Data breaches are among the most significant cyber threats to law firms, alongside common scams such as phishing, ransomware, and supply chain compromise.
While all companies and business types are at risk of cybercrime, those in the legal sector often have large volumes of personal data about their clients on file. Losing such sensitive information – or worse, having it fall into the hands of criminals – could put many of your legal clients at risk and greatly damage the reputation of your firm.
Law firms with politically or commercially vital clients are also more likely to become the target of a cyber attack than a local family agency.
Many victims of these attacks suffer irreparable damage to their reputation and, in many cases, are forced to close. If your clients can’t trust you to keep their data secure, you’ll lose business.
In this article, the Sprout IT team will guide you through managing both internal and external security risks to personal data and how you can minimise the impact of a cyber threat.
1. Make cybersecurity a top priority
The legal sector is at significant risk of cybercrime because of the huge amounts of personal and sensitive data you hold. That means cybersecurity should always be a top priority for your firm.
According to tech consultant Adriana Linares, “lawyers get complacent” when it comes to their data.
“They think, ‘Nobody’s going to come after me.’ But that’s not how things work,” she said. Linares notes that it is often small legal firms that fall victim to hackers, not just large organisations.
Linares says that as many as “eighty percent of law firms have been hacked, and the other twenty percent are either lying or don’t know about it.”
2. Stay GDPR compliant
In recent years, data protection has been an incredibly popular topic in the news.
The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) was brought in earlier this year in a move to give individuals more control over the data companies hold on them. In addition to this, GDPR also reduces the risk that a potential data breach could pose.
One of the major changes brought in by GDPR is Data Minimisation and Storage Limitation. This ensures that all of the personal data you process and store is completely relevant to the purpose and limited to whatever is necessary.
You will need to periodically review the data you hold and delete anything you don’t actually need. That means, should someone attempt to steal your information, the risk is minimised.
3. Develop data policies
Another key point in the GDPR is Integrity and Confidentiality. This essentially states that, in order to be compliant, you must have appropriate security measures in place to protect the personal data you hold.
The Information Commissioner’s Office defines the security principle as taking “appropriate technical and organisational measures” to keep your data safe.
This covers both cyber protection such as updating your firewalls, as well as reducing the risk of human error resulting in a data breach by training your employees.
Last year, cybersecurity firm eWranglers published the findings of their cybersecurity readiness survey. The study showed that only 33% of law firms had implemented data protection policies, and only 33% had issued employee cybersecurity training.
Your data policies should address important topics to educate your staff on scenarios such as acceptable internet use, physical security of devices and paperwork, and contingency planning.
4. Upgrade your cyber protection
If you’re looking to protect your business from a data breach, making sure your preventative measures are up to scratch is absolutely essential.
The same eWranglers survey found that 75% of law firms in the UK have some type of anti-virus installed on one or more of their computers. Of these, 58% reported having firewalls and email spam and phishing protection, 50% had regular data backups, and 33% had the capacity for email encryption.
The fact that not every legal firm respondent had these preventative measures in place is a serious cause for concern. Make sure your electronic data is thoroughly protected.
5. Encrypt your sensitive data
As mentioned above, only 33% of law firms used email encryption in their day-to-day operations. Encryption is a mathematical function that uses a ‘key’ to encode data; ensuring only those with access to the key can read the information.
This is particularly important when emailing your clients should the message be delivered to the wrong person, or if hackers attempt to intercept the email.
While there is no legal obligation for your firm to encrypt data, should an email be breached and data lost or stolen, the Information Commissioner could crack down hard on your practice or chambers.
You can see the official guide to encryption, or read a list of the most common types of encryption that you should consider for your law firm.
6. Have plans in place in case something does go wrong
Contingency planning is an essential step for all businesses but it is particularly important for those in the legal sector.
One of the best methods to save your law firm from the fallout of a data breach is to create a simple communications plan for your staff should anything happen.
If you experience a cyber security breach, your Incident Response Plan can be used to help all employees navigate their next steps. This should include, but is not limited to, having someone research the threat, determining whether the threat is serious, and planning your next steps to safeguard against further damage.
7. Find the right IT partner – like Sprout IT
Ultimately, the only way to ensure all of the above steps are coordinated efficiently is by working with an experienced and specialised legal sector IT provider.