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Adapt to Survive: Keeping One Step Ahead of Cyber Threats

Published on 10 August 15
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There have been numerous high profile cyber-attacks in recent years. 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. To add further embarrassment to Sonyâs predicament several emails were leaked from their high ranking Hollywood executives.

Against this backdrop of ever increasing cyber threats, and when you consider how much sensitive data is held by law firms, you realise 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.
Security Audit

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 sensitive emails going backwards and forwards to clients. Therefore, there are considerable potential vulnerabilities and the first step should be 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 fill them. After the audit an âInformation Security Policyâ should be created which lays out guidelines for your staff to follow to ensure your data is kept secure.
Adapt to Survive: Keeping One Step Ahead of Cyber Threats - Image 1

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 those in the health insurance and the payment card fields. If you have already carried out your own internal audit then this eventuality shouldnât be such a daunting experience.
Keeping Documents Safe

It is imperative that the records a legal firm holds are kept safe to protect their clientsâ 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 who 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 shouldnât feel you are immune to hacking. The FBI recently warned that even small and medium sized firms are now coming under attack. A law firmâs 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?


There have been numerous high profile cyber-attacks in recent years. 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. To add further embarrassment to Sonyâs predicament several emails were leaked from their high ranking Hollywood executives.

Against this backdrop of ever increasing cyber threats, and when you consider how much sensitive data is held by law firms, you realise 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.

Security Audit

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 sensitive emails going backwards and forwards to clients. Therefore, there are considerable potential vulnerabilities and the first step should be 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 fill them. After the audit an âInformation Security Policyâ should be created which lays out guidelines for your staff to follow to ensure your data is kept secure.

Adapt to Survive: Keeping One Step Ahead of Cyber Threats - Image 1

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 those in the health insurance and the payment card fields. If you have already carried out your own internal audit then this eventuality shouldnât be such a daunting experience.

Keeping Documents Safe

It is imperative that the records a legal firm holds are kept safe to protect their clientsâ 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 who 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 shouldnât feel you are immune to hacking. The FBI recently warned that even small and medium sized firms are now coming under attack. A law firmâs 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?

This blog is listed under IT Security & Architecture Community

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