Cybersecurity for Law Firms: What Legal Professionals Should Know

Last updated: 04 Jul, 2024By
Cybersecurity for Law Firms

With cyber-attacks ranking as the fifth highest risk, the need for cybersecurity measures in law firms has become imperative. According to Astra, “Cybersecurity statistics indicate that there are 2,200 cyber-attacks per day, with a cyber-attack happening every 39 seconds on average. In the U.S., a data breach costs an average of $9.44M, and cybercrime is predicted to cost the world USD 9.5 trillion in 2024.” In addition, PwC’s 2024 Global Digital Trust Insights survey found that the proportion of businesses that have experienced a data breach of more than USD 1 million has increased significantly from year over year – from 27% to 36%. Plus, the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risk Report states that the rate of detection (or prosecution) is as low as 0.05 percent in the U.S.

Considering law firms handle client confidential data at multiple levels, their security systems must be beefed up exponentially. Firms must revise their security frameworks and lay down stringent security protocols to ensure the protection of client data and confidentiality. In this article, we will discuss a whole range of cybersecurity requirements for law firms, including security breaches and their defenses, the importance of technology competency, and technology policies.

Examples of cyber security breaches for law firms

As mentioned at the outset, law firms are no different from other organizations. Hence, cyber security breaches for law firms are like others in the industry. They include data breaches, ransomware attacks, phishing attempts, insider threats and compromises of vendor data, breach and defacement of websites, social engineering attacks, misconfigured cloud services, and data interception.

These breaches bring the risk of unauthorized access, exposure, or theft of sensitive client information. They disrupt regular work, causing financial and reputational harm.

Best cybersecurity for law firms – security defenses

The various types of security defenses that law firms can employ to protect their data and systems from the above-mentioned cybersecurity breaches include the following:

  • Network security firewalls that monitor and control incoming and outgoing traffic based on predetermined security rules
  • Antivirus software to detect, prevent, and remove malicious software (malware) such as viruses, worms, and Trojans from the computers and networks of the law firm
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to encrypt internet traffic and establish secure connections between remote users and the law firm’s network
  • Multifactor Authentication (MFA) adds that extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of authentication, such as a password, security token, or biometric verification, before accessing systems or data of the law firm
  • Data encryption to protect data both at rest (stored data) and in transit (data being transmitted over networks)
  • Endpoint security solutions to protect individual devices, such as laptops, desktops, and mobile devices, from malware, unauthorized access, and other security threats
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) to enable real-time threat detection, incident response, and forensic analysis
  • Security patch management to close known vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of exploitation by cyber attackers
  • Conduct regular employee training and awareness programs to educate employees about security best practices, phishing guidelines, data policies, and procedures

Recommended tools and services to enhance security posture:

The following is an indicative list of tools readily available in the market. Law firms are advised to conduct their own due-diligence to chart their unique security needs and finalize the tools required.

1. Cisco Umbrella:

Cloud-delivered security service that offers DNS and IP-layer enforcement, threat intelligence, and web filtering to protect against malware, phishing, and other internet-based threats

2. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint:

Provides advanced threat protection, endpoint detection and response (EDR), and automated investigation and remediation capabilities for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android devices

3. Proofpoint Email Protection:

To safeguard against phishing, malware, and email fraud

4. Duo Security:

MFA solution to verify user identities and secure access to applications and data

5. KnowBe4:

Interactive training modules, simulated phishing campaigns, and risk assessment tools to educate employees and test their susceptibility to phishing attacks

6. Splunk Enterprise Security:

For real-time monitoring, threat detection, incident investigation, and compliance reporting capabilities to help organizations detect and respond to cybersecurity threats effectively

7. CrowdStrike Falcon:

To detect and prevent malware, ransomware, and other advanced threats across endpoints, networks, and cloud environments

8. LastPass Business:

To securely store and manage passwords, generate strong passwords, and enable secure password sharing among team members

Technology competency: An ethical duty of lawyers today

Considering the above high-tech breaches and defenses, the technological competency of lawyers has assumed great importance. It is not just a practical necessity but also an ethical duty. Lawyers are entrusted with sensitive client information in the course of their work. These need to be properly stored and transmitted so that the information always remains confidential and secure. A lack of technological competency poses great cyber risks to data breaches and misuse. For example, if you opt for legal support services, in such a scenario, sharing data with a third-party provider becomes inevitable. Hence, it is your responsibility to evaluate their data security measures before signing any contract with them.

Suggested cybersecurity best practices for law firms to stay technology competent are as follows:

  • Continuing Legal Education (CLE): Ensure regular CLE courses focused on technology in the legal profession to stay updated on legal research tools, electronic discovery, cybersecurity, practice management software etc
  • Specialized training programs: Undertake certification programs on technology and their application in law practice to ensure the firm has specialized understanding at all times

In addition to the above, online resources, conferences on how technology is impacting the legal space, legal tech communities, constant upskilling, mentoring, and coaching will help lawyers understand the cyber security space deeply and ensure safeguards are built to protect the firm from cyber-attacks.

Robust technology policies – An utmost need for law firms

Clear and documented policies on technology use and security are the primary cybersecurity considerations for law firms. These policies provide a framework for managing technology-related risks. They define acceptable practices, educate employees, and demonstrate the law firm’s commitment to client information security.

Clear and documented policies on technology use and security help law firms to mitigate risks, protect sensitive client data, ensure compliance with regulations, guide employee behavior, promote awareness, establish accountability, maintain client trust, and facilitate swift incident response. Following are examples of technology policies that can safeguard from cyber-attacks in legal firms:

  • Data encryption policy
  • Acceptable use policy
  • Password management policy
  • Remote access policy
  • Email security policy
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy
  • Incident response plan
  • Software update policy
  • Access control policy
  • Social media policy

Along with these robust technology policies, equal importance should be according to the communication, implementation, and enforcement of these policies. Effective communication drives employee awareness along with an understanding of their implications, while stringent implementation will ensure that the policies seamlessly integrate into the firm’s operations. This will include training programs, software configurations, and procedural changes. Enforcement of the policies forms the third pillar – it ensures compliance and addresses violations.

There is no escaping cybersecurity for law firms!

The impact of  security breach is too large and too deep to allow any slip with respect to security preparedness. The consequences of data breach are severe. It includes financial losses, damage to reputation, legal liabilities, and loss of client trust. For law firms, cybersecurity is not just a necessity but an ongoing commitment to safeguarding their clients’ interests and integrity.

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