As a legal practice, confidentiality is undoubtedly at the core of your business. Every day, you record and collect sensitive information from clients and associated parties, all of which must be stored securely.
Gone are the days when client records gathered dust in weighty paper files. Today, everything is digitalised and stored electronically—at least it should be.
Yet, even with this degree of efficiency. Many legal organisations fail to recognise the significance of cybersecurity provisions and, more importantly, the burgeoning threat of a cyber attack.
Confidentiality is your vulnerability
As a legal professional, you will be acutely aware of the various data protection regulations that govern the correct use of PII and other sensitive information. However, you may not know how the information you collect makes your business a target.
All customer-facing organisations, to some extent, deal with confidential information. However, very few sectors can match the sheer volume of sensitive data exchanged, stored, and collected by legal organisations.
Beyond this, law firms have access to trust accounts and often hold a significant amount of client money. This reward makes stealing access credentials potentially very lucrative for opportunistic cybercriminals.
Ultimately, this treasure trove of data and monetary rewards is too tempting for hackers to ignore, and consequently, cyber attacks on law firms are on the rise. In fact, in 2021, an American Bar Association survey found that 25% of participants had fallen victim to a data breach. So, how are cybercrooks targeting the legal sector?
What are the threats to the legal sector?
One of the most common methods cybercriminals use to infiltrate law firms is phishing scams. In this scenario, a hacker will often attempt to dupe an employee by posing as a legitimate client and induce them to send over confidential information via email.
However, a hacker will also use other phishing and social engineering tactics to extract this precious information, most commonly posing as executives in a Business Email Compromise (BEC).
Beyond phishing, cyber crooks will often attempt to hack employee email accounts, again on the hunt for login credentials and other information that enables them to access restricted systems. The trouble is that many people reuse passwords across multiple websites.
If just one of these websites suffers a data breach, the credentials stolen will usually end up on the Dark Web, where they are sold to the highest bidder. While an attack on something like a social media site may appear to have no ramifications for your legal practice, there very well could be. A hacker can link a targeted email address with a breached password or leave the job up to automated bots in a credential stuffing attack.
These may be the most common threats, but there are more. For example, legal firms can be the target of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. Here, hackers overload a system with requests, making it impossible for networks to operate successfully. Often, only when companies make a payment will the attack cease.
In the same vein, ransomware attacks are also relatively common in the legal sector. If an unsuspecting employee downloads or even opens a malicious attachment, the code can disable critical systems. Again, the attack will only cease when a ransom is paid.
Ultimately, the only way to mitigate a data breach in your organisation is to deploy a solid cybersecurity strategy. Without a dedicated security team on your staff, it can be hard to know how to do so.
At the upcoming UK Cyber Week conference, we're inviting businesses from the legal sector to join hundreds of other attendees to hear from industry experts. You'll learn about the latest threats and, more importantly, how to counteract them.
Article by Kieron Allen on behalf of UK Cyber Week
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