The most critical cybersecurity issues faced by law firms today

Like other sectors, law firms face significant cyber security challenges as they adopt digital technologies and digital workflows. Data breaches aren't only costly and complex to manage; they could result in considerable reputation damage. So what are the urgent cyber security issues facing law practices today and what can firms do to secure their systems?

3 major cybersecurity vulnerabilities legal firms face
 
1. Staff error can lead to data breaches
 
Incidental actions of your staff could be as likely, if not more so, to lead to external security attacks. What your employees do or fail to do could expose your firm to serious risk
For example, phishing attacks are a common type of attack that uses genuine-looking emails to trick staff members into providing their login credentials or clicking on a link. Phishers can gain access to your firm's email network, virtual private network, and other systems.
 
Lost drives and devices are another potential vulnerability for law firms, and more generally human error and unintentional disclosure.
 
Real-life cases of technical failures leading to damaging disclosure and failed destruction of data underscore the significance of human error or unintentional disclosure as a vulnerability point.
 
2. Malware and ransomware attacks
 
Other types of attacks include gaining control of your browser to launch malware or ransomware on your machine or gaining access to your lawyers' computers when they use public Wi-fi networks.
 
3. Insider sabotage
 
You could have insider sabotage, such as disgruntled employees stealing data for blackmail or to start their own practice.

The consequences of data breaches
 
Legal practices could be subject to ethical or compliance issues if they fail to take adequate measures to protect data. The risk of litigation by clients is another possibility.
 
Why legal firms are an attractive target for hackers
 
Law firms are compelling targets for malicious attacks because their networks are a deep, rich source of confidential, sensitive information ranging from healthcare and financial data to business, patents, and trade secrets. Law firms access and store some of their clients' most sensitive data, and it might not matter whether the firm is a large or a small practice.
 
Merger plans, litigation strategy, and other highly sensitive information could be stolen. The client data your firm stores could be attractive to hackers acting for businesses seeking a commercial advantage by stealing data on law firms' clients.
 
For example Chinese hackers from the espionage group APT-19 hacked an Australian research body, amongst many other international organisations, something the The Australian Cyber Security Centre believes is achieved by taking advantage of lack of technology knowledge or security infrastructure gaps.
 
Malicious attacks against law firms have the added advantage - from the hacker's perspective - of being inexpensive to execute while providing a quick and valuable return. This could be in the form of ransomware and blackmail - paid through untraceable cryptocurrency in exchange for returning control over your system. Or the hacker might threaten data exposure unless you pay. Ultimately, accessing your system is worth money in some way.
 
Firms like DLA Piper have been subject to costly, disruptive malware attacks, while Wiley Rein was attacked for commercial information relating to one of its clients. Other prominent firms that have been targeted include Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Weil Gotshal & Manges. Locally, several Queensland law firms have lost millions of dollars thanks to email scams targeting trust money or settlement funds.
 
9 practices legal firms can use to protect their data
 
Experts warn lawyers will increasingly be targeted by hackers, so what should legal practices do now to minimise the risks?

1. Train staff to be security savvy 

Lawyers and employees are typically the weakest link in a practice.  95% of all security incidents involve human error, so boost cyber security awareness. Educate staff about cyber crime, identity theft, social engineering, malware, safe browsing, Wi-fi security, and mobile security. Make staff realise cyber security is a firm-wide problem, not just an issue for the IT department.

2. Policy and training 

Clear policies and training are great ways to help staff shift to a cyber-risk-aware culture. Include information access control levels or privilege management in your cyber-security policies, so you're only granting access on an as-required basis. Make sure your data-storage measures include encryption, physical security, and data-corruption prevention.

3. Passwords and two factor authentication 

Require complex passwords and two-factor authentication as a baseline standard for accessing accounts.

4. Preventative tools 

Have up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software on all devices and schedule automatic updates. Use other preventative tools like firewalls, phishing protection, email encryption, device encryption, and directory security.

5. Backups 

Backing up all your data to a third-party server could enhance security and protect you against total data loss in the event of an attack.

6. Software as a service (SaaS) options 

Explore SaaS options that let your firm affordably outsource cyber-security needs to third parties. For example, offsite servers with encryption could be an improvement on anything you maintain in-house. At the same time, make sure you undertake regular third-party risk management if you're relying on third-party vendors.

7. Bring your own devices (BYOD) 

Have a BYOD policy in place so employees working on their own devices are accessing data in a secure manner. You can also require certain software to be installed so users can only access certain apps, services, and sites. Balance accessibility with data security best practice.

8. Response plan 

Have an incident response plan so you're ready in case a data or network breach occurs. Your response plan should be designed to help you recover quickly and minimise loss during the chaos, and it should be reviewed regularly. Appoint an internal team of staff who are responsible for dealing with breaches so there's ownership of the plan.

9. Network security 

Prioritise network security by integrating not only firewalls and antivirus software but also other intrusion prevention systems according to your firm's unique threats, vulnerabilities, and risks. Work with your IT staff to continually monitor, test, and enhance your network security.
 
Bolster your firm’s cyber security with Kiandra IT’s security solutions
 
Law firms might be especially vulnerable when it comes to sensitive, confidential data and attracting the interest of hackers. For this reason it's critical that legal practices implement a combination of measures to protect and secure client data. By addressing everything from staff education to network security, you could reduce the risk of compromised systems and data.
 
To learn more about security solutions for your organisation get in touch with the expert team at Kiandra IT. We can identify all the potential threats your business faces and secure your data against them. Get in touch today.