Industry Expertise · July 20, 2020

Cyberattack Prevention Strategies to Keep Your Law Firm Protected

Businesses in nearly every industry increasingly collect larger volumes of data than ever before. Law firms, in particular, deal with sensitive client information that could be exploited in the wrong hands. This makes law practices a prime target for security threats like malware and phishing attacks.

There are several strategies your firm can implement as part of its cyberattack prevention efforts. Here's how to keep cyberthreats at bay and your clients' data safe.


Security risks

Law firms deal with a range of security threats, including:

  • Malware. Short for malicious software, this type of threat includes viruses, ransomware, spyware and adware. Hackers can use malware to infect and corrupt files or spy on you while using the internet. They can even lock down your computer and demand you pay a ransom to regain access to your critical data.
  • Phishing. In these attacks, cyberthieves send an email, text or instant message that appears to be legitimate but is actually designed to gain entry into computer systems and steal data. Hackers often use this approach to target large businesses, which makes bigger law firms particularly susceptible.
  • Poor endpoint security. Today's workforce is more distributed than ever. Some people work in law offices, others work from home, while other workers use their smartphones to conduct business on the go. With more devices connecting to office Wi-Fi networks, hackers now have more entry points to access a law firm's sensitive data.
  • Data breaches. A data breach involves a third party accessing unauthorized information. This can happen because of poor password security or if someone accidentally downloads malware through a phishing link. It can also occur if there are security vulnerabilities in computer systems, software and applications.

Clients have to trust that all data they share with their firm is secure, especially if it can help them in a legal proceeding. If your law firm's data is compromised, it could reveal personally identifiable information like Social Security numbers or trade secrets that jeopardize a business client's competitive advantage. An event like this could do irreparable damage to a practice's reputation and income.

Law is also a highly regulated industry, so there are compliance risks when security incidents occur. Many states have introduced cybersecurity laws that outline requirements for how private companies can bolster data protection and security. Also, laws like the European Union's General Data Privacy Rule, or GDPR, have changed how companies share, protect and use customer data—not only if they're located in the EU but if they do business with any EU citizen.

Best practices

In this changing landscape, it can be hard for law firms to keep up. Here are some simple but highly effective cyberattack prevention strategies that can help any practice increase security.

  • Do a security audit. Understanding your current vulnerabilities is essential. Have your IT team look at all third-party apps and technology your firm currently uses, including how you store client data and who has access to it. They should also overview your remote work security infrastructure.
  • Formulate your policy. Create a comprehensive cybersecurity program that includes software-based firewalls, intrusion detection systems and other tools that can prevent attacks. It's also important to have a strategy in place for incident response and recovery, in case a data breach does occur.
  • Train employees. Increasing employee awareness is one of the simplest ways to strengthen your firm's cybersecurity standing. Implement regular training to help your team identify attacks and understand password security.
  • Practice proper vendor management. Even if your firm does everything right, the vendors you work with may pose a risk. If you're using any software-as-a-service platform or do business with an outside accounting or legal transcription firm, those could be potential points of entry for cybercriminals. Your vendors should have security protocols as robust as your own, if not more so. Consider doing regular audits and vulnerability checks to stress-test their systems and help ensure your firm's data is secure.

Digital threats get more sophisticated every day. By investing time and resources into strengthening your cybersecurity program, your firm will be in the best position to combat these threats, protect client data and safeguard your reputation.

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This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. First Citizens Bank (or its affiliates) neither endorses nor guarantees this information, and encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.