Top 6 Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities for Law Firms

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Law firms are increasingly becoming lucrative targets for cybercriminals. They collect and store tons of sensitive data, including tax returns, intellectual property information, and valuable corporate data. Simply put, lawyers have access to intellectual property, trade secrets, and figurative skeletons in their clients’ closets. To an average person, the files on an attorney’s computer are essentially a bunch of uninteresting documents full of legal jargon. However, cybercriminals know the hard truth about what’s in such documents. As such, it’s no surprise that cybercriminals have shifted their focus to law firms. Unfortunately, most law firms don’t have cutting-edge cybersecurity measures in place.

According to a recent survey by the American Bar Association, over 30% of law firms experienced a data breach in 2020.

The figure will rise even further in the coming years. Indeed, a single breach can harm your firm’s reputation and damage client relationships that took so long to build. In the State of Florida, there were 21,887 victims of cyber-crime in 2019, which shows just how perverse hackers have become. That said, here are the top cybersecurity vulnerabilities for law firms and how to deal with them.

Top 6 Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities for Law Firms

1. Ransomware Attacks

Hackers often perpetuate their attacks to seek monetary gain in one way or another. They find great value in the data your law firm possesses. This is why they’ll use it as leverage to obtain money from you once they access it. Cybercriminals capitalize on the profitability of ransomware attacks to make money.

When law firms get breached and data were stolen, the easy way out is to pay the cyber criminals so that the breach doesn’t come to light and the data doesn’t get exposed. They do this to safeguard their reputation. Thus, it isn’t surprising that ransomware attacks have grown by 35% in the last six years.

Typically, when hackers breach your database and retrieve sensitive data, they encrypt it. Afterward, they send a notice of ransom while threatening to release the data publicly if you don’t pay up. Indeed, the release of your law firm’s data can have long-standing implications. These can include financial and reputational damage as well as malpractice lawsuits from your clients.

If you run a boutique law firm in Jacksonville, FL, you may think that you will fly under the radar of cybercriminals. However, small law firms are targeted just as much as the bigger ones. Those behind ransomware attacks see the smaller law firms as easier targets due to the relatively weak cybersecurity infrastructure they have in place.

2. Financial Fraud

Financial fraud isn’t unique to law firms, but as a threat, it’s gaining prominence by the day. A law firm’s finances can get compromised in multiple ways, but the most prevalent is financial redirection. In this case, attackers try to intercept payments between law firms and their clients. They do this knowing too well that significant amounts of money are often transacted between law firms and clients.

When it comes to financial fraud, hackers will first access your email (usually through credential theft). Thereafter, they’ll lay low to study your activities, including business relationships, payment schedules, and billing processes. After learning everything they need, they’ll set the ball rolling.

Before invoices get issued, the cybercriminals will contact clients using your official email address requesting them to redirect payments to a new bank account. Since such emails will appear to be genuine and coming from you. Thinking that it’s a legitimate update, your clients will fall for the trap and follow through with the payment. Such attacks not only harm your law firm financially but also its reputation among clients.

Regardless of whether you run a major law firm or a boutique firm huddled away in a not-so-fancy address in Jacksonville, you can be a victim of financial fraud. Accelerating your team’s cybersecurity mastery will go a long way in preventing such attacks and safeguarding your firm’s reputation.

3. Phishing Attacks

Arguably, this is among the biggest threats that law firms in Florida and elsewhere face. Phishing accounts for nearly 90% of all breaches that businesses face, and annual losses of over $12 billion. These attacks occur when cyber criminals pretend to be reliable contacts and dupe users into clicking on malicious links, downloading malicious files, or providing access to sensitive company information such as account credentials and details.

Phishing attacks are growing complex by the day with attackers using more convincing methods to target their victims. Similarly, there has been significant growth in Business Email Compromise attacks. These involve criminals leveraging phishing attacks to steal the credentials of high-ranking executives’ business emails. In your law firm, the attackers could steal a managing partner’s email credentials to request a payment from the finance department fraudulently. 

