Law firms remain popular targets for cyber criminals, and for good reason: the wealth of client information managed, as well as valuable intellectual property (IP) and other confidential or proprietary data, are all very appealing prizes.
It goes without saying that cyber security should be a top priority for law firms. Here are seven quick cyber security tips to help you strengthen your defenses and stay ahead of today’s most dangerous threats.
1. Build cyber situational awareness
Lawyers devote years to studying and learning the complexities of the law. This knowledge is essential when representing your clients because it allows you to look out for their best interests ahead of time.
Your first step toward better cyber security begins with education. Building cyber situational awareness (CSA) — which includes knowledge of your IT systems, threats targeting them, and how to respond to those threats — is critical because it can help identify immediate risks to your firm, allowing you to mitigate them and improve your security.
You’ll be able to identify and address cyber risks before they disrupt operations if you have a better understanding of your IT environment’s threat surface. While no two threat surfaces are identical, they do share elements such as laptops, desktop computers, and smartphones; the software these devices use; removable data storage, such as USB drives; smart devices, such as security cameras and speaker systems; cloud-based Software-as-a-Service deployments; and even publicly available information on the internet.
Achieving CSA is all about developing a big-picture perspective that will help you take a proactive approach to your organization’s security.
2. Strengthen passwords and use multi-factor authentication
Strong, complex passwords serve as the first line of defense against an attacker, preventing them from accessing your accounts and stealing sensitive information and data about your clients and operations. Consider all of the services and systems that businesses like yours rely on on a daily basis, such as DropBox, DocuSign, and Clio, not to mention bespoke systems for case management and billing. An attacker with a set of credentials for any of these systems could gain access to a large amount of valuable data.
Passwords should ideally include a unique combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and several keyboard symbols, or a difficult-to-guess pass that includes those elements as well. However, many people still use easy-to-remember passwords and, in some cases, reuse them across multiple accounts. If an attacker learns one set of credentials, they can experiment with them to see what doors they open.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an additional layer of security. To sign into an account when MFA is enabled, users must provide two different authentication factors. Combinations of these factors include:
- Passwords, passcodes, and personal identification numbers must be unique.
- Hard tokens, such as USB keys, or soft tokens, such as SMS messages or an authentication app.
- A distinct biometric characteristic, such as a fingerprint.
Even if an attacker has your password, they don’t have the keys to the kingdom if MFA is enabled. They will still require additional credentials to gain access to an account.
3. Back up your practice’s critical data
As previously stated, data and intellectual property (IP) are critical to law firm operations. Ransomware attacks, in which attackers install malicious software that prevents access to computers or data on them and offers to restore access in exchange for payment, are a major concern for law firms worldwide. A single ransomware attack has the potential to render large amounts of data inaccessible.
Backing up data on a regular basis to a secure location ensures that you can quickly recover files and resume operations with minimal downtime.
4. Patch and update your software regularly
Attackers are constantly looking for ways to get around your defenses. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in software and operating systems that have not been updated or that require patching, allowing them to gain access to your systems and data.
Software updates are groups of changes made to a piece of software or an operating system, usually to improve performance or to correct a bug in how that software works. A patch, on the other hand, is a little different. Patches are specialized updates that address security flaws discovered by the developer.
Simply put, every patch is a software update, but not every software update is a patch.
Applying software updates and patches as soon as possible can help mitigate the risks associated with out-of-date systems and technology.
5. Use a virtual private network
Using a shared internet connection to access your company’s data can introduce additional risk. While public hotspots are convenient, they typically have minimal security measures, making them easy targets for attackers.
When using untrusted infrastructure, a virtual private network (VPN) can encrypt and secure your connection by masking your internet protocol (IP) address. This can protect you from eavesdropping by other people on the same Wi-Fi network, as well as tactics that target vulnerable infrastructure, such as man-in-the-middle attacks or DNS poisoning.
When should you use a VPN?
- When you’re using public Wi-Fi
- When you’re travelling
- When you need to access your firm’s network remotely
- When you want continual privacy on the internet
It should be noted, however, that a VPN is not a firewall. VPNs improve privacy and security, but they cannot prevent users from visiting malicious websites or clicking on malicious links, as certain firewalls can.
There are several commercially available VPNs to choose from, but make sure it’s based in a friendly country and has nearby servers to minimize latency.
6. Invest in security awareness training
Ransomware, phishing, and business email compromise (BEC) are three of the most common cyber threats to law firms, and they frequently use social engineering techniques to trick users into opening malicious links or files or sharing their credentials. The top attack type detected by the NCSC in 2018 was phishing, which has been a major threat to the legal sector.
If successful, attackers can steal IP and demand a ransom to recover it; stage a BEC attack, redirect client payments to an account they control; or sell your confidential information on a dark web marketplace.
7. Take a proactive approach to cyber security
As organizations add more users, software, and technology to their networks, threat surfaces expand everywhere. Each new connection, device, or application jeopardizes your company’s confidential data and intellectual property.
Understanding your threats and knowing how to respond — key CSA principles — are critical steps in protecting your company.
That is why being proactive is important. Aim for a comprehensive, end-to-end defense that allows you to detect suspicious activity early and take appropriate action to mitigate the threat.
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Managed Technology Solutions, also known as ManagedTEK – IT Security Services & Monitoring, is a managed service provider that provides IT support and security solutions for businesses throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area. ManagedTEK, was founded on an urgency to empower and protect our community from the digital war on personal security and privacy. We focus and specialize in protecting businesses from falling victim to increasingly complex cyber threats. We use cutting-edge technology along with proven cybersecurity practices to provide support and protection for small businesses. Contact us today for your free consultation!