Law firms are becoming prime targets for cybercriminals in today’s world, due to the wealth of sensitive information that they handle on behalf of their clients. Around the world, the number and severity of cyber threats are increasing, with this being reflected in major data leaks involving legal firms. A 2021 report by BlueVoyant found that 15% of the global legal firms surveyed, showed signs of compromised networks, while 100% of them had evidence of daily targeting by cyber threats.
In this article, we will explore six key cybersecurity risks for the legal industry and move onto how IT best practices and a dedicated Managed Services Provider (MSP) like Truly Secure, can mitigate them to ensure continued privacy, security and integrity across your IT infrastructure.
6 Key Cybersecurity Threats to Law Firms
Law firms store vast amounts of confidential client data, making them lucrative targets for data breaches. Cybercriminals may hack into a firms’ IT infrastructure by exploiting vulnerabilities in law firm networks or employing phishing techniques to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information through deceiving a company insider. A data breach can lead to severe consequences, including reputational damage, financial losses, and potential legal ramifications.
In 2016, the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca suffered a massive data breach, which came to be known as the Panama Papers leak. The breach exposed millions of confidential documents, causing such serious reputational, legal and organizational harm to Mossack Fonseca, that in 2018 it closed its practice. Although a dramatic example, it shows that data breaches can be devastating to legal firms.
Phishing and Social Engineering Attacks
Phishing and social engineering attacks are highly prevalent in the legal industry. These methods focus on exploiting human vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. Some of these methods can be fairly simple and crude, whilst others are particularly sophisticated and deceptive. Cybercriminals impersonate trusted individuals, such as clients, colleagues, or even senior partners, to trick employees into revealing login credentials, downloading malicious attachments, or authorising payments to the attacker.
An example of this threat is the Crimson Kingsnake threat group, who targeted international law firms in 2022 using sophisticated phishing emails to extract payments from the firms. These phishing emails were complete with the logos and letterheads of their target firms, enhancing credibility and boosting the efficacy of the attacks.
Ransomware attacks pose a significant threat to law firms, where the malicious encryption of critical files can lead to disruptions in client service, financial losses, and potential data loss. Malware effectively locks access to files, with the promise of restored access once payment demands are met: a promise that attackers frequently don’t honour. Cybercriminals may deliver ransomware through malicious email attachments, compromised websites, or by exploiting software vulnerabilities.
In 2020, a law firm experienced a malware attack that penetrated its systems, leading to the encryption of nearly one million files, including sensitive court case information that was posted onto the dark web. Alongside the reputational and organizational harm, the firm was fined £98’000 because of its failure to take preventative measures despite reporting the incident promptly.
External attacks aren’t the only cybersecurity risks faced by law firms: threats can also emanate from within! Insider threats can range from accidental data breaches due to negligence or human error, to intentional acts of sabotage or data theft. Humans comprise an essential layer to any organization’s security posture, as staff that are poorly trained in cybersecurity best practice can pose an inadvertent threat to the security of data and systems.
In 2021, a court case emerged where it was alleged that four attorneys at a law firm plotted to leave for a rival practice. Before leaving, they took and destroyed some of this firm’s data in an effort to retain the clients they had been working with. This case illustrates just one of a number of ways employees can threaten the integrity of data, with others including human error, resentment, and financial gain.
Legal firms often collaborate with various third-party vendors, such as document management services, cloud storage providers, and eDiscovery platforms. However, these collaborations can introduce additional cybersecurity risks, as law firms may become vulnerable to the security weaknesses of their vendors.
In 2020, over 190 law firms experienced data breaches owing to a shared 3rd party vendor of legal form software, compromising the personal data of the firms’ staff.
Mobile Device and Remote Work Risks:
The legal industry increasingly relies on mobile devices and remote work, which introduces additional cybersecurity risks. Lost or stolen devices, unsecured Wi-Fi networks, and the use of personal devices for work-related tasks can lead to unauthorized access to sensitive information.
