Cyber Security Risks are Increasing for Law Firms
Over the last few years, some law firms have awakened to the mounting cyber security risks surrounding them. Many law firms are also finding the cyber security risks scary. And it should be scary given the large cache of critical data their clients have trusted them with.
The bad news is that most law firms still lack reliable defenses against cyber threats. There are some firms that ignore the threats, and then there are those that don’t know what the major cyber security threats to law firms are.
Case in point: Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca was hacked in 2016. The incident resulted in the leakage of 2,600GB of data, most of which was attorney-client privileged information and documents dealing with offshore businesses.
The risks are increasing for law firms, as hackers have realized law firms to be holding the second most valuable data after financial institutions. They consider law firm data to be a jackpot of data. Cyber-criminals mostly go after firms that are highly reputed and are data-rich.
What Type of Data Hackers Want to Steal From Law Firms
Hackers are after everything a law firm has stored digitally, with the following areas being their priority:
- Patent information
- Confidential communications between clients and attorneys
- Employees personal identity
- Clients and vendors personal data
- Data pertaining to insider deals
- Healthcare information
- Lawsuit pursuance strategy information
- Top secret business growth and expansion information
- Data pertaining to finances, such as payment cards
Are Law Firms Prepared to Cope With the Threat
Unfortunately, no! Majority law firms are not fully prepared to cope with cyber security threats. While many firms are aware of the security threats, the partnership and profit sharing business structure keeps them from investing in cyber security.
In most cases, law firms have the most vulnerable link. Hackers are aware that most enterprises are more likely to have infallible cyber defenses in place. Why attempt to hack the enterprise when you can simply hack the enterprise’s law firm that has a weaker or no cyber defense in place?
There are serious consequences of insecure and open client data. First, a hack will damage the reputation of your clients, besides triggering monetary, compliance, and legal troubles for them. It can even take them to the verge of bankruptcy.
Secondly, when a law firm gets hacked, it gets eliminated from the industry. Your existing clients are going to trash your services, whereas potential clients are likely to turn their back on you. When a law firm’s private data is accessed and exposed, the firm faces a worst fate than its clients.
What Are the Moral Responsibilities of Law Firms
When it comes to confidentiality and privacy of client data and information, there are certain moral responsibilities of law firms and attorneys. Law firms are fully aware of the AMA Model Rule 1.6(c) that states that:
“[a]lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.”
There are many states in the US that have clearly stated the moral responsibilities of law firms and attorneys in terms of data privacy and confidentially.
How Hackers Steal Valuable Data From Law Firms
Hackers look for loopholes in the existing networks, systems, storage devices (on-premises, USB, and cloud), and data security of law firms. Since most law firms have fragile cyber defenses, it takes the hackers a few minutes to identify a loophole and exploit it.
Sadly, majority law firms do not prioritize cyber security. Cyber-criminals can easily intrude into their networks and systems and do away with the most valuable data. There have been a number of surveys that have revealed how vulnerable law firms are.
The lack of cyber security policy and a dearth of awareness have placed law firms among the most vulnerable groups of businesses in terms of cyber security. Despite this, most law firms don’t yet seem to realize that they are the hot targets of hackers.
Most law firms do not use multi-factor authentication for access to their network, systems, and data. Surveys have also revealed that most attorneys do not use encrypted USB drives and never encrypt email contents, laptops, and other devices. The lack of intrusion prevention measures makes them even more vulnerable to threats.
Cyber Security Recommendations for Law Firms
Law firms should make cyber security a priority and have proper measures in place to thwart any cyber offense. Be sure to have the following protections in place:
- Data encryption
- Limited network and data access privileges
- Multi-factor authentication
- Multiple layers of data and network security
- Data discovery and classification
- Patching and software updates
- Cyber security policy and compliance
- Employee training and education in cyber security
Besides implementing the above recommendations, make sure to do business with trusted vendors only and have a clear policy for vendor cyber security. Remember, when your vendor gets hacked, it could shatter your business as well.
Law firms are the hot targets for cyber-criminals. Hackers are always coming up with new, sophisticated, and creative methods to intrude into your systems and networks to steal critical data and information. If you want your law firm to stay safe, get a robust cyber security service right now.