Suffering a data breach can be devastating for any company but for law firms the impacts can be particularly harmful. How can clients or potential clients trust a firm that has suffered a breach? How can they be assured that their information is safe?
Reputation is everything
To a law firm, reputation is everything. If clients and potential clients cannot be sure that their sensitive information is secure then they will likely take their business elsewhere. Law firms in particular depend upon a client’s trust and a data breach can easily ruin this trust. If someone leaks sensitive documents about their clients it can be devastating for any law firm.
Why Are Law Firms a Target?
Law firms typically store a lot of very sensitive and valuable data on their systems making them a particularly appealing target to hackers. The most recent infamous case of this was last year’s Panama Papers scandal. In that instance, eleven million documents (2.6 terabytes of data) was leaked. Politicians, Bankers, Business people and many more have had their financial activities exposed to the public. The reputational damage to Mossack Fonesca was huge.
Cyber security is often not the top priority for many law firms, as investment in cyber security has historically been lacking. They are also vulnerable due to the frequent use of email to transmit sensitive data and documents as well as their staff typically using dozens of mobile devices, USB flash drives and other potentially vulnerable platforms.
Employees are also a threat. Law firm employees often set their own passwords, use employee accounts and have access to company servers. A spear phishing attack that tricks an employee to give away their passwords could potentially lead to an attacker gaining access to sensitive areas of a network.
Insider threats come in two forms: The first is a malicious threat where an employee, former employee, contractor or associate deliberately brings harm to an organisation. Insiders have special privileges that external attackers do not as they already have access to the networks and can compromise sensitive data all too easily. This risk can also increase where organisations have replaced dedicated resources with contractors, third-party support personnel or cloud-based IT services as those who administer services will be beyond both the control and visibility of the organisation.
The other form of the insider threat is accidental; an employee may inadvertently open a malicious email that then spreads malware throughout the organisation’s computer systems.
People remain the weakest and easiest links to break in any organisations infrastructure. The social media information outburst, the blurred lines between corporate and home devices and the lack of clarity around actions employees are allowed to take, all combine to create the opportunity for attackers.
Phishing/ Spear Phishing
Some of the biggest threats to the legal sector come in the form of Phishing and Spear Phishing attacks.
Spear phishers attempt to find out as much about their targeted victims as possible. They will most likely know your email address and perhaps a little bit about your personal life. They do this by scouring the internet for their target.
Imagine all of the things that you have posted on social media over the years, if your privacy settings are not robust then a phisher can easily find out a lot about you. They can easily learn who your friends are, what business’s you use and the things you like.
Spear Phishers are likely to send their victims emails that are personalised and be associated with either someone you know or a recent purchase you’ve made. Because the email appears to be from someone you know, you are less likely to be vigilant and give them what they want. If you receive an email that claims to be from a business or superior you trust asking for urgent action on an order for example, you are likely to act before thinking. Always check with the person the email claims to be from to make certain it is legitimate.
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