- Among the many consequences of a data breach—breaching obligations, legal action, impact on reputation—the takeaway is clear: No firm can afford to face one.
In the digital era, cyber security is essential for law firms. Data breaches are becoming increasingly common, threatening the privacy of clients’ sensitive information and firms’ reputations. Consider data from ABA’s Cyber Security Report, which states that 25% of law firms have previously suffered a data breach.
Among the many consequences of a data breach—breaching obligations, legal action, impact on reputation—the takeaway is clear: No firm can afford to face one. Here’s what lawyers need to know to protect themselves.
Sensitive information can fall into the wrong hands more easily than you think. Unfortunately, cyber security isn’t something that only happens online—human error is a common culprit. An attorney might lose their briefcase (or worse, have it stolen) or a law firm might suffer a break-in due to improper physical safeguards. An employee opening a seemingly-harmless email can result in malware being installed on their computer, allowing the perpetrator to gain access to your law firm’s data.
So, what’s a law firm to do about cyber security? Consider these top tips to optimize security and safeguard your clients’ sensitive data.
Regular risk assessments are essential for today’s law firms. Use them as an opportunity to identify critical security vulnerabilities. No firm wants to discover it’s at risk of a breach—but it’s far better to know your blindspots before one occurs so you can take the necessary steps to prevent it.
Consider hiring a third party to conduct an independent audit, helping you identify cyber security gaps, create an Incident Response Plan, implement security measures, and train your staff on the latest best practices.
Also consider obtaining security certifications to understand your firm’s risk and prove your security credentials. For example, ISO 27001 certification will teach your firm everything you need to know about security and can help you stand apart from the competition with prospective clients.
Cyber security insurance protects your firm in the event of a data breach. While insurance does little to protect stolen data, some policies help compensate for the financial aspects of a breach, such as any fees associated with restoring the data, loss of income due to downtime, crisis management, or forensic investigations.
Alternatively, you could opt for third-party cyber liability insurance, which protects firms from liability claims in the event of a data breach.
It might surprise you that, according to the ABA, only 36% of law firms have an incident response plan. Even more concerningly, 8% of the firms surveyed were unaware of the need for cyber security policies.
That’s why developing a policy around your firm’s unique, specific needs and targeting your potential risk areas is essential. And, while all firms should have a cyber security policy and incident response plan, there’s little point in implementing them if nobody understands it. Training on policy and procedure is also critical across your law firm—everyone from administrative staff to partners should know what is expected of them.
Firms must use comprehensive, up-to-date tools to safeguard their data security. These tools range in complexity from the spam filter to firewalls. But adopting the right tools is just the first step—firms must also implement robust encryption and protection, such as by using multi-factor authentication and encrypting data in storage.
Select security-savvy practice management providers
Cyber security must be a key consideration when firms choose a practice management provider. Indeed, the best providers understand its importance and bake cyber security best practices into everything they do.
Clio, for example, has an internal security team available 24/7/365 to respond to security incidents. Moreover, Clio uses industry best practices (such as HTTPS and TLS), and the web interface is verified by DigiCert, a trusted certificate authority. Clio complies with GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI legislation. On top of this, Clio’s data hosting facilities are audited annually for security certifications (such as SOC 2 and ISO27001).
Optimizing your law firm cyber security approach doesn’t completely shield you from a data breach, but it will ensure you’re doing everything possible to avoid one. By following the tips above, you’ll be able to focus more on your practice and less on worrying about security threats.