Saturday, January 20, 2007

Doing Good AND Keeping up with the Joneses

While updating some of the items I lost from a personal blog after Google switched me over to the wonderful New Blogger, I discovered an interesting new device that not only fills a vital community need, it also alerted me to another new twist on relatively new technology worthy of your review both as a parent and as a lawyer.

By now, virtually everyone with access to a tv, radio, computer or car is aware of the numerous implementations of the "Amber Alert." The Amber Alert system is primarily used to alert the general public when children have been abducted or are missing. Amber Alert tickers are available for desktops and also for websites and blogs. While looking for the code to re-install the ticker, I discovered that the some group also offers for sale an Amber Alert USB Flash Drive, that is being marketed as the Amberstick and is specifically designed to store vital statistics of family members so that such information can be made immediately available to law enforcement personnel.

According to the website, the Amberstick is password protected and encrypted (for reasons hopefully obvious to all). Since the device works as a typical flash drive, not only can you store the vital statistics fro each member of your family, you can also include three .jpg formatted pictures of each family member. Since the Amberstick is USB 1.1 and 2.0 compatible, transferring information to law enforcement is as simple as plugging the drive into the patrol car computer.

The interesting twist is that the Amberstick comes pre-loaded with proprietary software allowing the drive to be used interchangeably with any compatible PC. This allows ease of transfer of data between computers as it is not necessary for the software to reside on a new host computer. One of the functions of the software is that it allows for the instant creation of fliers (which, if printed or converted to a .pdf can be emailed anywhere, anytime).

How then, do we make the Evel Knievel jump from the Amberstick to bankruptcy lawyers? Over the last year, most bankruptcy lawyers only started to become vaguely aware of the existence of the flash drive, and within the last several months have started to consider the possibility that "books and records" of the estate, discoverable data, or even proprietary data might be stored, hidden, or smuggled via means of a flash drive.

The Amberstick embodies the next logical use of a flash drive, as a self-contained software and data delivery device (is there a cigarette-shaped flash drive on the market yet?). The growing list of things that keep litigation associates awake at night included flash-drives as of yesterday. Tonight, the sweat drenched pillow stays moist a little longer after considering more "advanced" application for the flash drive.

In a commercial bankruptcy context, this "active" flash drive should not be viewed solely as another single type of computer-gizmo, but rather another important piece of the digital enterprise. Does the prospective debtor utilize an active, pre-loaded flash drive such as this? If so, might its use result in changes on a host computer, or a server, or a tape backup that will impact preservation? Does the soon-to-be DIP issue active flash drives to employees, and if so, what data is on those drives? Does the DIP possess an active flash drive containing proprietary software from a vendor? What happens if a competitor, a member of the creditor's committee, or a litigation attorney from the US Attorney's office gets hold of the drive? In such an instance, the data (and the software necessary to access the data) are only as secure as the password is strong. If password protection is defeated, or if a disgruntled employee posts the password on his blog, the software and the data might as well be written on the men's room wall at the nearest pub.

Pen drives, flash drives, iPods, portable hard drives... from a lawyer's perspective, they should all be suspect not only as a passive storage area for existing data, but also as the getaway car for a self-contained software package.

From a parent's perspective, the Amberstick is a great idea. So much so that, the first reader who can locate and identify the nearest BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) chapter to him or her, will receive a free Amberstick. Winner determined by timestamp and by accuracy of response, so you might want to email your response rather than simply responding directly to this post. Happy hunting.

1 comment:

Ann Kalani said...

Sacramento, CA BACA :)