The Ashcroft Law Firm is the first law firm in the country to use technology that wards off privacy breaches.
Founded in 2005 by former U.S. Attorney General, Governor and U.S. Senator John Ashcroft, The Ashcroft Law Firm serves some of the world’s most high-profile politicians and Fortune 500 executives through its office in downtown Kansas City.
“Our team has worked with government leaders and corporate executives around the world to respond successfully to some of the most serious security threats, financial crises and litigation challenges of the past two decades,” says Lori Sharpe Day, managing partner for The Ashcroft Law Firm.
To be specific, Ashcroft led more than 122,000 employees at what could be considered the most powerful law firm and law enforcement agency in the world, the U.S. Department of Justice. And he held this position during what could also be considered the most tumultuous years in recent U.S. history. The 9/11 terrorist attacks, the War on Iraq and the Enron and WorldCom scandals all occurred during his tenure from 2001 to 2005.
Day served as director of the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison at the Department of Justice and was one of Ashcroft’s head advisor attorneys while he was attorney general. She also helped develop the department’s policy positions on bankruptcy reform and enforcement, immigration reform and the U.S.A. Patriot Act.
Considering their experience working in the federal realm, not to mention the highly sensitive nature of the matters they discuss with prominent clientele, Ashcroft and Day are keenly aware of the growing need for enhanced security with regard to voice and data communications. “As digital communications become ubiquitous, this increasingly includes the integrity of the information entrusted to us by our clients, and the work we do on their behalf via voice and data communications,” Day says.
That’s what prompted The Ashcroft Law Firm to become a pioneer in the legal community by being the first to implement encryption technology to protect clients’ confidentiality through a strategic partnership with Bethesda, Md.-based KoolSpan, Inc. “Encryption has long been used to protect the information of generals, diplomats and governments,” says KoolSpan CEO Gregg Smith says.
“Today, the same cyber-security threats of unauthorized interception and hacking of voice and data threaten a myriad of organizations,” he continues. “Recent news about increasing threats and privacy breaches, including domestic revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting information about individuals’ communications, have left Americans hyper-aware of the prominence and potential impact of phone and data hacking.”
KoolSpan developed TrustChip, a patented, hardware-based security platform that protects data and voice communications over network-connected devices such as cell phones, office network phones, laptops, tablets, PCs and servers. It’s a self-contained, secure, military-grade microSD encryption engine that serves as the hardware anchor for KoolSpan’s entire suite of secure encryption applications.
In layman’s terms, TrustChip “has the processing power of an early IBM laptop computer with all the encryption built in, so it does the user authentication as well as the key management all in one small chip the size of your fingernail,” Smith explains. “Someone from your IT department can essentially slip a chip into a smartphone, then there are two or three prompts that the chip will have you do and boom – you can be making secure phone calls in a matter of minutes.”
The chip itself has been available in the marketplace for about four years, he adds, but in the past two years, KoolSpan has evolved its product suite to provide turnkey solutions to its clientele, which range from governments to corporate enterprises in more than 50 countries. “We’re involved in a variety of different markets from financial services to aerospace to general consumer goods,” Smith says. “To make a long story short, it’s anyone talking about intellectual property or pricing information.”
Day says The Ashcroft Law Firm selected KoolSpan as its secure applications partner because “the National Institute of Standards and Technology recommended a combined hardware and software solution for data security, and we found that Koolspan had both of those aspects. TrustChip appealed to us from a user standpoint because of its ease of use and the fact that it wouldn’t change the way we were operating, which was important to us.”
She adds that the company began exploring the idea of implementing encryption technology around springtime of this year. In fact, it was in the middle of deploying KoolSpan’s encryption software when news broke of NSA’s privacy violations, so its decision to use TrustChip is therefore “completely unrelated” to the NSA scandal.
“We work with clients in very competitive environments, and we handle very sensitive information,” she explains. “We want them to know we are doing everything we can to protect that information from any nefarious wrongdoers. With the way technology is moving and how every day you’re reading about someone hacking into a proprietary system, we just thought it was prudent to look at what was cutting-edge technology-wise to bring to the firm.”
Smith shares the same sentiment. “If you think about the threat overall, it’s no longer just kids hacking into the government’s computers in his bedroom,” he says. “Really, its other countries – our adversaries – trying to intercept communication. It’s organized crime units utilizing this information for theft. Today, we’re living in a comprehensive and vast threat environment. Every law firm should be leveraging secure messaging and secure voice communications with their customers.”