How to Get Your Law Firm’s Cybersecurity House in Order
This is the 2nd in a 3-part series about IT Services and Security for Law Firms. Please click here for the 1st article.
As the legal services field continues to embrace technology at an unprecedented pace, law firms worldwide are also facing increasing pressure from cyber threats.
According to Checkpoint Research, global cybercrime saw an 8% year-on-year increase in Q1 2023, with insurance and legal services experiencing the second highest year-on-year change.
On average, 1 out of 31 legal services firms faced an attack in the first quarter of this year.
From confidential client documents to legal strategies, law firms possess massive amounts of sensitive data, which makes them ideal targets for criminals. The ability to safely handle and protect sensitive client information needs to be a top concern for any law firm.
With financial stability, reputation, client trust, and the threat of severe legal consequences all hanging in the balance, it’s time for law firms to ask themselves if they are doing enough to keep hackers and cyber threats at bay.
Here are 8 important steps law firms should take to ensure their cybersecurity protections are up to standard.
Is someone currently logged into your cloud services?
Law firms have been slow but steady adopters of cloud platforms. When deployed correctly, cloud applications can help improve collaboration, streamline efficiency, and reduce network complexity.
However, the cloud can also make it hard to know who has access to your network and who doesn’t. Ensuring the security of your cloud systems requires vigilant monitoring and response mechanisms.
- Continuous Monitoring:
To view all the activity across your organization’s cloud environments in real-time, you can use services like AWS CloudTrail, Azure Activity Log, or Google Cloud Audit Logs. These tools provide deep visibility into your cloud environments, helping your firm detect unauthorized or malicious activity across sensitive legal case files and confidential client data quickly.
- SIEM Integration
The vast amounts of log data your cloud platforms generate are unactionable without context. By integrating those logs into a security information and event management (SIEM) system, you can monitor and analyze activity within legal software and document management systems. This allows for real-time analysis, correlation of events, and immediate alerts for suspicious activities.
Have you addressed old vendor usernames and passwords?
Old vendor usernames and ineffective password management practices can make it easy for attackers to infiltrate a law firm. Here are some of the steps you can take to ensure that account management processes aren’t creating new cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
- Identify and Deactivate Inactive Credentials
It’s important to regularly scan active directories and identity management systems to identify old or inactive vendor accounts and credentials across your organization. These accounts must then be disabled to prevent threat actors from misusing abandoned accounts.
- Ensure User Management Best Practices
After ensuring that outdated credentials can no longer be misused as an attack vector, talk with your technology vendors to ensure that new credentials meet security best practices. This may include enforcing complex, unique passwords and encouraging the use of passphrase-based authentication or multi-factor authentication. Additionally, good password policy includes alerting mechanisms, so your administrators know when hackers have launched a password-based attack.
Have you fixed old email accounts that are still active?
Inactive emails are a security concern for law firms, as they may still contain residual customer data and other sensitive information that don’t fall under the category of classic personally identifiable information (PII). They can be used by attackers to leak data, harvest credentials, or take over accounts.
- Email Account Audits
Law firms need to implement email account auditing processes to ensure that old or inactive accounts do not become security liabilities. This process may involve regular automated scans, identifying inactive accounts, disabling login access, revoking permissions, and managing the residual data. In some cases, inactive email accounts might still contain sensitive information, confidential correspondence, or access to critical systems.
- Data Management
Residual data can be archived or deleted, depending on your data retention policies and compliance requirements. Often, legal services firms need to retain historical email data for compliance, which might require implementing archiving solutions that allow you to preserve emails while deactivating accounts. Maintaining a log of these activities can serve as a helpful audit trail.
Have you overlooked office devices logged into admin accounts, including copiers, scanners, and other operational technology?
Administrative accounts on copiers, scanners, and other office equipment connected to your law firm’s corporate network must be secured, but many law firms simply overlook these “dumb” devices, assuming they pose no serious threat.
In fact, they can serve as an entry point for attackers.
- Secure Device Access
Law firms should ensure that they change the default device credentials and that they update the firmware or software on these devices regularly to close vulnerabilities. Only authorized personnel should be allowed to access administrative accounts. Additionally, you should use authentication measures, including biometric access systems or smart cards, to decisively close this back door into your network.
- Network Segmentation
You can isolate the network that these devices are connected to minimize their exposure to more critical internal networks. Implementing robust firewalls and monitoring inbound and outbound traffic may further bolster security.
Have you implemented multi-factor authentication with conditional access?
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) enhances security by requiring multiple forms of verification, and when combined with conditional access policies, it provides dynamic and context-based security.
- MFA Implementation
Implementing multi-factor authentication is crucial for legal firms as it provides an additional layer of security. This additional layer of authentication can include OTPs (one-time passwords), biometrics (fingerprint, facial recognition), smart cards, push notifications, or even hardware tokens.
- Conditional Access Policies
Leveraging conditional access policies allows firms to dynamically adjust security requirements based on user attributes, device health, location, and other risk factors. This minimizes friction and allows you to deploy security measures based on dynamic, real-time intelligence, for example, requiring remote access, but not for in-office access.
Have you restricted access to high-risk countries and zones?
Limiting access to specific geographic regions can significantly reduce the attack surface of your law firm’s network.
- Restricting High-risk Zones
Assessing the risk-reward ratio is essential when considering access restrictions to high-risk countries or other cybersecurity threat hotspots. For most legal firms, configuring your firewall and content delivery networks (CDNs) to limit access from Russia, Iran, or other high-risk zones is an effective way to mitigate the unknown threat.
Has your firm already been compromised?
With hackers moving quietly through your network, many law firms don’t even know that they’ve been infiltrated. Proactively monitoring the dark web can help you detect compromised credentials and information quickly, take corrective action, and prevent unauthorized access.
- Dark Web Monitoring Services
It’s worthwhile to invest in dark web monitoring services that search for compromised credentials or leaked data associated with your organization. These services continuously scan underground forums and marketplaces for stolen data and alert you promptly. This can greatly reduce the impact of cyberattacks.
- Documented Response Procedures
Upon discovering a compromised credential and alert, do you know how to swiftly respond, change the affected passwords, and notify the affected users. If you discover that sensitive or confidential information has been leaked, how will you learn about the exfiltrated data? It pays enormous dividends to have a plan.
Are your employees pasting sensitive information into ChatGPT?
The use of AI-driven chatbots introduces unique security and ethical considerations, especially in the legal context. As more law firms turn to templatized documents created by ChatGPT and other large language models, now is the time to get proactive about ensuring that those applications are always deployed with security as a priority.
- Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
DLP software helps intercept and prevent data leaks in real time by preventing the pasting of sensitive information into chatbots and other AI software. As a legal firm bound by professional attorney–client privilege and client confidentiality, implementing DLP helps prevent sensitive information from being leaked into ChatGPT and other AI chatbots.
- Chatbot Security Measures
If your firm does decide to utilize chatbots to improve efficiency and streamline workloads. It’s necessary to analyze potential chatbot solutions in terms of the data encryption, secure storage, and access controls they offer. Inform your staff on the ethical implications of AI chatbots, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding client confidentiality and adhering to professional codes of conduct.
A Cybersecurity Partner with Deep Commitment to the Legal Service Community
Cybersecurity can’t be disregarded as an afterthought anymore. LNS Solution has been helping Tampa’s legal services community with cybersecurity consulting and services for decades. If your firm wants a guide to bring clarity and focus to your cybersecurity efforts, contact us any time at (813) 393-1626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.