They work tirelessly to meet their goals. They handle large sums of money across multiple cases. They gain access to personal and confidential data. They move quickly and decisively. They are everywhere. But we are not talking about attorneys: We are talking about cyber criminals.
Why are law firms targeted by cybercriminals?
According to an American Bar Association survey, cyber attacks on law firms are up from 26% to 29% in just one year. Whether they are trying to get financial data, confidential client information, insider trading secrets, or tax and medical records, there is a wealth of sensitive data that can fall into the wrong hands if the firm’s cybersecurity program and employee awareness and engagement on this topic are lacking.
What are some common scenarios of bad cyber practices seen in law firms?
The legal industry is a complex and hectic profession with many moving parts. Due to the nature of the field, there is a culture of trust among attorneys, paralegals, law clerks, and managers. This can lead to situations such as passwords and accounts being shared insecurely and files with personal client information is conveniently left out while visitors are left unsupervised. All these scenarios leave the door wide open for an attacker to access this information and do irreparable damage to both the client and the law firm.
What’re the consequences?
These scenarios are common in law firms of all sizes, and the consequences are alarming. Current and potential clients could lose trust in a firm and its employees. Trust is vital in attorney-client relationships, as people seek attorneys at difficult times of their lives and share intimate details about their troubles. Damaging that foundation could lead to reputational damage for the firm and its attorneys. Furthermore, firms risk paying millions of dollars in damages from lawsuits, losing clients, or practically shutting down overnight. The consequences are potentially devastating for all involved.
The American Bar Association shared that 25% of respondents in a 2021 survey reported their law firm had been breached at one point. This suggests that many law firms are missing basic security measures despite the confidential nature of their work. The growing number of cyber attacks starting through a third-party supplier (IT, accounting, legal providers, etc.) raise the importance of having a higher priority focus on cybersecurity.
What can law firms do to protect themselves?
While the impacts of information disclosure from breaches can be devastating, there are plenty of actions law firms can take that are simple, proven to help mitigate risk, and much less expensive than a cyberattack:
- Invest in a security program that addresses people, policies, and procedures as well as technology. After all, cybersecurity isn’t just an IT problem – everyone plays a role in protecting company data.
- Provide awareness training to your employees so they can identify the signs of a virtual and physical cyberattack and know how to report it. Every business’s first line of defense is its employees. For every phish they don’t click on, a business saves time, energy, and money fixing a potentially bad situation. Whether identifying red flags in a suspicious email, having a strong password, or not letting authorized people gain building access, everyone must do their part to protect the business.
- If you haven’t already, consider hiring an in-house professional or team dedicated to actively monitoring and mitigating threats.
- Encrypt your systems and data. Should cyber-criminals manage to bypass your defenses, you want your sensitive data to be unreadable.
- Evaluate your physical security measures. Not all firms will need safes and guards, but locking filing cabinets after each use, installing security cameras, and not leaving sensitive files or documents out when they’re not in use are important basic practices. It’s great for a culture of trust to exist in the workplace, but you don’t know or even see every person that walks into the office. How well do you know maintenance staff, clients, or visitors?
- Consider an appropriate cyber insurance policy. You can read more from our senior consultant, Jim Wailes.
At Reveal Risk, we help companies develop, improve, and maintain cybersecurity programs that reduce business risk and protect against online criminals. We have the expertise your firm can count on to fulfill your security needs and preserve your clients’ peace of mind.