What Law Firms Need to Know About Cybersecurity in 2023 & Beyond

Cybersecurity is one of the most critical challenges law firms face today and in the future. By nature, a law firm of any size interacts with, stores and is the guardian of sensitive and confidential information. Ensuring that your firm has policies and protections for cybersecurity protects your clients and your firm.

Challenges of Cybersecurity for Law Firms

Cybersecurity breaches in the legal industry are not events that happen to “other firms.” So, if you’re wondering how often does cybercrime happen, an ABA Cybersecurity report found that 25% of law firms have experienced a data breach at some point. Cyber threats are real and create significant financial repercussions for your firm. Your firm faces a wide variety of tech threats:

Spam:

Any unwanted or unsolicited email sent to any firm member. Spam can be just an annoyance (ads) or contain links that, if clicked on, could install malicious programs on your firm’s computers. These dangerous types of spam are called phishing emails.

Viruses:

Pieces of computer code that change how your computer works when a staff member clicks on a bad link in an email or website. These viruses can impact the entire system if your firm’s computers are on a network. Similar to human viruses that replicate and spread, computer viruses can shut down your system, erase your files, or allow an outsider to access all your data.

Malware:

Includes viruses and other malicious software.

Spyware:

Installed on a single computer or an entire network allowing outsiders to see and open your files and information.

Ransomware:

Software installed on your network that steals or blocks your access to your files until you pay a ransom. This ransomware threatens to delete files or publicize confidential information if the law firm doesn’t pay.

Data breach:

Whenever an outside party accesses, views, steals or blocks any of your firm’s files or information.

Law Firm Responsibilities for Cybersecurity

Upholding cybersecurity in the legal industry is one of the essential responsibilities of law firms because it protects confidentiality and the entire practice. While on the surface, a breach might seem straightforward to resolve, the true cost of a security breach includes:

  • Loss of billable hours.
  • Loss of files and property.
  • Legal fines and fees.
  • And damage to your reputation.

The ABA report revealed that only a slim majority of law firms have cybersecurity employee policies, and only 36% have an incident response plan. In comparison, 17% of firms have no policy, and 8% stated they didn’t even know what a cybersecurity policy was. The report showed that many law firms do not even use what security professionals consider basic measures and which are common in other professions.

  • Your firm has an ethical obligation and contractual and regulatory responsibilities to take appropriate measures to safeguard your clients’ information. The ABA Model Rules require attorneys to:
  • Use “competent and reasonable measures” to protect client information on technology
  • Communicate with clients about the use of technology and obtain informed consent
  • Supervise all staff and service providers to ensure cybersecurity compliance

How to Protect Your Firm from Cybercrime

It is crucial for cybersecurity for law firms to be first priority. Your firm must adopt a cybersecurity policy and strong protective measures.

To stand up a cybersecurity program for your law firm, follow these steps:
  1. Obtain a risk assessment, which should be done by a third-party security professional.
  2. Establish authentication and access controls. Authentication requires logins so only authorized staff can access files and data. For example, multi-factor authentication (login and a separate code sent to a mobile phone) is the gold standard. Access control determines who can access phones, computers, and your network. Controlling these two points is the most critical step you can take.
  3. Implement security tools. These include firewalls, spam filters, anti-spyware software, data encryption, anti-virus software, and intrusion detection software.
  4. Adopt a cybersecurity policy and plan that includes email usage, internet usage, data retention policies, password requirements, and more. Therefore, be sure to educate your staff on common and prominent threats and have them sign off on the firm cybersecurity policy.
  5. Create an incident response plan so that everyone on your team knows their responsibilities and is trained to respond if there is a data breach.
  6. Buy cybersecurity insurance. It is crucial for mitigating expenses from data breaches. According to the ABA, only 43% of firms have cybersecurity insurance.
  7. Obtain cybersecurity certifications such as theISO 27001 certification, which not only educates your employees but provides evidence to clients that you take security seriously.

Perhaps the most helpful legal industry trend for cybersecurity protection is adopting legal case management software. Smokeball law firm management software is a SaaS (software as a service) cloud-based platform.

Is Cloud-Based Legal Tech Secure?

Legal tech, like Smokeball, provides a wealth of advantages and benefits for your firm, not the least of which is professionally managed cybersecurity. Your firm likely needs to have the same high-level resources and skilled staff that Smokeball provides. While it might seem as if the safest solution for legal security is to maintain your own server in your office under your control, this approach makes you the most vulnerable to a breach.

In actuality, nothing is kept locally on your computers or office servers. So, instead of downloading software on your network, Smokeball users benefit from the world-class security of cloud service providers like AWS. For example, NASA and Dow Jones rely on this platform. In relation to legal technology running on cloud services, client data is stored in the U.S. and is continuously backed up. So, every time you access a file, you have the most current version. Additionally, AWS hosts the software data, files, and information for instantaneous and seamless access no matter where you are.

Learn more about Why Cloud-Based Technology is Necessary to Run a Cyber-Secure Firm >>

Smokeball is backed by a professional, highly Security Team that monitors the system 24/7/365, pioneering industry-leading legal case management software. The team implements patches and updates as they become available and multiple layers of security, like numerous firewalls and anti-virus activity, continue to secure access points.

If disaster strikes, is your firm prepared?

Join Attorney and Smokeball Legal Technology Advisor Jordan Turk for our next FREE CLE webinar on December 15th at 1 PM CST.