Cyberattacks on law firms have increased in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue. While more law firms than ever are aware of the dangers of cyber-attacks and are working to secure their law firms, attackers are constantly developing more sophisticated methods to gain access to a firm’s data. Protecting against cyberattacks is a battle that will not be won anytime soon, if at all. When discussing the likelihood of a data breach at a law firm, consultants and experts now use the phrase “when, not if.”
Why are hackers increasingly targeting law firms? For starters, law firms obtain and store extremely sensitive and valuable client data, but the legal industry as a whole does not employ the most sophisticated cybersecurity protocols. Second, because the information stored by a client’s law firm is less extensive than that stored by the client, a hacker can steal it more easily.
What can law firms do to protect themselves from a cyberattack? A law firm can implement at least ten best practices.
1. Inventory and Risk Evaluation
To begin, you should understand where the law firm stands in terms of hardware, software, and data. As a result, the first step is to create an inventory of all of the firm’s hardware, such as computers, servers, printers, and smart devices. List all serial numbers, as well as the location of the devices and who has possession of them.
Next, make a list of all software and its keys, passwords, licenses, and versions. List all of the online services that the company uses.
Finally, determine where your data is stored, who created it, and with whom it is shared. Take note of any legal or regulatory restrictions, such as HIPAA.
2. Examine Your Company’s Cybersecurity Systems
In “Cybersecurity for Midsize and Smaller Law Firms: 10 Tips to Take Action Now,” Stephenie W. Yeung poses five questions.
- Is access to your systems restricted to those who have a need-to-know basis?
- Is access to your computers or smart devices password-protected?
- Is it possible to keep a record of these passwords in a secure file?
- Have you used two-factor authentication to gain access to your company’s network?
- Do you use the most recent anti-virus software and firewalls?
3. Use Basic Security Tools to Prevent a Cyberattack on a Law Firm
The most common type of security tool is spam filtering. To avoid a cyberattack on your law firm, use anti-spyware, software-based firewalls, and antivirus for desktops/laptops, email, and networks. Install intrusion detection and prevention systems as well. This is in accordance with the findings of the American Bar Association’s 2017 Survey.
4. Examine the Security of Your Vendors
Request a copy of your vendor’s security certificate. Examine the vendor’s security system in the same way you would your own, ensuring that they use the same or stronger security systems as your own law firm. The main takeaway is to be wary of law firm data, particularly client data. This includes defending your own systems as well as ensuring that anyone or any organization who has access to the data is similarly protected through policies and protocols.
5. Think about Security Standards.
Many law firms are adopting security standards from organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Some businesses follow all or a portion of the guidelines.
6. Create Policies and Train Employees
According to the American Bar Association’s 2017 Survey, 25% of respondents said their law firm did not have a cybersecurity policy, and 7% said they didn’t know if they did. Not only does your law firm need a policy, but it also needs to train its attorneys and staff on it. Employees must be trained to spot red flags. A law firm data breach is more often than not the result of an unintentional error by a staff member mishandling email.
7. Use Secure Data Handling Methods
Files should be safeguarded both in storage and during transportation. Burke recommends using an encrypted email service or a secure file sharing service to exchange information. If you don’t have an encrypted email or file sharing service, zip your files and password-protect them.
8. Make Use of a Reliable Backup System
A good backup system will be invaluable in the event of a catastrophic incident such as fire, weather, or a ransomware cyberattack. Choose whether the system should backup the law firm’s systems daily (preferred), weekly, or monthly.
9. Take Caution When Using Wireless Networks
Be aware that wireless networks can expose you to a variety of security risks. It’s simply not a good idea to use them because they’re easily breached. Instead, use a virtual private network (VPN), which acts as an encrypted tunnel across the Internet.
10. Think About Purchasing Cyber Insurance
Again, in terms of law firm security, the question is not “if,” but “when” a cyberattack will be successful against a law firm. A solid cyber insurance plan in place could save you money on consultants, new equipment, marketing, and other associated costs.
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