Law Offices: Protecting Client Information From Data Breaches and Cyber Attacks

Today’s law firms must be able to provide top-notch legal services while simultaneously ensuring that their client’s information is protected from nefarious hackers and cybercriminals. As law firms are widely regarded by digital criminals as a tempting target full of confidential information and valuable data, they are a continually growing target of cyber attacks.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal has reported that the rate of cyber attacks against law firms is continuing to rise, even though attorneys are starting to take necessary precautions against such threats to client confidentiality.

This discouraging trend means that law firms must be ready to get on board with today’s cybersecurity technology to maintain (what were once very easy to uphold) standards of information security. While it is clear that such a shift will require practicing attorneys along with up-and-coming law students to reskill for the digital age, it can be challenging to determine what first steps should be taken towards ensuring the highest level of protection for client data.

With this reality in mind, we have compiled the following overview of what the nature of cyber threats to client information indeed is, and how today’s law firms can go about continuing to uphold the sanctity of attorney-client privilege in the age of data breaches.

What is the nature of this threat to both lawyers and clients? We have grown accustomed to hearing that organizations have been hacked, but the legal sector stands out from other industries in this arena due to the vast amount of private client data held by law firms. For an example of how much damage can be done to the reputation of both law firms and clients in the wake of a massive data breach, look no further than the Panama Papers scandal. Granted, most law firms are not handling such a vast cache of highly sensitive information. Still, even a small-scale cyber attack can be enough to put smaller firms with only a couple of partners out of business, thanks in part to the sheer number of legal issues that arise in such situations. In short, if you want to ensure that your law firm can avoid the costly and messy litigation associated with the loss of confidential client information, an investment in some form of cybersecurity protection must be made today.

What Are Good Steps To Take To Avoid Protect Client Information? Many steps can be taken to limit the chances that client information falls into the wrong hands. The first order of business should be an in-depth review of the technology, specifically the computer hardware and software, that is utilized throughout your firm.

If a piece of hardware is found to be outdated, or a software package has not been updated for months (or even years), actions to fix these issues should be taken immediately. Such efforts are especially critical when it comes to outdated software. It is effortless for experienced hackers to find and exploit vulnerabilities in older software, which in turn can place the information of your clients directly in harm’s way.

Another essential step to take is the implementation of secure communication and collaboration tools for your employees and clients alike. Simple steps like the adoption of email encryption, setting up secure client portals, and the adoption of a vault-like virtual data room can go a long way towards minimizing the risk of a catastrophic data breach. As email has been found to be the weakest link in terms of digital security for most law firms, such straightforward changes can make a big difference.

Most importantly, law firms that are concerned about the security of client data should review their internal protocols and procedures as soon as possible. Phishing attacks, where a fake email is sent to an employee to gain access to their passwords and by extension, their accounts, are one of the leading causes for the loss of client data.

Along with the potential for unintentional leaks of information by employees, these two threats make up the significant causes for data breaches within law firms. Thankfully, they are also the easiest threats to fix, as a few focused training sessions can help to ensure that your client’s information is never at risk of being made public due to an internal employee error again. While the topic of cybersecurity for law firms is complex, a strong understanding of the threats that are out there and how they can be mitigated can go a long way towards ensuring the long-term security of confidential client data.

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