With data breaches on the rise, cybersecurity is more important than ever. According to data from the Insurance Information Institute (III), there were 847,376 cybercrime incidents reported to the FBI in 2021 alone. Law firms face unique cybersecurity compliance challenges. Notably, the American Bar Association (ABA) reports that one-quarter of U.S. law firms have had to deal with a breach.
At Rize Technologies, we provide proactive and comprehensive cybersecurity services to small and mid-sized law firms. With this focus on the legal industry, we understand the cybersecurity challenges facing lawyers and law firms. Here is an in-depth overview of cybersecurity compliance for law firms.
Why is Cybersecurity Compliance Important?
Every company that relies on information technology (IT) should have a well-structured cybersecurity compliance program in place. Cybersecurity is especially vital for lawyers and law firms. Attorneys have access to a lot of confidential client information. Professional regulations (ABA Rule 1.6) require licensed attorneys to protect the privacy of sensitive client information. Without a well-implemented cybersecurity compliance program, a law firm may be subject to numerous risks, including:
- Data breaches;
- Extortion threats;
- Financial fraud; and
- Serious reputational harm.
Core Components of Cybersecurity Compliance for Law Firms
What does a well-designed cybersecurity compliance program actually entail? It depends, in part, on the particular size and needs of your law firm. Cybersecurity practices should always be customized to meet the individual needs of a lawyer/law firm. That being said, cybersecurity compliance programs for the legal industry should have the following six key components:
- Clear and in Writing: A cybersecurity compliance plan that has briefly been discussed is unlikely to be very effective. A comprehensive plan should always be in writing. It is crucial that all parties understand the plan.
- Risk-Based: Cybersecurity is about detecting and reducing risk. A properly-designed cybersecurity compliance plan should be risk-based. Make sure that your firm is aware of the risks.
- Adequate Training: Training matters. All employees of a law firm that use information technology—from partners and associate attorneys to paralegals and support staff members—must receive adequate training.
- Periodically Audited: A law firm’s cybersecurity compliance program should be audited and tested on a periodic basis. It is imperative that you confirm that the plan will actually work as intended.
- Up-to-Date: The cybersecurity compliance program that a law firm put into place five years ago may no longer be very effective. Active threat management is crucial. A cybersecurity compliance program should be thought of as a “living” document.
- Crisis Response: Even the best cyber security system cannot completely eliminate risks. For this reason, a proactive crisis response plan should be included as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity compliance program for a law firm.
What are the Top Cybersecurity Concerns in the Legal Industry?
Cybersecurity needs to be a top priority area for law firms. There are some unique cybersecurity threats facing firms in the legal industry. Here are some of the major cybersecurity concerns attorneys and law firms need to be prepared for:
- Phishing: Phishing remains one of the top cybersecurity threats across industries. A phishing scheme is a fraudulent practice that involves posing as another party in order to get someone—a lawyer, paralegal, etc.—to inadvertently expose sensitive information, such as a password.
- Ransomware: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) defines ransomware as an “an ever-evolving form of malware designed to encrypt files on a device, rendering any files and the systems that rely on them unusable.” In other words, a cybercriminal attempts to gain control of a law firm’s computer system or key files and hold them for a “ransom” payment.
- Exposure of Client Information: Lawyers and law firms must protect the confidentiality of information related to the representation of a client. In this way, law firms have greater cybersecurity duties than do companies and organizations in most other industries.
How Do Lawyers and Law Firms Identify Gaps in Cybersecurity?
To identify gaps in cybersecurity practices, you need first to understand how your current cybersecurity system actually works. One of the best things that you can do is to arrange a thorough audit of your cybersecurity system. Rize Technologies conducts reliable cybersecurity audits aimed at ensuring that the vulnerabilities that law firms have are identified and resolved before a breach happens. An audit is about ensuring that key-decision makers at law firms have the knowledge, tools, and resources that they need to improve cybersecurity compliance.
The Role Insurance Coverage Plays in a Cybersecurity Compliance Program
As noted previously, the most well-designed cybersecurity plan cannot completely eliminate all potential risks. This is where insurance coverage can play an important role. A law firm can obtain a professional liability insurance policy that can provide additional financial protection against certain damages related to a cybersecurity breach.
Best Practices for Cybersecurity Compliance for Law Firms
Law firms large and small can benefit from developing a robust, detailed cybersecurity compliance program. Here are some of the best practices for cybersecurity compliance in the legal industry:
- Develop a written cybersecurity compliance plan that meets industry standards;
- Perform proper background checks on new personnel;
- Put resources into training partners, associate attorneys, and legal staff;
- Implement stringent verification/authentication procedures;
- Limit access to sensitive information on a “need-to-know” basis;
- Ensure that activity and access logs are properly monitored; and
- Obtain and maintain adequate cybersecurity insurance coverage.
Rize Technologies is a Leader in Cybersecurity Compliance for Law Firms
At Rize Technologies, we have the cybersecurity experience and expertise on which your law firm can rely. If you have any questions about cybersecurity compliance for the legal industry, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help. Our team provides top-quality, secure IT support services specifically designed to meet the needs of law firms.