Cybersecurity is critically important. The Washington Post reports that global businesses lose more than $1 trillion annually due to cybersecurity breaches. Law firms are significant cyber targets. According to data from the American Bar Association (ABA), 25 percent of attorneys surveyed report that their law firm has endured a significant data breach.
At Rize Technologies, we are partnered with top global cybersecurity providers, and we offer comprehensive IT security audits and reliable cybersecurity services for law firms. In this article, you will find an overview of the data security risks that law firms face and how a comprehensive cybersecurity audit can help to protect your law firm.
What is the Data Security Risk that a Law Firm faces?
For many different reasons, cyberattackers view law firms large and small as targets. Many law firms have access to valuable proprietary information, which puts them at risk. And, although certainly not true in every case, many cybercriminals believe that law firms tend to have weak cybersecurity practices. Some specific risks associated with a data breach include:
- Being locked out of computers and systems (ransomware);
- Compromised communications with clients;
- Loss of trust in the safety of the law firm; and
- A legal malpractice lawsuit.
How to Protect a Law Firm Against Cybersecurity Risks (Five Ways to Secure Your Firm’s IT)
With the right system in place, you can go a long way toward securing your law firm against cybersecurity threats. Here are three key ways to protect your law firm against the risks posed by criminal hackers and data breaches.
- Conduct a Cybersecurity Audit: A cybersecurity audit is a comprehensive review of the IT infrastructure of a business or organization. It is the best risk assessment.
- Develop and Enhance Your Cybersecurity Protocols: Once an audit has been completed, you will be in a better position to develop and enhance security practices and policies.
- Install the Latest Software and Updates: Technological cybersecurity infrastructure matters. Make sure you always install the latest software and updates.
- Train Attorneys and Staff on Data Security: A substantial share of cybersecurity breaches occur because of individual mistakes. The proper training of attorneys, paralegals, and staff can dramatically reduce the risk.
- Backup Data Regularly: Law firms should always be sure to properly back up their data.
Data Security: Understanding Ethical and Regulatory Obligations
All businesses have a responsibility to keep certain sensitive customer information private. That being said, the ethical and regulatory obligations for law firms are heightened. Lawyers and law firms have a strong, proactive responsibility to protect the attorney-client relationship. Among other things, this means keeping certain information and communications confidential.
Notably, ABA Rule 1.6 (Confidentiality of Information) is a strict professional duty that requires attorneys to make a reasonably effective effort to stop “inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to” sensitive information related to the representation of a client. A cybersecurity breach could mean that a lawyer or law firm runs afoul of ABA Rule 1.6.
Preparing Your Law Firm for a Cybersecurity Audit
Regular cybersecurity audits are one of the best steps that you can take to reduce the risk of a data breach. Audits help to ensure that IT weaknesses are identified and addressed before serious problems occur. To prepare for a cybersecurity audit, a law firm should generally:
- Review its existing cybersecurity practices;
- Organize its IT security practices into a document;
- Develop a map of its technology and IT network; and
- Write down a list of its digital security products, providers, and other resources.
What Should I Expect During a Cybersecurity Audit?
A cybersecurity audit of a law firm will typically be completed in a single day. During that time, all of a firm’s digital resources and IT infrastructure will be reviewed and evaluated. What precisely this entails can depend on the specific size of the firm and its technology. As a general rule, you should expect a cybersecurity auditor to review:
- Network security;
- Password policies;
- Account protocols/restrictions;
- Internet use procedures; and
- Data security response plans.
An Overview of GDPR, CCPA, SHIELD, and Other Data Breach Laws
In recent years, several different international, national, and state-based laws have been put in place regarding data breaches. The most comprehensive law is the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It could affect firms with EU clients. The United States currently lacks a comparable nationwide law. Though, several states have comprehensive data security regulations in place. Two notable examples include the New York Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD Act) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). New York law, California law, and other state laws share two important commonalities:
- They require parties to take reasonable steps to safeguard personal information; and
- They require proactive notification of affected parties in the event of a data breach.
What Should I Do If My Law Firm Suffers a Data Breach?
The right cybersecurity practices will substantially reduce the risk of a data breach. Of course, it cannot completely eliminate the risk. Lawyers and law firms should be prepared to respond to a data breach. Here are four key steps to take if your law firm suffered a data breach:
- Contain the Damage: The first step to responding to a cybersecurity breach is stopping any further damage. Assess the situation, connect with a data breach expert, and initiate the data recovery process.
- Notify Your Insurance Carrier: In most cases, law firms that have experienced a data breach will be required to notify their insurance carrier in case there is a coverage issue.
- Notify Third Parties: You should always be prepared to notify any affected third parties in compliance with the relevant law and best practices.
- Assess the Breach, Fix the System: Finally, it is important to assess exactly how the data breach occurred. Most likely, there is some flaw in your firm’s cybersecurity system that requires repair.
Rize Technologies is a Leader in Cybersecurity for Law Firms
At Rize Technologies, we are leaders in cybersecurity for law firms. Working with large firms, mid-sized firms, and small firms, our team has the skills and expertise to enhance your security. If you have any questions about IT cybersecurity audits, we are here to help. Contact us today to set up your fully confidential initial consultation.