Phishing attacks are damaging because they are hard to detect and combat. The attackers use social engineering rather than technological weaknesses to entice their targets. Nevertheless, several defenses can protect your law firm against phishing attacks.  

Investing in a strong email security gateway can go a long way in preventing phishing emails from reaching your firm’s mailboxes. Also, take advantage of cloud-based email security solutions to secure your business against phishing attacks. With such solutions in place, users will be able to report suspicious emails so that admins can permanently delete them from their mailboxes.

Even as you implement email security tools, remember that employee awareness plays a significant role in preventing phishing attacks. Security awareness training equips employees to spot and report phishing attempts. That way, relevant action can be taken in real-time.

Group of diverse lawyers in a law firm discussing their clients' information - using cybersecurity measures to secure sensitive information.

4. Malware Attacks

Malware is among the most significant threats that law firms face. It encompasses different cyber threats such as Trojans and viruses. Malware attacks entail using malicious code to intrude networks and databases and steal or destroy data. Typically, the malware comes from spam emails, malicious downloads, or other infected computers within a network.

Malware attacks are particularly damaging for boutique law firms, especially if they cripple networks and devices. In this case, it will require a significant investment to restore the network and eliminate all the malicious code therein. Generally, boutique law firms employ people who use their gadgets for work. Usually, hackers take advantage of this to carry out their attacks.

Law firms can thwart malware attacks by implementing strong tech practices. For instance, endpoint protection can prevent devices from downloading malware. Admins will have access to a central panel from where users’ devices can be managed to ensure security is up-to-date. This way, employees’ personal devices won’t be used as cyberattack vectors. 

5. Insider Threats

The threats facing law firms are not always from the outside. Insider threats are risks brought forth by the actions of stakeholders such as employees, former employees, and business associates who act out of greed, malice, or ignorance. Often, these individuals have access to critical information about the law firm and its clients.

A recent survey by Verizon indicated that 25% of breaches resulted from insider threats. These attacks put the firm and its clients at risk and may even lead to financial ruin. Within small law firms, insider threats are becoming more prevalent as employees access more data. Today, it’s common for insiders to access data they aren’t supposed to, which is a leading cause of insider attacks.

To prevent insider attacks, law firms should foster a culture of security awareness. This will help to prevent ignorance-borne attacks. Likewise, security awareness training will help employees identify and report insider attacks early on.

6. Weak Passwords

Contrary to what many people think, using a straightforward and easy-to-remember password is never a good idea. Hackers can easily take advantage of that to access your network. The legal sector has embraced technology. As a result, law firms leverage multiple cloud-based services. These services often contain sensitive data, including financial information.

Using easy-to-guess or similar passwords for multiple accounts could be detrimental since it compromises your data security. Your law firm is at risk of compromises arising from using weak or shared passwords across multiple accounts.

An easy way of ensuring that employees use strong passwords for company accounts is by investing in an enterprise password management solution. Implementing multi-factor authentication will also ensure that users need more than just passwords to access accounts with critical data. As such, attackers won’t be able to access your data, even if they guess your passwords correctly. 

Final Words

Law firms face multiple cyber threats, and cybersecurity should no longer be an afterthought. With the shift to the hybrid workplace, the threats have become even more prevalent. As the number of reported attacks against law firms continues to grow, there’s even more pressure to implement robust and end-to-end cybersecurity. 

If you own or work in a law firm in Jacksonville, FL, NetTech Consultants is the cybersecurity partner you need to safeguard your data. We provide reliable and affordable managed cybersecurity services that protect you from all forms of cyberattacks. When you outsource your cybersecurity to us, we’ll implement industry-best practices that minimize your cyber risk. Contact us today to learn about our managed cybersecurity solutions. 

The NetTech Content Team

NetTech Consultants is a Jacksonville based managed IT services provider that serves SMBs and organizations in Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida. NetTech publishes content discussing information technology and cybersecurity concepts and trends in a business context.