The challenge of cybersecurity in law firms is becoming a serious issue, as highly sensitive electronic legal data becomes a target for cyber attacks. The rate of evolution of these cyber threats is quite high, leaving many law firms and legal departments at the risk of losing their reputation as well as their client’s data.
Legal firms, Chambers and legal departments have access to organisations’ valuable internal data, such as confidential information, financial and legal intelligence, intellectual property, and potentially even military and government secrets. However, very few have put necessary cyber security measures in place to protect data from the attack – and many can be breached. Law firms may even be a weak link between the companies they represent and cyber criminals.
Several scenarios in the past few years confirm this. US firm DLA Piper law was a notable victim of cyber attack. In 2017, the firm experienced a ransomware attack which put the firm’s data at risk of deletion, potentially leading to total data loss. This forced the firm to shut down digital operations, including the use of email, for over a week and costing the company 15,000 hours of work.
Mossack Fonseca, formerly one of the top-five offshore law firms globally, was forced to close after its database was hacked. “The Panama Papers” were released in 2018, exposing 11.5 million files with data on more than 210,00 companies. While Mossack Fonseca was likely involved in opaque transactions, this still indicates just how big a target law firms have become for hackers. They will continue to creatively devise more threats - for financial or commercial gain, political or ideological reasons, and even on a lower level by small-time hackers, trolls and digital jokers.
Most of these threats, if left unaddressed, can cause irrevocable damage to a thriving firm. While attacks can be dealt with the right strategies and technologies, simply not knowing what and where your weak points are and how to address them may increase your chances of falling prey to criminals. At the most basic level your employees should all be aware of potential issues and understand how their own actions might affect the cyber security of thir company.
A study by GlobalX and the Australian Legal Practise Management Association (ALPMA) found that a third of law firms in Australia are not investing in cybersecurity training, and only 21% are confident they could handle a cyber attack.
There are both internal and external threats, which include:
1. Phishing of email accounts
Cybercriminals can use phishing techniques to gain access to email accounts.
2. The absence of a prevalent security mindset
It is unfortunate that cybersecurity breaches in law firms are mostly caused by the lack of a security-oriented mindset. Despite the existence of so many cybersecurity technologies, most law firm management has not prioritized them as a means of data protection thus tend to be hit hard when an attack happens.
This is malicious software designed to steal data from a computer or a network and release it after a ransom payment.
4. Data leakage
This can happen due to poor cybersecurity policies, unintentional exposure by employees, poor password management, rogue employees, as well as hacking.
5. Outdated technology.
Better digital security comes with the advancement of technology. Very old computer systems may not support modern digital securities leading to poor security.
Security Measures to be taken by Law Firms
With so many digital attacks prevalent to our law firms today, it goes without saying that it’s more than important for every law firm to employ an equally strong digital security. Below is a list of essential measures to be taken by law firms to uphold the security of their data.
1. Create cybersecurity policies and procedures
To enhance digital security in any law firm, well-defined cybersecurity implementation policies are needed to ensure all data is protected. Additionally, law firms should carry out employees training on how to remain protected.
2. Develop preventative measures
Law firms and legal departments should put in place a comprehensive preventative infrastructure that is fully dedicated to cybersecurity. Both small and large law firms and departments can achieve this by outsourcing.
3. Obtain cyber insurance
Cyber insurance, or rather an incident response plan, is very important in case the unexpected happens. While this does not assure total normalcy, it makes recovery more manageable.
The bottom line is that digital security in law firms cannot be dismissed anymore and you should take action before it is too late.
If your firm or department doesn’t have a plan in place, or up-to-date training or technology to guard against cyber attack, contact SBA Legal to find out how we can help you.