Why cybersecurity is more important than ever
Law firms are a treasure trove of sensitive data, which can be exploited by criminals for personal gain. The wealth of confidential client information related to major lawsuits could be worth millions to the opposite side, and loss of that data would result in detrimental damage to your firm’s reputation. Law businesses also have access to accounts that can hold substantial sums of client money, that’s attractive to a criminal. With digital defences often low in this industry, even larger law firms can fall victim to scams and hacking if the proper protection isn’t in place.
According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, 75% of firms visited reported that they’d been the victim of a cyber attack, and for over 20 of those targeted directly, more than £4m in client money was stolen. The report also found that one-quarter of firms aren’t encrypting their laptops, and over half had allowed unrestricted use of external data storage media. As cybercriminals become more sophisticated in their efforts, law firms need to take more dedicated action in protecting their businesses and client data.
Why the pandemic has heightened the risks
As more professionals work from home — first introduced as a reaction to the pandemic but now in response to employee demand — the risks to sensitive information and client data are larger. Due to the nature of the information law firms hold, it’s vital that staff are more on the ball and protective over who has access to computer systems and laptops. Yet it’s all too easy to walk away from a computer when you’re at home or working from a coffee shop, where information can quickly fall into the wrong hands, intentionally or otherwise.
Common threats that law firms face
It should go without saying that not only will a cyber attack cause stress to your workforce and add extra time needed to fix the problems caused, but it will also cause irreparable reputational damage. As world-renowned investor Warren Buffet once said “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it”, and that couldn’t be more true of businesses affected by poor cybersecurity measures. Knowing the most pertinent issues and threats can help companies in this industry stay prepared and protected.
Data breaches are one of the most common, with 82% of data breaches actually the result of human error. They occur when employees are either not paying enough attention or when they lack the education to spot a potential scam. Phishing attacks are also a problem, in many industries including law. Perpetrators are adept at hiding malicious links in emails and it’s a trap that many people can fall for.
Law firms have also been the victims of ransomware attacks, which are common because of the large sums of money being handled in larger cases. It’s the most aggressive form of cybercrime and enables criminals to infiltrate a business and lock away their most valuable data until a ransom is paid. Many businesses that get hit with ransomware attacks are hit again with subsequent attacks, and almost half find that some, if not all, of the data they retrieve is corrupted.
How to mitigate the risks
Many of the mistakes made by law firms over the years when it comes to cybersecurity have been well documented, but rather than experience it for yourselves, get prepared and protected now before an incident occurs. There are several ways to do this, helping you to secure your clients’ data and avoid a costly attack.
Continually reassess your policies and controls
Every law firm needs a robust cybersecurity policy in place, yet so many neglect this vital area which leaves them vulnerable. Staying ahead of threats and responding before it achieves its objectives is the trick to preventing a significant incident, helping your firm to respond effectively in the event of a threat alert. Already have a policy for your business? It should be reassessed regularly and new controls implemented as technology and threats evolve, so you’re always one step ahead. Having a protocol to follow in the event of a threat can really focus your decision-making in times of need, which impacts your loss and recovery.
Keep security training up to date
Cybersecurity training isn’t a one-and-done situation. As new people join the team, technology evolves and new threats become an issue, your training and education need to adapt. So many law firms neglect to train their staff on the risks and what to do in different situations, but it makes it more challenging to respond appropriately and mitigate those risks altogether.
Training also helps firms to sign off on competency statements and implement the right data protection regulations that can prevent them from breaching guidelines and incurring heavy penalties. Putting the proper data security and protection policies in place, as well as training staff properly and regularly is reassuring. It also serves as proof that everyone in the team is capable of acting in the best interests of the clients and their assets.
Don’t neglect mobile devices
Mobile devices may be convenient and enable law professionals to work from anywhere, but they’re also a haven for security mistakes. As such, endpoint protection has to cover mobile and IoT devices. A good practice is to include anti-virus software and two-factor authentication for any sensitive interactions, but also regular backing up of data and having specific cybercrime insurance in place. Staff should also be reminded regularly of the importance of using VPNs and logging off when the devices aren’t being used so they can’t be accessed by other people.
Make cybersecurity a priority
With cybersecurity fast becoming a risk to businesses, it’s a law firm’s responsibility to safeguard the business against any attacks and not solely rely on the IT team to do all the work. Whether it’s staff behaviour and habits, monitoring and detection systems, or computer infrastructure, cybersecurity risks need to be a priority at all times and scaled accordingly as the business grows.
Cybersecurity threats today are about so much more than just profit losses and inconvenience. They will impact your business reputation and stability, and that can cost you clients and revenue in the future. Failing to protect your data and networks will also result in a breach of regulatory obligations, which can cost your business.