Cyber-criminals are a real threat to law firms, and they’re getting smarter.
As attacks become more sophisticated in their approach, it’s time to look at the security systems you have in place for your firm, and determine if they’re strong enough to protect you and your clients. Almost half of all businesses reported a cyber-security breach in 2020, and it can be extremely costly when you’re unprepared.
It’s the nature of legal firms to handle copious amounts of sensitive client data in their day-to-day transactions, along with large sums of money . This makes them a big target for cyber-criminals looking to extort and blackmail for a ransom.
Since the move to home working during the pandemic, the risk of attack has only increased. In the first half of 2020 alone, almost £2.5 million was stolen from legal firms in cybercrime. That’s triple the amount from the previous year.
The cost of cyber threats can be greater than you’d expect; not only do you risk losing large sums of money though ransomware, but your sensitive data can also be stolen and sold, resulting in the loss of your reputation and the trust of your clients. Cybercriminals will often not return a firm’s data, even once ransom is paid.
Most firms will have some sort of security against cyberattacks, but it’s worth asking if these are good enough. Cybercriminals constantly evolve and modify their attacks, but many firms are using security measures that are outdated or not properly applied. You should be regularly checking that your systems are functional, up to date, and that your staff know how to use them effectively—otherwise the measures you take will not be effective.
Here is our short guide to how you can defend your law firm against cyber-crime.
Review Your Assets:
There is nothing more valuable than the data and sensitive information of your clients. You must keep track of what you have and put in place protection for it. Many businesses claim they don’t know if they’ve been involved in a security breach, so it’s important to be aware of your assets.
To keep track of these assets, ask yourself these questions:
- Where are they kept?
- Who can access them, and have they been given security training?
- Through what process can someone else gain access to them?
- What are the current security policies for them?
Be sure that you are making the most of the protective systems you already have in place. If your law firm uses Microsoft Office 365, there may be useful security features you aren’t utilising, such as email authentication and auditing. For example, multi-factor authentication can stop up to 99.9% of account attack attempts according to Microsoft. Yet many users don’t have the feature enabled for the sake of convenience, posing a great security risk especially if passwords are being reused.
Behind every great legal firm is a great IT team. Make sure they’re helping your firm to be tight on security and keeping all systems sturdy. While human error usually plays a part in security breaches, things like phishing emails and information collection, there are some IT solutions that can be practiced to support you.
Putting in place regular patching for your software to keep it up to date as technology and attacks grow more advanced. Your programs may be expensive, but if they can’t defend against real-time attacks, they’re next to worthless. Utilise patches to ensure that hackers aren’t exploiting vulnerable spots in your software and that your firewall is secure enough to withstand security risks.
Adding encryption to your work devices adds a second layer of protection over passwords, which are easily compromised. This is vital since, if devices are stolen, inserting the hard drive into another device can allow access to all the information it contains. If this data is encrypted, however, it will be unreadable to hackers and remain secure.
Regular Backups are essential to keep data secure and updated. Neglecting your information is a risk—it should always be a top priority to protect it within your systems.
It’s also worth investing in a good antivirus software across all devices. Malware poses a significant threat to your IT systems and can cause significant disruption to business, so it’s worth being prepared for the worst.
To ensure your firm is as protected as can be, be sure to have set procedures and processes in place. Make sure you train your teams on these processes – they’re only effective if they’re used.
Put in place processes for money handling, storing new client data, and disposing of information you no longer need, as well as how to carry out these processes when staff are working from home. When data you no longer use remains in your systems, it can not only use up space and complicate your storage, it’s also at risk of being stolen or exploited. Home workers should be reminded to physically shred any printed documents they are no longer using. You can never be too careful when it comes to sensitive client info!
You should always prepare a plan for when the worst happens. Knowing what to do in the event of a cyberattack will be important in minimising damage and getting your firm up and running again. You should consider who will respond to the attack, who will correct it, who will communicate with affected clients, and who will work on reputation control, as well as how they’ll do this. The more organised you are, the quicker you’ll recover.
When significant procedures are solidified in writing and easily accessible to those who need them, security becomes more effective across your firm, and will be kept in place consistently even if your team rotates.
Remember, your security systems are only as good as the training you give for them. It’s no use establishing processes and investing in software if your staff aren’t using them properly. While difficult to avoid, human error is usually the weakest point in any security system and it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made. This can be mitigated through education on cybersecurity - it’s important that every member of the team knows what to do to help your firm avoid cybercrime.
Ensure that all new staff are given a thorough introduction and provide additional training for changes to process or system updates. New attacks develop constantly, so you must stay in the loop. People are assets that need patching too! A good way of staying informed is to regularly share news relating to cybersecurity.
Email attacks and phishing are common, constantly changing, and often difficult to spot, so security awareness is a good area of training focus. These attacks will usually give the impression of being time-sensitive and appear to be sent from inside the firm to provoke a quick and unmindful response from staff. Make sure to examine the most common tactics and formats these hackers use in order to train your staff on how to recognise phishing emails.
A good training method is to conduct ‘attack drills’ in which a cyberattack is simulated to test your team’s responses. You can create a mock info phishing email and track which members respond to it.
Home workers should also be given specific training in staying secure, particularly if they are using personal devices to work. Processes may be different, and more business is conducted online and via email, which allows for hackers to imitate staff. Where possible, ensure all staff are using a work device with up-to-date encryption, two factor authentication, firewalls, and security software.
It’s important to remember not to blame your team if they do fall victim to cybercriminals. Every member of your firm should feel comfortable with reaching out if they’ve made a mistake without fearing repercussions so the issue can be seen to ASAP. Open communication about any suspicious activity is essential to preventing breaches.
Cyber insurance can help cover your firm financially in the event of a cyberattack. Depending on the policy, you may be covered for tech systems, reputational damage, data costs, extortion, and lost business. This can deal with malware, ransomware, phishing, and hacking.
For law firms that deal with numerous transactions and data transferral, cyber insurance is a very useful asset.
Get Cyber Certified
Cyber Essentials is a government-run data assurance scheme that aims to promote cybersecurity measures to organisations. This scheme gives you protection against common cybercrimes. It works as a standard to which all organisation’s security systems should aim to reach. If you’ve achieved this, you can be awarded the Cyber Essentials Certificate.
SpiderGroup can help you adhere to these practices and reduce your risk from cybercrime immensely. The process can seem complex, but SpiderGroup can provide you with support for document templates, consultations, tech support, accreditation, gap analysis, and more. Our approach can be personalised according to the needs of your firm. All services come included with free cyber insurance, a certificate, logos for website and collateral use, and 12 months of certification.
The cost of getting protected will usually pale compared to the costs of a cyberattack; in 2021, Ponemon Institute found that the average spend for a cybersecurity breach was around £2.9 million. It really does pay to keep your firm cybersafe.