This article, another installation of the series exploring and elucidating the inextricable relationship between cloud computing and ethics, addresses and emphasizes the importance of invoking proven and time-tested virtual private network (VPN) software for securing Internet access via the “cloud,” especially when attorneys engage in Internet-based services while away from the presumably safe and secure brick-and-mortar law office environment. Previous articles in the series may be found in GPSolo magazine’s May/June 2017 issue and in the GPSolo eReport’s July 2017 issue, September 2017 issue, November 2017 issue, and March 2018 issue.
Nature of VPN Service
“VPN” is an acronym for Virtual Private Network. VPN service redirects an Internet connection via a series of remote servers operated by a VPN provider so that a selected VPN server becomes a secure takeoff platform for accessing websites. Thus, a VPN enables a user to securely access a private network (e.g., your law firm network or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database) and share retrieved data remotely through public networks (e.g., at a coffee shop, hotel lobby, or airport gate). Analogous to a hardware and/or software firewall isolating law firm data locally on networked computers, a VPN ideally isolates data being stored and being transmitted online as if confined in a heavily walled tunnel, with the contents therein being encrypted throughout. Stated differently, all network traffic between a user’s digital device and the VPN server is directed through a secure, virtually impenetrable tunnel. All data from entry at one end of the virtual tunnel to exit at the other end of the virtual tunnel is encrypted and therefore safe and secure, clearly satisfying attorney ethical duties relevant to safeguarding confidentiality and propriety of client information.