Many law firms do not understand the potential impacts of data breaches, making them vulnerable to hackers. Here’s what you need to know about data security.
By Daniel Martin, Editor
Data security is an integral part of every legal service business today. As a course of business, attorneys get entrusted with sensitive client information. Every family law firm has an obligation and responsibility to protect the confidentiality of the client data they hold.
A recent survey by the American Bar Association revealed that 70% of attorneys do not know whether or not their firm’s data has been breached. Many firms do not understand law firm security requirements and the potential impacts of data breaches, making them vulnerable to hackers.
This article looks at everything that you need to know about keeping your family law firm’s data safe. Let’s get started.
What is Data Security and Why Should Law Firms Care About It?
Data security is a practice that involves protecting data from unauthorized access, theft, or corruption throughout its lifecycle. Every data exchanged between a firm, and its customers is a valuable asset. It is also a goldmine for cybercriminals making them susceptible to constant attacks.
There are crucial reasons why law firms need to take data security seriously. One is because the client base, primarily corporates, demands data protection. For instance, according to the New York Times, banks require online security measures documentation from law firms to retain them for assignments.
B2B and B2C relationships in any industry rely on trust, so law firms risk losing business if they suffer data breaches. Family law firms are repositories for their clients’ sensitive data – which is particularly crucial for high-income and high-net-worth clients, many of whom are business owners. It could mean the end of this kind of lucrative business if clients reveal that your law firm compromised their data to other potential clients.
The bottom line is that every law firm needs to make data security a priority. They need to develop and implement a solid set of cybersecurity policies as well as comply with the rules governing the confidentiality of client information as an ethical obligation.
Cybersecurity Challenges for Law Firms
The road to protecting sensitive client information isn’t smooth. Law firms face different hurdles when looking to safeguard the data they hold. The cost of preventing a data breach and recovering from one can be pretty high. According to the annual Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020, published by IBM Security:
- In 2020, the United States has the highest country average cost of a data breach, coming in at a whopping $8.9 million.
- 80% of breached organizations stated that customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) was compromised during the breach, far more than any other type of record.
- The cost per record of customer PII was $175 in breaches caused by a malicious attack.
- On average, companies in the 2020 study required 207 days to identify and 73 days to contain a breach in 2019, combining for an average “lifecycle” of 280 days.
Typically, small and mid-sized law firms have relatively small cybersecurity budgets, making them more vulnerable to attacks and breaches. A large law firm will likely struggle to bear the high costs of a breach – but a serious data breach could spell bankruptcy for a small family law firm.
Another challenge is the work and information overload of law firms. They need to meet specific industry security standards and also handle their clients. Small and mid-sized firms find this daunting because they cannot afford a cybersecurity partner to help them stay on top of cyber monitoring.
6 Tips for Improving Your Law Firm’s Data Security
As mentioned earlier, protecting data can be daunting, costly, and time-consuming. But then, it is easier to improve security controls than deal with security breaches. These six tips can help family law firms protect their clients’ data and run their daily activities with no issues.
1. Educate Yourself and Your Team
There is no foolproof method when it comes to data security. However, measures such as security awareness training can help strengthen data security for your law firm. It can be difficult for a firm to ensure adequate safety if the management and employees do not understand its importance.
It takes a simple mistake to expose your entire network to a security breach. Training equips people with the best practices, improves situational awareness, and teaches quick responses. It is key to minimizing the risk of attacks and reducing impacts when they occur.
2. Encrypt Sensitive Data
Important data comes with great responsibility, and law firms are no exception. Implementing and enforcing a data encryption policy is an essential responsibility for a law firm. Every firm needs to encrypt both data in transit and at rest to avoid being subject to a data breach.
There are various data encryption tools that law firms can use. For instance, using rotating residential proxies can help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. Proxies and other tools also create secure and encrypted channels for customers to share sensitive details with law firms over the internet.
3. Deploy an Activity Monitoring Solution
Activity monitoring can take different formats, but its primary aim is to secure sensitive company data, whatever form it takes. You should track your employees, website traffic, and many other aspects of your firm. For instance, you should monitor and regularly get rid of excessive permissions to employees.
Technology has simplified website traffic monitoring thanks to automation. Various automation tools effectively detect threats early enough. As a lawyer, you may be better with such solutions as they eliminate human errors.
4. Develop and Implement Password Policies
Like any other business, a law firm with many employees needs a strong password policy. According to a 2019 survey by Google, 65% of people worldwide reuse the same password for multiple or all accounts. A firm that handles sensitive data may be susceptible to attacks if this is the case with its employees.
According to the Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020, stolen or compromised credentials were the most expensive cause of malicious data breaches. “One in five companies that suffered a malicious data breach was infiltrated due to stolen or compromised credentials, increasing the average total cost of a breach for these companies by nearly $1 million. Overall, malicious attacks registered as the most frequent root cause (52% of breaches in the study), versus human error (23%) or system glitches (25%), at an average total cost of $4.27 million.”
Given how costly this kind of beach can be, you should emphasize the importance of passwords during cybersecurity training sessions. As a firm, also consider using the incredible amount of password management tools available today. These are password best practices that every law firm needs to keep in mind.
5. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Implementing multi-factor authentication – at least dual-factor – can help enhance your security. This solution requires that users verify their identities twice or more to access a network. The number of times a user needs to confirm their identity depends on the sensitivity of the data being secured.
Multi-factor authentication can help law firms thwart different types of data breaches. They come in various forms, such as security questions, captcha, etc. The most common involves sending a unique code to a user via an SMS so that they enter it to verify they are legit users before gaining any access.
6. Regularly Update Data Security Software
Outdated software is a security threat for every type of business. Every computer used to access the internet submits an IP address to the websites visited. Cybercriminals can use this address and sophisticated tools to access specific applications on a computer.
This could be a threat if your computer lacks up-to-date security. Thus, it is best to ensure that every hardware you use at your law firm is protected with updated security software. Also, ensure that you regularly update every third-party application you use, especially applications linked to your website.
Cybersecurity: Key Takeaways
In short, law firm data security starts with you. Every firm out there needs to take data security seriously, and implementing the tips mentioned above can be helpful. Besides, it is vital to implement these measures before a security breach occurs to reduce the resulting financial impact.
As a family lawyer, make sure to keep yourself – and your computers! – up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity standards. These requirements keep changing, and the penalties are getting worse. Ensuring your law firm is compliant will go a long way to keep your law firm safe, especially if you handle highly sensitive data.
Dan has hands-on experience in writing cybersecurity articles and has been sharing valuable insights since 2007. He has been building teams and coaching others to foster innovation and solve real-time problems; he also utilizes software technologies and processes to enhance security capabilities and implement improvements. www.linkdoctor.io
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