No surprise, law firms are considered gold mines for cybercriminals. Law firms make lucrative targets for a variety of cyberattacks due to the nature of the data that law firms hold (such as personally identifiable information (PII), intellectual property (IP), and business transactions). The legal industry processes and has an unmatched amount of valuable, confidential data.
According to the American Bar Association, nearly one-third of surveyed attorneys experienced security breaches in 2020. In Canada, the number of data breaches continues to grow yearly, with a 24% increase in data breaches in companies from 2018 to 2019. As a law firm, it is ethically and legally your duty to protect your clients’ data and comply with Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
A single data breach can instantly damage a law firm’s reputation and client relationships, regardless of years of hard work or rapport building – significantly if sensitive data is compromised. Yet, many law firms do not have the budget for large IT teams to deal with 24/7 security monitoring. Read on to find out the three most common cyber threats to law firms and some strategies to help combat them.
One of the most prominent cyber threats to law firms continues to be spoofed emails or hacked email accounts used to send malicious links or request sensitive information. Hackers gain control over an email due to a weak password or a phishing attempt. They can then use the email to send documents containing malware or learn about sensitive data such as financial information.
Ransomware has become less common with more modern cyber-attacks such as cryptocurrency mining. However, it remains a higher-than-average risk for law firms and other companies that host a lot of sensitive information. Ransomware attacks will encrypt essential files and information and demand a ransom to return or refrain from publicly publishing the data. Similarly, data breaches can result in financial loss and reputational damage to impact business operations.
Financial redirection is when a cybercriminal intercepts a payment between you and your clients. After gaining access to your company’s credentials, they can learn its billing processes, business relationships and payment schedules. An attacker could, for example, ask your client to redirect payment to a new location or account. Once the price goes through, the cybercriminal will close the bank account and erase any evidence.
According to the 2019 Shred-It Data Protection Report, human error was the number one cause of cybersecurity breaches in 2019, with 40% of reported breaches resulting from human error by employees or insiders. Phishing attacks, malicious links, and other forms of social engineering continue to be methods that cybercriminals use to take advantage of human error to gain access to company credentials and sensitive data.
Cybersecurity in law firms is a complex challenge that requires significant knowledge and training to adequately address the risks and threats in today’s technology climate. The following are some recommendations to get you started on improving your security posture.
We recommend leveraging the CIS Critical Security Controls for a comprehensive approach to addressing your security needs.