With law firms around the world facing increasing cyber attacks on a daily basis, it’s not surprising that law firms are becoming more concerned about what they’re doing and what they should be doing differently.
Law firms of all sizes are seeing greater impacts financially and otherwise as a result of growing cyber threats such as ransomware and social engineering attempts. It’s imperative that these businesses prioritize cybersecurity as these risks could mean more than just a costly cleanup; a data breach could result in your firm folding within just months of an attack.
Cyber Threats for Law Firms Are Increasing
Cyber attacks in all industries and sectors are on the rise, but law firms are one of the more particularly vulnerable industries.
Law firms are a target for threat actors because they house highly sensitive information that hackers know needs to be defended, even if the price is costly. This has led to a rise in social engineering and ransomware attempts.
A study by the American Bar Association shows that one in four US law firms have experienced a data breach of some kind, a staggering statistic. When 25% of law firms have already suffered an attack, it’s clear that law firms need to do more to protect themselves against future attacks.
Types of Threats That Impact Law Firms
There are many types of cyber security threats that face businesses, but two of the most common are phishing and ransomware. Phishing attacks usually come through suspicious emails that aim to obtain sensitive information about your company and access clients funds and other sensitive information. They will mask themselves as legitimate correspondences to take advantage of unsuspecting email recipients.
Phishing attempts may seem like old news, but according to Verizon’s 2016 DBI Report, 70% of cyber attacks involve phishing emails (often in combination with other hacking methods). Social engineering is still a hugely successful method for hackers because human error is easy to take advantage of.
Ransomware attacks are on the rise as well. They work by locking a device or system or stealing data and asking you to pay a ransom in order to regain access to them. Administration failures and vulnerabilities in company websites can all be exposed and exploited by cyber attackers too. Ransomware demands are typically very expensive, and it’s not guaranteed that if you pay the ransom the hacker will actually return your data or access to your systems.
The Impact of Cyber Attacks on Law Firms
As mentioned, cyber attacks can be extremely expensive. The average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million according to IBM, and while that number may be smaller for smaller firms, it’s a statistic that can’t be ignored.
As well as having to deal with that kind of financial hit, you’ll also need to consider the reputational damage your business will face as a result of a data breach. Client data can be very sensitive, and if it’s accessed by hackers or cyber criminals, the client can face a variety of damages that you will be held responsible for. People will start to question how reliable your law firm is. It will be more difficult to maintain client loyalty if they fear you can’t protect their data.
There are also non-compliance fees and penalties as well as client lawsuits to worry about if you’re not handling data safely. If you’ve fallen victim to a breach and weren’t following compliance regulations and cybersecurity law, you could find yourself with even more damages to face.
How to Keep Client Data Safe
So with all this daunting information facing law firms, what can they do to keep clients safe? The answer isn’t as complicated as some law firms may think.
There are many steps that law firms are already taking, such as using encryption for transporting files, removing administrative rights, adding multi-factor authentication to remote access and web services, as well as training their staff for cybersecurity awareness.
One resource to bear in mind is working with a Managed Service Provider who specializes in cybersecurity services. Especially for smaller firms, getting total IT management can be a great solution to cybersecurity weaknesses. According to the 2019 ILTA Tech Survey, small businesses can greatly benefit from outsourcing cybersecurity services, such as phish testing, that are considered necessary yet more complicated to configure properly.
Many law firms even discount simple cybersecurity solutions, such as taking out a cyber liability insurance policy. According to the American Bar Association, 39% of law firms who participated in their study said they did not know if they had cyber liability insurance or not.
Cyber insurance typically covers damages such as extortion losses, restoration of damaged data, legal expenses, the costs of reputational damage, and the loss of business. Taking advantage of this relatively easy solution is just one way law firms can better protect themselves against cyber attacks.
The best thing law firms can do to protect themselves is to take this issue of cybersecurity seriously. Not doing so will put your law firm in a potentially perilous position that could be difficult to recover from. Working with a cybersecurity expert who understands how to strategize cybersecurity planning and implementation for your law firm is an excellent way to ensure your client data is protected from threat actors and to make sure your business can continue to grow.