Though they may not be the first targets you think of for cybercriminals, law firms are actually one of the most at-risk businesses for cybersecurity attacks. Cybercrminals usually target law firms because of the sensitive, important information they keep on file.
However, there is more than just sensitive information at risk when a law firm is targeted. If compromised, the information is at risk, but so is the firm’s reputation and future business. It is in the best interest of every party to protect your firm and the data it stores. As Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
To know what protections your law firm needs, you should take several steps.
1. Run a risk assessment
Finnish computer security expert Mikko Hyppönen said, “If it’s Smart, it’s vulnerable.” Each and every smart device your business holds is vulnerable to an attack. The first step is running a risk assessment to help you understand how good or poor your current cybersecurity system is and what you need to do to fill in any gaps.
After the initial risk assessment, it is important to incorporate a routine risk assessment every month or so. Knowing if and how you’re vulnerable to various issues will help stop a threat before it even happens.
The routine risk assessment update includes, but is not limited to, updating passwords, updating a document with the firm’s clients and monetary assets/risks, erasing old data that no longer has value for your company and completing any other procedures that make it easier on the firm if a breach occurs. Learning from past breaches, mistakes or experiences also provides an opportunity to be smarter about things moving forward. In 2022, the top cyberattacks were phishing, ransomware and crytptojacking. Learn how to protect yourself from these three threats.
2. Purchase insurance
At the end of the day, it is better to be safe than sorry. Having a cybersecurity system insurance policy for your law firm can help ease your mind a bit, especially when you compare having to spend a couple of hundred dollars on an insurance premium to have to pay millions of dollars in ransomware and potential settlements with clients. InfoSec institute has famously said, “If you can’t afford security, you can’t afford a breach.”
Due to the unique nature of every law firm and the areas of expertise they may cover, the specific coverage of insurance policies for law firms will all vary. This only serves to emphasize the importance of protecting your business systems and the data they store! It’s key to talk to several insurance companies until you find the right match.
3. Create an internal action plan
According to a recent ABA Tech Report, 53% of law firms have policies protecting their data and business, while only 36% have an incident response plan in place. Seventeen percent of law firms have no policy or plan in place.
An important step toward creating an effective cybersecurity response plan is to educate everyone about it. Understanding terminologies, what everyone’s role is and what the steps in your firm’s plan are is essential — especially since every firm’s plans and policies will be different!
Response plans are usually made up of the following stages:
The preparation stage usually consists of pinpointing which employee is responsible for which role in the response plan. For example, who will alert clients of the breach, who will work with IT and alert them, who deals with any public statements, etc? It’s recommended you print out the plan or keep it somewhere all employees have access to it so that when the moment arises, it will be smooth sailing.
This stage of the plan is also an ideal time to assess which clients could be affected, how much money is at stake and any other vital information. Since cases always come and go, your firm will need to ensure that this information stays current.
Further, it would be smart to think of protection from the moment an employee joins your firm. For example, Herrod Tech suggests having every newly hired employee sign a privacy agreement, undergo training in case a breach were to occur and have a password reset system in which they are forced to change their password every month or so.
The same applies to your physical cybersecurity systems — have a designated team member of the IT department keep a catalog of all computers, software, license numbers, passwords, security access levels and any other sensitive information pertaining to the online aspect of your business.
The analysis stage begins as soon as someone at your firm detects a potential cyberattack. Once this occurs, you’ll need to be able to decipher what is a real cyberattack versus what may just be a wonky computer. If your firm has an IT department, this would be the time to raise it to their attention and trust their keen eye and expertise on the matter.
Former computer security industry executive Dmitri Alperovitch said, “There are only two types of companies: Those that know they have been breached and those that don’t know they have been breached.” Don’t let yourself be the former!
No matter what threat you may be facing, the name of the game during this stage is to contain the problem and prevent it from spreading. At some point, you’ll need to communicate the breach or issue with clients, the media or other affected parties. Meanwhile, you should enact all steps of your attack response plan. Your actions may include shutting down for the day, contacting higher authorities or just letting your IT department take the reins.
At this point, the information gathered during the prep stage should come in handy and reduce the amount of time it takes for your firm to do damage control and take inventory of all clients and assets affected by the breach.
After the active threat has ended, it’s time to clean up. This housekeeping stage can include changing passwords, reconsidering what access levels are available to all staff members, getting new systems, backing everything up and starting anew, etc.
The post-incident stage is also the prime opportunity to evaluate how your current response plan works — you can improve it, change it completely or feel good knowing it worked perfectly. Another good exercise to perform at this point is reviewing what happened and how you reacted with everyone involved in the plan.
Data loss can really be the end of the world for some. It’s never too late to start preparing yourself. Learn how to upgrade your backup management plan so you’re up to 2023 standards.
Learn which software your law firm needs.
In today’s digital age, protecting your sensitive information can be difficult. That being said, there are software programs that may help you take your data protection a step further.
Whether it’s an internal communication app, encrypting your emails or assuring you’re using HTTPS and not HTTP, being mindful of using encryption when possible will always add an extra layer of data protection and security to you and your law firm.
Some encryption messaging platforms include Signal, which is highly reviewed and trusted by businesses and politicians. Since most work documents and platforms can be accessed on our mobile phones, adding two-factor authentication to everything is always a good first step to take as well.
Software like McAfee Secure can regularly conduct automatic security scans to ensure no malware or other vulnerabilities have entered your systems, as recommended by Clio.
It’s always recommended to have an IT department or at least a dedicated IT employee at your firm, as their expertise goes a long way. You can never be too safe when dealing with such personal information on a day-to-day basis. Having such a support and resource can also serve to inform you of other useful sotware, apps, firewalls, VPNs, data backup systems, etc.
If your firm does not have an IT department or member, we recommend you hire the help of a professional IT company.
Outside of needing cybersecurity system protocols for disaster recovery, having good systems and plans set up from the get-go can help organize your firm’s documents and information before disaster strikes, making it easier to act if things go south.
Some of the best practices and safety tips go back to the basics:
- Educate yourself on the importance of abiding by guidelines to promote online security, how to respond to a breach, how to be HIPAA compliant and the basic dos and don’ts of the internet.
- Make strong, unique passwords for all your documents and never share them.
- Be attentive and cautious of any online communications you receive, any links or images you click and any websites you visit. Checking the legitimacy of these interactions will always be vital to your online data protection!
- Review and consider limiting the access levels of all employees and third parties you may work with. It’s necessary to remind yourself that not everyone needs access to everything.
Are you dealing with a digital disaster? Here are five cybersecurity tools that can help.
The common denominator in assuring your online cybersecurity systems and important documents stay untouched by cybercriminals is having a sturdy, well set-up cloud system. Dealing with so much sensitive information and so many clients makes this task anything but a light matter.
That’s why it’s best to leave cloud configuration in the hands of experts. MDL helps businesses not only set up a safe and secure cloud but tackle any disaster recovery, managed services and network and infrastructure solutions as well. Get a free consultation or learn more about our services.