Law firms store a lot of sensitive information and data, which makes them a prime target for many cybercriminals. Aside from being a “one-stop shop” for these hackers, law firms, like many businesses, fail to recognize how vulnerable they are and end up having lax security against cyber attacks.
So what are the major cybersecurity threats targeting law firms? Phishing, hacking, ransomware, spyware, cryptojacking, and data breaches are the common cyber attacks directed at law firms.
What Is A Cybersecurity Threat?
A cybersecurity threat is defined as a malicious attack that intends to steal data, damage data, or disrupt digital life. These attacks include threats such as data breaches, computer viruses, or phishing schemes.
In the 1990s, the term “cyberspace” began to be used with the rise of internet usage. “Cyberspace” refers to the invented space where activities between computer networks occur. Because of this concept, we can visualize how digital attacks can affect us in the physical world.
Even though these cyber attacks are mounted against us in a virtual space, the intent of the attacker is real and can have a lasting impact on us. Cybersecurity threats can come from various people, places, and contexts. These malicious attackers may include:
- Individuals developing attack vectors and executing these attacks
- Criminal organizations specifically working in the cyberspace
- Nation states, for espionage or disruption
- Industrial spies
- Business competitors
- Unhappy insiders
- Organized crime groups
The Most Common Cybersecurity Threats Against Law Firms
Cybersecurity threats against law firms are on the rise across the globe. According to the American Bar Association’s 2017 technology report, 22% of more than 4,000 respondents reported that their firms experienced a data breach that year. In 2016, the FBI also reported that hackers were targeting international law firms to steal client information for insider trading.
Whether you’re a small organization or a large one, every law firm is at risk. Cyber attackers want to get their hands on all kinds of confidential data. Unfortunately, many law firms remain unguarded against these threats. Even worse, some firms might not be aware that their data is being breached at all. This is why it’s important for law practitioners to be vigilant against cybersecurity threats such as:
Phishing is a type of attack where users are tricked into disclosing confidential information or downloading malware by clicking on a threatening link. This hyperlink is usually included in an email, but may also be found in text messages or social media.
When the link is clicked to open an attachment or download a file, malware may be downloaded onto your computer. In other cases, the phishing message looks like it was sent by a reputable business and requires you to submit personal information – which can be used to access your accounts.
In the legal industry, phishing is prominent because a large amount of sensitive information passes through digital sources. For example, a scammer can create a false email and masquerade as a client, colleague, or an authority figure. They can then direct you to the log-in portal of a phishing site, impersonate an e-sign document, or even download sensitive information directly.
Law firm clients are also in danger of being tricked using this method, because they can be manipulated into sending sensitive information to what they believe is their trusted law firm.
Hacking is one of the best known cybersecurity threats, since it broadly refers to any type of cyber attack. The term refers to the process of gaining unauthorized access to a computer system or a group of computer systems.
This is traditionally done by cracking the passwords or codes that protect the privacy of these systems. Sometimes this is done using a software that tracks the user’s log-in keystrokes, while other times an educated guess for the password is all the hacker needs.
The law industry is susceptible to hacking because the nature of client-attorney relationships rely heavily on the digital transfer of sensitive data or payments. A cyber attacker can hack into an email account and simply wait for the information they plan to collect.
Valuable data such as technical secrets, business strategies, or information regarding financing and mergers are part of a law firm’s back-and-forth with each other or with clients – which is why hackers love to prey on law firms.
Ransomware is a cybersecurity threat that “kidnaps” the information on your computer until you pay the ransom. Ransomware gets installed on the target computer after the user unintentionally clicks a malicious link or downloads an infected file.
From there, the data on the computer system gets encrypted so that it’s inaccessible for the user. Your files will be kept hostage while you are victimized by threats or scare tactics – until the attacker receives the payment for the ransom. In some cases, these cyber attackers won’t let the users access the data even after they have made the payment.
Although ransomware is becoming slightly less common because of modern cloaked attacks, it still continues to be a major threat for law firms that host a lot of sensitive client information.
4) Data Breach
Part of a lawyer’s responsibility to their clients is to keep their data confidential. Failure to do so may result in legal malpractice claims. However, this task is easier said than done given the nature of technology today. Data breaches are becoming increasingly more common.
A data breach is data theft committed by a malicious actor. Generally, data breaches occur due to a weak digital security. Through a number of tactics, hackers can gain access to client’s sensitive data and even their financial accounts. Every law firm should have protection against malware, phishing, hacking, and other cybersecurity risks.
Spyware is a type of malicious software that can spy on your computer activity, steal passwords, or access other personal information. Sometimes, spyware can also literally spy on you through your computer webcam.
Hackers infect law firm systems with spyware that is easy to install and difficult to detect. Anything done on the computer is monitored by the spyware, then promptly reported to the installer. This even allows hackers to access confidential attachments and documents.
Cryptojacking is a new term that refers to the unauthorized use of computers, laptops, or smartphones by a cyber attacker to mine cryptocurrency. Thieves can hijack these devices and use them for cryptocurrency mining.
Cryptojacking is done by getting a victim to click a malicious link that downloads the software onto the computer and auto-executes the cryptocurrency mining process. While it doesn’t seem like a major concern for law firms, some cryptojacking programs can be so intensely invasive that they can physically damage some devices. This may cause a big problem, especially if the cryptojacked device was used to store important client information.
How To Protect Your Law Firm Against Cybersecurity Threats
Cybersecurity is a necessity for all law firms as cyber threats increase worldwide. Keeping your data safe and protecting your clients is an ongoing process that requires vigilant measures on your end. While you should entrust your cybersecurity to experts, here are a few steps you can take to improve your defenses immediately:
- Establish a data secure culture: Each staff member in your firm should have basic awareness on cybersecurity threats. They should also be trained in keeping data secure on all devices, and should know how to minimize data exposure to any potential risks. Aside from training, formal policies should be in place so everyone can protect the data and respond if there is a breach.
- Train your firm regularly: One training session may not be enough to get the message across to your staff. It’s important to train them regularly and increase their vigilance against threats. You can check to see if they recently changed their passwords or even send fake phishing emails to see who clicks on them.
- Secure backup files: Avoid being those one of those firms that have no disaster recovery plans. You can avoid a crisis by simply backing up your data regularly. Having backup files in place can save you in case malware destroys your data or captures it for ransom.
- Use updated software: Aside from effective and current antivirus software, make sure that you install the latest software update on your operating system. These updates were designed to fix bugs and help address security gaps.
- Transfer files carefully: Proper file handling is part of cybersecurity training. Your files should be encrypted and password protected so that it won’t be easy to access them, in case someone gets their hands on a copy. If possible, only give data access to those who need it. While your employees probably are no threat, they can still be the point that a hacker chooses to attack.
Find Excellent Cybersecurity Solutions With Abacus
With the right IT solutions provider, your company would have a more secure network – so you can rest easy at night.
Abacus is the leading managed IT service provider in New Jersey, offering customized IT solutions for businesses, including cybersecurity. We offer internal monitoring, network monitoring, risk assessment, endpoint detection and response, penetration testing, and intrusion detection systems. To learn more about our full suite of cybersecurity programs, contact Abacus today.