There have been numerous high profile cyber-attacks in recent years, of privacy companies and government agencies. In May 2014, eBay was hacked and had to announce that personal details of 233 million of its users had been stolen. In November of the same year Sony suffered a similar fate when 102 million of its user accounts were compromised, and several emails were leaked from its high ranking Hollywood executives. Earlier this year, it was discovered that the United States Office of Personal Management suffered from two large-scale hacks, resulting in the theft of millions of employee personal files.
Against this backdrop of ever increasing cyber threats—and when you consider how much sensitive data is held by law firms—you realize how vital it is for the legal industry to keep data secure. Especially when the outcome of a legal case and the reputation of the legal firm concerned rests on it.
For each individual case a busy law firm will usually be privy to large numbers of physical documents, they will hold considerable amounts of electronic data, and there will be vast numbers of exchanges between clients that may contain sensitive information. Therefore, there are considerable potential vulnerabilities and the first step is to have all the risks professionally assessed by a cyber-threat specialist. Once you know where the gaps lie in your security, you can take steps to address them. A good way to do this, especially after an audit, is to create an Information Security Policy that lays out guidelines for your staff to ensure data is kept secure.
Some high profile clients may wish to audit your firm from a security point of view before they appoint you. This is particularly true of those industries which are heavily regulated, such as health insurance, and payment card processing companies. If you have already carried out your own internal audit, then this eventuality shouldn’t be such a daunting experience.
Keeping Documents Safe
It is imperative that the records a legal firm holds are kept safe to protect their clients’ reputations as well as the fact that any breach could result in damage to ongoing lawsuits. The best option is to employ the services of a secure document management company that can protect your data whilst giving you the flexibility to access it whenever needed, an important point given the day to day practicalities of life in a law firm. These providers will be subject to their own auditing and will use high levels of both physical and data security to protect your assets. They can also store both hard copy documents and data.
Firewall and Anti-Virus Software
Your internal network and website should have a firewall as the first line of defence. Anti-virus software is also important to protect you from malware. In one recent cyber case involving a legal firm, they were subject to spear phishing. This is when an email is opened which seems to come from a trusted source that the firm recognizes. The email then installs malware which sits in the background gathering sensitive data for the hacker.
Anti-virus software needs to be updated regularly and all systems should be scanned on an ongoing basis. These updates and scans should be set to run automatically by your IT department, to avoid human error.
Encryption and Off-Site Servers
The ideal solution for a legal firm is to have all their data held off-site in a high security data centre. Furthermore all data held should be encrypted and all communications, including email, should also take place through encrypted connections. Encryption is important as then even if your data centre is hacked your information should still remain secure.
Even if your law firm is relatively small, you aren’t immune to hacking. The FBI recently warned that even small and medium sized firms are now coming under attack. A law firm’s reputation is paramount. Clients expect their data to always remain confidential and the success of a case may rest on this fact. With the stakes so high are you willing to risk your reputation and a subsequent loss of business when some key steps taken now can do a great deal to protect you?