Cyber-attacks on law firms have become increasingly common over the last several years affecting many of the top firms in the world. These attacks can cause significant financial losses as well as reputational harm. Even for firms that have not been compromised yet, they must deal with the possibility of a potential attack and prepare accordingly. During the 2020 pandemic there was a large uptick in cyber-attacks with popular targets being hospitals, schools, and large companies. Law firms were certainly not exempt and have also become a favorite target based on their services and the amount of confidential information and sensitive data they have access to.
Cyber criminals are finding law firms to be more susceptible to attacks than other businesses. According to the 2020 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, under 45% of law firms participating in their survey use file encryption; less than 40% use email encryption, two-factor authentication, and intrusion prevention; and an even smaller percentage use full disk encryption and intrusion detection. These numbers are significantly lower than other industries, something cyber criminals appear to have caught on to.
When a firm is compromised, they often have the difficult decision of either meeting the demands of the attackers, negotiating the terms, or risk having sensitive data released to the public, causing a myriad of issues in addition to managing their reputation. In one of the more prominent recent incidents, the attackers demanded $42 million and then published more than 2 gigabytes of data as proof that they were not bluffing. This included files with confidential information on famous clients and other sensitive data. It is not uncommon for a law firm to have a payout in excess of $1 million after an attack.
Law firms have increasingly started implementing preventative measures and putting a plan in place to prepare for an attack. Some of the recommended steps to take and actions to implement to be prepared for, and help prevent, such attacks include the following:
- Enabling Two-factor authentication
- Implementing software patches on a regular basis
- Consider Ransomware insurance and liability insurance
- Regular security awareness trainings for employees
- Conducting tabletop exercises to test the plan
- Consider who from your firm will be involved in the matter, if you will pay ransom, and who will be involved in negotiations
Unfortunately, these attacks are not going away and for large firms it may not be a question of if, but when, an attack will occur. Regardless of firm size, it is critical to take the necessary steps to protect your firm and clients. If you’re unsure of how to begin this process, don’t hesitate to bring in outside help. As cyber criminals continue to become smarter, ways to prevent attacks are also increasingly more effective. Be sure to implement preventative measures on the front end to avoid a long-term headache.