cyber security

Why Law Firms Need Cybersecurity

three lawyers sit behind tablets device

Can you keep a secret? Usually when we hear that question, we brace ourselves for some heavy information. We know that the person asking is about to share something that could potentially hurt them or someone else if it got out. We typically understand the gravity of the question and respond carefully.

In principle, no one hears that question more than lawyers. Their relationship with clients is based on a legally protected foundation of trust. But in the age of technology, keeping a secret involves more than just the individual attorney’s propriety.

Law firms manage huge volumes of information for their clients, ranging from legal documents to financial data. This data is stored in various types of systems in the office and beyond. This data is a very attractive target for hackers. That’s why cybersecurity is a high-priority matter for law firms, regardless of their size. Any failure to protect this sensitive information could result in major complications ranging from loss of clients, fines, and damage to the organization’s reputation. Firms need to be vigilant to keep secrets from getting out.

Risks Faced by Law Firms

Law firms have huge targets on their backs because of the sensitivity of the information they guard. Unfortunately, many law firms are becoming easy targets as they fall behind the rapid pace of technology and new types of cyberattacks. For example, email, a major form of communication and for the transfer of documents and file downloads are easy prey for ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks occur when malicious software is accidentally downloaded in the form of an image or document file.

Once a computer is infected, the victim is unable to access anything on their computer or network, and the attacker will demand a ransom to release the data or continue with business. Another familiar behavior that cybercriminals use when designing attacks against a legal firm’s employees is phishing scams. These can occur when someone in the office accidentally provides access through social engineering. In fact, in a 2021 report by Verizon, 96% of data breaches in the legal sector were caused by phishing attacks.

Regulatory Requirements

For this reason, regulatory bodies set requirements in order to ensure the protection of legal consumers. Most U.S. states have data breach notification laws requiring organizations to notify affected individuals in the event of a breach. These laws usually also specify a timeframe and method for providing the notifications and many include requirements for notifying state regulators or attorney general offices.

Depending on the state and type of client, consumer privacy laws and financial sector regulations may come into play. All of these regulations are meant to motivate businesses to take proper steps to keep their client’s information safe.

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Law Firms

All law firms should employ some basic measures, which will help them avoid the most common cyber threats. These comprise of; strict access controls and multi-factor authentication, up to date software and installation of security patches, and surveillance and security awareness education among the employees. They should also ensure the consistent practice of incident response and disaster recovery policies to guarantee the organizations’ ability to operate beyond an attack.

If a smaller firm doesn’t employ a Chief information security officer (CISO) to help with those issues, they should seriously consider hiring a cybersecurity consultant. This is a profession that goes beyond the typical skills of the office IT help.

Benefits of Investing in Cybersecurity

Sound security measures are an investment in a healthy firm long-term. Client data should be protected and maintained to build and sustain trust and avoid the high costs resulting from a data breach and/or any legal repercussions that could come from security negligence. It also protects the continuity of the business and reduces the impact of any attack. In addition, boasting a comprehensive cybersecurity program also confirms the value of the legal services, making the law firm stand out in the market and attract more clientele.

It’s important to realize that cybersecurity has evolved from a luxury tech service into a necessity within a heavily targeted legal market. While we don’t want to conjure a bogeyman, only those that accept the reality of the threat will be in a position to consistently protect themselves and their clients.

By preserving the integrity and confidentiality of client data by upgrading and maintaining a security infrastructure, law firms can protect their authority in the modern legal market and keep a client’s secrets.