Lawyers have an obligation to protect their client information and data. However, on average most law firms have less cybersecurity than they should.
Even though the average person might be forgiven for thinking that legal documents are boring, lawyers have access to confidential information, intellectual property, and trade secrets that are valuable to others.
In recent years, law firms and their clients have grown more reliant on the internet for document and file sharing, and the recent pandemic has increased this trend. Hackers are continuously on the lookout for opportunities to try and hack into the systems of law firms or their clients.
Hackers can use the information they retrieve to demand a ransom payment. They usually encrypt the data, and will only decrypt it once the ransom is paid. They may also threaten to make the information public. Some hackers are also on the lookout for confidential information on your system to profit from investment decisions.
In the annual Legal Technology Survey for 2019, the American Bar Association found that 26% of law firms that responded to the survey had experienced a security breach. The survey also found that 10% of respondents were not aware if they had ever been targeted.
Basic steps to secure the data of your law firm from a breach
A security breach can be very expensive for a law firm and will not only result in a loss of billable hours but can result in clients leaving the firm. It can also cause irreparable damage to a firm’s reputation. Some simple measures can be taken to secure privileged client information.
- The use of complex passwords
- Frequent changes to these passwords
- Access to online databases should only be allowed to staff on a “need to know” basis
- Prompt action should be taken if security patches are required
- Keeping all software updated makes it more difficult for hackers to breach your system.
Using technology to secure your law firm
These are the best practices for ensuring cybersecurity:
1. Encrypt all data
Data, including emails, should always be encrypted, whether it is in transit or storage (including cloud storage).
2. Regular backups need to be performed
All important data must be backed up, and the backups should be stored off-site where they can’t be accessed by hackers.
3. Data retention policy
Data is expensive to store, and law offices collect a lot of documentation. It is also a security risk to hold on to data, so determine how long you need to keep data according to the regulations for each client and let them know how long you are prepared to retain their documents.
4. Have regular audits
Regular audits can help determine vulnerabilities in the system by conducting penetration testing on your firm’s website and its network. Audits also review the security policies and procedures and should cover physical systems, cloud usage, and personal devices.
5. Vet for vulnerabilities in vendors
Vulnerabilities in third-party systems can endanger your client information. Verify that vendors who have access to your network are thoroughly vetted and secure.
6. Security tools for all devices
Every law office needs anti-virus and anti-malware protection on all devices used for the practice, including mobile devices. The software should be kept updated.