The words Risk and Benefits sitting on either side of the Scales of Justice.
Encrypted USB flash drives: Cheaper than legal fees

You may have noticed that in our communications, we often discuss the importance of using encrypted USB drives to secure data. A lost USB drive is one of the main causes of data breaches. Breaches are damaging to your reputation and your bank account.

While we have talked about this many times, we have never talked about the cost of preventative encryption compared to the potential cost of hiring a defence barrister after the fact. So, here’s some information to chew on.

Given the amount of data that can be stored on USB drives, the damage caused by a lost or stolen unit can be significant to a company. Factoring in the multiplication effect of where the hacker has access to the data held on the drive, they potentially have access to other critical information that leads them to other locations, which may lead to exponential damage.

A USB drive with hardware-based encryption is an excellent, straightforward, non-complicated solution. Ranging in price from $40 to $600, they are ideal for applications ranging from small-business owners to large companies to non-profits and all branches of government.

Even a higher-priced drive is less costly than paying legal fees if you were to get hacked and found yourself facing legal action.

A defendant and lawyer sitting at a desk looking frustrated

According to lawyers.com*, in most civil cases, a lawyer will be paid under one (or a combination) of the following fee arrangements:

  • hourly rate
  • flat fee
  • retainer
  • contingency fee

Hourly rates, the site says, are the most common. Under that arrangement, the lawyer is paid an hourly rate for their time working on your issue or case. The butcher’s bill can be larger or smaller depending on the nature of the data breach. Was it a fairly clear-cut breach that won’t be time intensive, or a compliance matter that will need to be investigated, reported and the affected parties notified? If the latter, the hours will quickly mount.

A lawyer's hourly rate is based on their experience, area of expertise and their practice location. For example, lawyers in small towns are likely to charge $100-$200 per hour, versus lawyers in large cities who are likely to charge $200-$400 per hour. Lawyers with expertise in specialised areas – such as digital law, international law, HIPAA – tend to charge even more.

When it comes to a professional like a lawyer, a lower hourly rate isn’t necessarily better. Though a more experienced or specialised lawyer might be more expensive per hour, they may be able to handle your issue more quickly, saving you money overall. Also, a lawyer who has experience with digital law, privacy violations or other specialised issues will be able to provide you with a better estimate of what this matter is likely to cost to resolve.

Where a legal matter is simple and well-defined, lawyers typically charge a flat fee, according to lawyers.com. If a lawyer suggests a flat fee, be sure you understand exactly what that fee will and will not cover, as it might not include expenses such as filing fees.

Kingston Ironkey USB flash drives

Rest assured that whatever the flat fee is, it’s more than likely costlier than what multiple hardware-encrypted USB drives would have cost and quite possibly could have saved a company from being hacked. However, you agree to pay or be charged. Unless the lawyer is your fresh-out-of-university brother-in-law, in all likelihood, his or her services won't be cheap.

A patent-protected hardware-centric/software-free encryption approach to data security is the best defence against data loss. With a multitude of USB drive options for a multitude of use cases, there are clearly more pros, if any cons at all, for a company to put the right security measures and best practices in place as early as possible. Your company can institute a culture of data security early in its lifespan, instead of learning the hard way after the fact.

Dealing with legal fees for protecting your company in data-breach legal suits will cost you more than just money: the reputational damage may ultimately be more than your company can recover from.

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