cybersecurity team

As a law firm, you work with large volumes of sensitive client information everyday. Unfortunately, this data can make your law firm an attractive target for hackers.

 

A robust cybersecurity and data protection strategy is a must for law firms, regardless of the size of your firm or the type of law you practice. Here’s why cybersecurity is so important for law firms and how to make sure your systems are protected.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Law firms are often targeted by hackers due to the sensitive data they collect.
  • Phishing, ransomware, and data breaches are particularly big threats for law firms.
  • If your systems are breached, it could lead to serious compliance issues and damage your reputation.
  • Having a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy will help your law firm avoid these challenges.

 

Cyber Threats for Law Firms

 

Cyber threats are constantly evolving to keep up with the development of new technology. Here are the cyber threats that are most common for law firms.

 

Phishing

Phishing is a form of social engineering where a cybercriminal will pose as a trusted contact in an email message, text message, or phone call. They will take advantage of this trust in an attempt to access sensitive personal information, such as bank login details or Social Security numbers.

 

Phishing is an extremely common hacking tactic among all industries. Over three billion phishing emails are sent every day, and 68% of data breaches start with a non-malicious human error, such as falling victim to a phishing scam.

 

One particularly common phishing tactic that many hackers use is posing as a trusted software provider. For example, they might send a message posing as Microsoft in an attempt to gain access to your Outlook login information. With access to your login information, the cybercriminal could pose as you and gain access to confidential case information.

 

Spear phishing is a type of phishing that hackers often use with law firms. This is when the hacker conducts research on your law firm and targets a specific person, often by pretending to be a coworker. These attacks are much more sophisticated than standard phishing attacks and can be very dangerous.

 

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware cyberattack that can be particularly detrimental to law firms. These software programs will capture valuable or sensitive data in your systems and block access to it with encryption. 

 

The program then demands a ransom payment in order to restore the data. In some cases, the cyber criminals may even release the data to the public to maximize the damage.

 

Ransomware attacks peaked in 2021, with over 623 million attacks globally that year. While this number dropped to 317 million in 2023, ransomware is still a significant threat. The average cost of a ransomware attack is a whopping $5.23 million.

 

Data Breaches

A data breach is any type of cybersecurity incident where sensitive information is exposed. In some cases, data breaches happen by accident due to a lack of data safeguards in place.

 

However, many data breaches happen as the result of a planned cyberattack. Many hackers will study their target’s case management systems, looking for viable entry points where they can access vulnerable client data or firm data.

 

Research indicates that 29% of US law firms experienced a data breach in 2023. 19% of legal professionals also don’t know if their firm has experienced a security breach or not.

 

There are many potential motivations for data breaches. Many hackers will target law firms in an attempt to steal personal or financial information that they can use to conduct identity theft. 

 

Some hackers may also conduct data breaches to collect and publicize protected intellectual property or even high-profile political information.

 

What are the Implications of Limited Security?

If you don’t have a data security strategy in place, cybercriminals could end up taking advantage of vulnerabilities in your system — which could be devastating for your business. Here are some of the long-term implications of security incidents for law firms.

 

Breach of Client Confidentiality and Privacy Laws

Lawyers are subject to very strict attorney-client confidentiality laws. These laws state that clients cannot share certain types of client information without informed consent from that client. Law firms are also subject to broader data privacy laws, which provide guidance for how digital client data should be stored and managed.

 

If your firm doesn’t have a data security strategy in place, it could expose your clients’ confidential information, putting you in breach of these laws. This could have negative consequences for your court cases and could leave your business subject to fines and legal action.

 

Financial Losses

A security breach could also have long-term financial consequences for your law firm. In many cases, security breaches will require you to pause operations to repair damage, which can be extremely costly.

 

Additionally, security breaches could make it difficult for your law firm to attract new clients in the future. This could make it difficult for your brand to maintain consistent revenue levels.

 

Damage to Reputation

Today’s consumers are highly concerned about data privacy, particularly when it comes to their legal providers. If your firm is subject to a data breach, it could severely damage your reputation. 

 

You could end up losing new clients and having difficulty attracting new ones. Even if you resolve the initial problem, it is very difficult to come back from that type of breach of trust.

 

Legal Requirements and Compliance

Understanding the legal requirements for law firms can help you build a compliance and security strategy and avoid security breaches.

 

Law firms must always retain attorney-client privilege and keep client information confidential. They should also follow data management guidelines set out by the American Bar Association, or ABA. Law firms that have access to client healthcare data will also need to comply with HIPAA regulations.

 

Law firms are also subject to general data privacy laws in their country, state, and city. The most expansive data privacy law in the world is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which applies to law firms in Europe.

 

Many other countries and states are following suit with their own data privacy laws. For example, California recently passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which provides very similar data protections to the GDPR.

 

It can be beneficial for lawyers to start following these security policies now, even if you don’t currently live in an area with strict data protections. This can help you prepare for future legislative changes and ensure your clients’ data is as safe as possible.

 

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Law Firms

Developing a proactive cybersecurity strategy is a must for keeping both your client information and your internal operations safe. Here are some of the essential cybersecurity measures that all law firms can implement. 

 

Many of these are simple changes to your systems, but implementing them can make a big difference when it comes to preventing cyberattacks.

 

Take Proactive Security Measures

Putting proactive security measures in place can help you prevent unauthorized access to your systems and keep sensitive information private. 

 

The first step is having your IT team install robust firewalls and antivirus software on your systems. This will serve as the first layer of defense between your systems and potential intruders.

 

The next step is to implement constant system monitoring with intrusion detection systems. These systems will alert you at the first sign of a potential breach. This way, you’ll have time to respond quickly and minimize the damage before it gets out of control.

 

Finally, you’ll need to implement secure Wi-Fi networks for your team. Those who work remotely should have access to secure internet connections at home to mitigate cybersecurity risks.

 

This also means implementing a strong access management system for the software you use. Users should have strong, complex passwords, and you can even add two-factor authentication for another level of security.

 

Conduct Regular Audits and Assessments

Your cybersecurity strategy should be adjusted regularly to account for emerging threats and changing technologies. 

 

Conducting an internal cybersecurity audit on a regular basis will help you identify potential vulnerabilities and find ways to fix them.

 

Third-party IT service providers can help you conduct a comprehensive audit. They’ll provide a helpful external perspective and find potential issues that you might miss on your own.

 

IT professionals can also help you create an incident response plan. This is a plan that outlines what to do in the event of a security breach, helping you secure your data quickly and mitigate

further damage.

 

Provide Training For Your Team

The entire team at your law firm should have an awareness of cybersecurity best practices, regardless of their job title. Offer regular training to keep your team members informed. 

 

These training sessions should teach your team members how to spot phishing scams and other cybersecurity threats, as well as how to keep your data and systems private.

 

How Can Tech Advisors Help Your Law Firm?

Tech Advisors is a managed IT services provider that can help keep your law firm safe, secure, and compliant. With managed IT services, you outsource your IT operations to cybersecurity experts, so you can focus on managing your caseload. 

 

Tech Advisors offers 27/4 IT support and monitoring, cybersecurity strategy, compliance, and more.