Bloomsbury Law Online

Articles filed under Technology

Hacker Firewall by Christoph Scholz

Encryption is a way of making data secure, so that it can only be accessed by authorised parties. Cryptographic techniques are used to render information unintelligible to any third parties whilst it is being stored on an electronic device such as a laptop or smartphone, or during its transit from sender to recipient over the internet or other types of computer network.

There are many techniques of encryption but the main principles are as follows:

  • Unencrypted data is referred to as “plaintext”.
  • Plaintext is encrypted using an algorithm known as a “cipher”.
  • The algorithm also generates a pseudo-random encryption “key”.
  • Once plaintext has been encrypted it is known as “ciphertext”.
  • The ciphertext is unreadable and can only be deciphered (ie converted back to plaintext) with the symmetric (private) or asymmetric (public) key which was previously generated by the algorithm.
  • End to end encryption means that data which passes through a company’s servers (eg WhatsApp) can only be read by the sender and recipient and cannot be accessed or interfered with by the company handling the data.

virtual reality girl

The basic idea of virtual reality (VR) is to create a computer generated environment which someone can experience and explore, through the use of a headset (incorporating vision and sound) and sometimes other input devices (eg haptic gloves) which allow them to manipulate their virtual surroundings. The concept of a computer simulated reality is nothing new and experiments with VR systems were already being carried out in the late 60s (eg The Sword of Damocles). Advances in technology during the late 80s and early 90s led to an increasing cultural awareness of VR through films such as Lawnmower Man – and the rise of computer games prompted more companies to attempt to create a device which could be used in the same way as a home console. But progress was slow, with a trailblazing attempt by Sega in 1993 terminated, officially due to fears that users could injure themselves by moving around due to the “reality” of the headset (although perhaps more to do with limited processing power and reports of testers developing headaches and motion sickness). However, although it struggled to take off as a consumer device, VR systems have been used for many years for training in certain professions: teaching pilots to fly, police officers to shoot and surgeons to operate.

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch October 2016. Legal Web Watch is a free email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

Namecoin party fever

A blockchain is literally a chain of blocks of data recording transactions, connected using digital, cryptographic signatures. Confusingly, blockchain technology is often referred to simply as “Blockchain” (with cap B) or as “the blockchain” (with the definite article prepended). No doubt this usage stems from its initially unique and most widely-known application as the technology behind Bitcoin which was the inspiration for subsequent implementations (which are sometimes known as altchains).

driverless car

Advances in electronics and computing have gradually been automating various driving functions over several decades, introducing intelligent systems such as ABS and traction control and the more novel automated parking features. However, although Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab project experimented with the idea of a truly autonomous car back in the 80s, the spectre of a roadworthy car which drives itself has remained in the realm of science fiction – until recently. Over recent years, Google has been regularly making the headlines with its self-driving car project, which applies a range of sensors (lasers, radars and cameras) along with powerful computing software and extensive mapping to enable customised vehicles to drive themselves on public roads, safely transporting passengers from A to B.

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch December 2015. Legal Web Watch is a free monthly email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

Image: By Saad Faruque on Flickr.

It is now nearly 20 years ago since my book Legal Practice in the Digital Age was first published. The book’s central theme was that despite all the money law firms were spending on technology in those days, most of this money (money which might otherwise be going to partners) was being spent on the wrong stuff.

What law firms were spending their money on back then were mainly inward-facing, back office administrative systems, such accounts, practice management, wordprocessing and document management systems. Whereas what they should have been spending their money on were outward-looking, client-facing systems … in other words systems that could help deliver a better legal service experience to their clients.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones, generally refer to aircraft without an on-board pilot, which are controlled remotely or by computer software. Originally the preserve of the military carrying out surveillance or deploying bombs, drones have been adapted for a wide range of uses in all kinds of industries including agriculture, security and law enforcement, film production, journalism, medicine and scientific research. With the dawn of mass produced inexpensive drones, these flying cameras have now become extremely popular amongst consumers, both for purposes of photography and simply for fun; kites 2.0!

Richmond Chambers LLP is an award-winning, innovative partnership of specialist immigration barristers. Authorised by the SRA as the first barrister-only ABS in July 2013, our members share a core commitment to providing high quality immigration law advice and representation directly to the public.

Following the introduction of the public access scheme for immigration work in April 2010, we witnessed an increasing demand for immigration law advice and representation directly from a barrister. However, we were also aware of the weaknesses of the traditional chambers model insofar as direct access work was concerned.

As barristers in independent practice, we were limited by our own capacity. We lacked the technical and administrative capability to effectively deliver legal advice and representation to more than a few clients at any one time.

Having put an appropriate business structure in place, our thoughts therefore quickly turned to technology as a way of delivering improved efficiencies. We wanted to explore how the internet could improve our administration and marketing, drive up standards of client care, enable our barristers to collaborate more effectively with both clients and paralegals and operate a paperless chambers. And, we wanted to achieve all of this as cost-effectively as possible.

The first incarnation of wearable technology consisted of the calculator watches which were popular in the 1980s. Mainly produced by Casio, these were mass marketed and relatively cheap but came to be seen as tacky. Aside from telling the time and calculating sums, functionality often included stop watches, countdown timers, a multitude of alarms, phone number storage and later versions could even act as remote controls.

While any discussions about legal technology inevitably have a strong focus on what sort of technology law firms and legal service providers should be buying and how best to then handle the rollout to get lawyers actually using it, the issue of how to pay for it tends to be ignored.

Legal Web Watch is a free monthly email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

This month: The web at 25 and an internet bill of rights; disruptive technology; Big Law – tech laggards; Delia’s legal web picks.