Technology has forever changed the way we practice law. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to imagine running a legal practice without it these days. As with anything, though, there’s always a dose of bad with the good.
Modern technology has unfortunately opened the door to serious security threats from hackers. Protecting against cyberattacks and potential data security breaches is a top concern for many law firms, and for good reason. A security breach can be devastating not just to your firm, but to your clients as well.
The Danger of Cyberattacks
In the wake of a few major cyberattacks on law firms in recent years, many firms are wondering just how at risk they are. Unfortunately, the threat is very real. Law firms are currently 7th on the list of common targets for hackers. It’s estimated that one in four firms has suffered a data breach, with each breach causing an average of $4 million in damage.
Law firms are prime targets for hackers because of the amount of sensitive information they hold. Just think of all the trade secrets and confidential business information you have on any given client. Multiply that across all clients in the firm, and a law firm is a virtual treasure trove for would-be hackers.
Clients are increasingly stepping up their own security protocols, and they’re expecting their law firms to do the same. The next time you try to onboard a new client, don’t be surprised if they conduct their own thorough security assessment of your practices. After all, the sensitive information at stake has the power to make or break their business.
Staying on top of data security and the potential for cyberattacks is more than just a matter of best practices. Failure to take proper security measures could also raise ethical concerns for law firms. ABA Rule 1.1 requires attorneys to “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” Specifically, the rule obligates lawyers to understand the ins and outs of technical issues like the creation, storage, and retrieval of electronic information. Understanding cyberattacks and current issues impacting data security seems to fall squarely within the requirements of Rule 1.1.
This also means understanding that the way you’ve done business in the past may no longer be sufficient. For example, email has likely become a critical part of your day-to-day practice, but email is not a secure way to communicate and share information. In fact, email is one of the biggest avenues for cyberattacks. Preventing cyberattacks may require significant changes to your regular practices.
Common Types of Cyberattacks
Cyberattacks can be devastating for your firm. The good news, though, is that some of the biggest threats can be identified and stopped before they cause damage.
- Phishing. Phishing scams are email attacks designed to obtain illegal access to systems or steal sensitive information like passwords, usernames, or credit card information. Often the hacker sending the email is disguised as a person or entity the recipient would typically trust, so they feel safe clicking on malicious links or logging into accounts, unknowingly granting the hacker access in the process. There are variations on the common phishing scam, including spear phishing (phishing directed at specific recipients), clone phishing (sending phishing emails via cloned copies of legitimate email addresses), and whaling (phishing directed at high-profile targets like executives), but all of them function the same way at their core.
- Ransomware. Ransomware is malicious software (“malware”) that’s installed on a computer, smartphone, or other device without the user knowing. The malware accesses sensitive information and either holds it hostage or threatens to release it in an attempt to extort money or something else of value out of the user. Ransomware is often installed when users fail to spot a phishing scam.
What You Can Do
The first step in preventing cyberattacks is to provide extensive and frequent cybersecurity training for all users, so they’re in a position to spot hacker tactics, including phishing scams, before they become full-blown breaches. Employees should be trained not only on how to spot attacks, but also on what to do if an attempted cyberattack occurs.
Firms should also make sure antivirus software and other security measures are installed and regularly updated. Hackers constantly change their methods of attack, so your response mechanisms need to adapt accordingly. In the event that your systems and information are compromised, you should always have external backups of everything in a secure location that only certain users can access.
Cyberattacks are scary, but preventing them doesn’t have to be. As a recognized industry leader in litigation technologies, Veritext understands the threats law firms are facing today. We can help you find the right solutions to ensure your data security and protect against cyberattacks. Contact us today to learn more.