! It is amazing how many Word users in law firms don't use templates to create new documents. Instead, they use the very risky process of opening an old documents used in another matter, modify it for the new matter, and select File>Save As. Please, DON"T DO IT! Instead, read this month's Word tip.

Change is hard. We know that. But seriously, Windows XP was released in late 2001. That was more than a dozen years ago. Forget about dog years, in tech years, that is ancient history. It isn't that XP wasn't good in its day. But its day was long ago.

Many lawyers and law firm staff are dedicated users of Microsoft's desktop office suite (as traditionally purchased software or via the high-value Office 365 subscription). However, most are not aware of the completely free web-based version of Office. Although it has been around for a while, Microsoft has until now given it a low profile (under its previous name, Office Web Apps). And that was unfortunate because Office Online has a lot to offer. It is a full cloud-based office suite that is a worthy competitor to the better-known Google Docs.

On Friday, February 21st, Apple released a seemingly innocuous update to their iOS operating system, update 7.0.6. You should be forgiven for not thinking much of this. Most 0.0.x updates fix minor bugs addressing specific user situations. For example, 7.0.5 was not even released to iOS users outside of China since the fixes and updates in that release were Chinese-specific. Update 7.0.6 is dramatically different from previous 0.0.x updates.

Despite the minor-update version number, iOS 7.0.6 fixes a critical flaw in iOS security related to accessing secure websites, like your bank. If you’re running any version of iOS 7 prior to 7.0.6 or a version of iOS 6 prior to 6.1.6, this bug effects your iPhone and iPad. The respective updates are free and can be applied directly from your iDevice by going to Settings > General > Software Update. Download and install any available updates.

Background on the Flaw

You should apply the update; no question about it. If you’re interested in the background of what the flaw means, keep reading.

The flaw existing in iOS prior to 7.0.6 and 6.1.6 effects how the operating system and apps handle secure connections over https connections; again, like your bank, online shopping, secure email, etc. These https connections rely on protocols called SSL and TLS. When your device reaches out to make a secure connection with a web service, the service and your device perform what programmers call a “handshake” to negotiate how they’re going to talk to one another. The iOS flaw allows a nefarious third party to intercept your communication with the web service and read all of the traffic going each way. In security parlance, this is called a “man in the middle” attack because the bad actor inserts himself into the middle of your conversation for purposes of stealing passwords or other confidential data

If you’d like more technical details on the vulnerability, here are some excellent resources:

Final Note

For those of you who, in addition to using iPhones and iPads., also use Macs, there’s an additional bit of bad news. The same flaw that iOS suffers also exists in Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks, the latest release of Apple’s operating system. Versions of Mac OS prior to 10.9 are unaffected. There is also a patch for Mac OS, update 10.9.2, which addresses this vulnerability. You should apply it as soon as possible. For those not updating immediately, it’s our advice for users of 10.9 and 10.9.1 to rely on Chrome or FireFox instead of Safari for web browsing, and to avoid unsecured wireless networks (although that last bit is always and everywhere good advice).

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