A study by Wandera, analysed 10’000 staff devices used by law firms in the UK and USA, and found that exposure to cybersecurity threats is rife. Amongst the vulnerabilities, in the average sampled law firm, 29% of devices are running outdated IoS versions and 8% even lack lock screens. On average, for every 100 devices in a law firm, malware is downloaded once every two weeks, phishing websites are clicked twice a day, and one insecure Wi-Fi connection is made every two days. For law firms, Murphy’s law applies; what can go wrong, will go wrong if probability is given the chance enough times.
How Legal Firms Can Protect Themselves From Cybersecurity Risks
Legal firms can implement robust, end-to-end cybersecurity measures that can protect them from common and sophisticated cyber threats alike. Cyber criminals are increasingly making use of modern technologies such as machine learning to orchestrate cyber-attacks. For legal firms to maintain their reputation, compliance and network integrity, they will need to implement measures that can offer cybersecurity from the full spectrum of cyber threats operating in a globalized world.
In this increasingly complex context, partnering with a Managed Services Provider (or MSP) like Truly Secure, can be highly beneficial and serve as an economical way of harnessing deep, yet wide-ranging IT and cybersecurity expertise to protect, maintain and optimize your IT infrastructure. We’re global cybersecurity experts that work with some of the world’s leading brands to keep their IT infrastructure secure. In any case the question arises: ‘how can I keep my legal firm secure?’.
Here is a brief summary of some of the key measures that can be taken by legal firms or MSPs working with legal firms, to create a robust cybersecurity posture against these threats:
- Robust Access Controls: Implement strong access controls to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive information. This includes implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) for user logins, regularly reviewing and updating user privileges, and using role-based access controls (RBAC) to limit access based on job responsibilities.
- Regular Security Training: Conduct regular cybersecurity training for all employees to raise awareness about the common cyber threats, including the ones above. Cybersecurity training should cover the best practices for identifying and handling suspicious emails, creating strong passwords, and recognizing potential security risks.
- Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS): IDPS solutions allow firms to monitor network traffic and detect suspicious or malicious activities in real-time. These systems can identify and block potential threats before they can cause significant damage, providing an additional layer of defence against cyberattacks.
- Endpoint Protection: Implement a range of endpoint protection solutions to protect your devices, which act as entry points into your network. Endpoint protection solutions include antivirus software, firewalls, and regular security updates and testing.
- Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing: You can assure and test your security controls using audits and penetration testing. These assessments help to uncover potential weaknesses in systems, networks, and applications, allowing firms to address them proactively before they are exploited by cybercriminals.
- Data Encryption: Encrypting sensitive data is essential to protect it from unauthorized access. Ensure that data at rest (stored on devices or servers) and data in transit (during transmission) are encrypted using strong encryption algorithms. Even if the data is intercepted, this provides an additional layer of protection.
- Strong Password Policies: Enforce strong password policies throughout the firm. Require employees to use complex passwords or passphrases that include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Password management tools can also be implemented to securely store passwords in a way that discourages the reusing of passwords.
- User Behavior Analytics (UBA): UBA tools allow firms to monitor and analyze user behavior within the firm’s network. These tools use machine learning algorithms to establish baseline behavior patterns for users. From there, UBA can identify deviations that can indicate potential insider threats or compromised accounts.
Ready To Be Truly Cyber Secure? Join Our Webinar.
Unsure if your cybersecurity is really working and offering the protection that your firm deserves? Want to make inroads on cybersecurity, but not sure how? We’re holding an insights-packed webinar entitled: Protecting Client Confidentiality: A Guide to IT Security for Law Firms.
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In this webinar, we’ll give you a holistic guide to implementing IT security for your legal firm so that you can protect the confidentiality of your clients with confidence. By the end, you will be equipped with actionable insights that you can apply to improve your cybersecurity posture, using expert insights.
Need cybersecurity services? Truly Secure are here to help! We’re trusted Managed Service Providers based in Dubai, with a wealth of experience working with leading brands to create, maintain, secure and upgrade their IT infrastructure. If you’d like to explore how you can leverage your technology to unlock your business’s potential, get in touch with us today.