Cybercriminals have recently turned their attention to law firms in an attempt to steal, expose, sell, or extort confidential information. As law firms digitize sensitive records, the opportunity for online criminals has dramatically increased. Legal firms face numerous cybersecurity threats from both employees and external operators. Law firms reporting security breaches rose from 26% in 2019 to 29% in 2020. COVID-19 is a likely contributor, as many law firms transitioned to remote work. Virtual work environments and online communications can leave an open door to hacking and ransomware.
The Most Serious Cybersecurity Threats Facing Law Firms
Law firms are accustomed to handling sensitive client information as well as private corporate information. Even today, many firms are vulnerable to cyber-attacks because of a lack of effective internal controls, awareness, and standard compliance systems. The following are the most common cybercrimes legal firms encounter.
Ransomware programs extract and encrypt a law firm's essential files and demand a fee—or ransom—in exchange for the cybercriminal restoring the file for the law firm's use.
Wire Fraud Transfer: This scam takes on many forms. At its most basic level it is anything transmitted electronically with the intent to trick the recipient into transferring funds or directing the transfer of funds into the criminal actors’ bank account. The most common means is through email and texting. Law firms are particularly vulnerable because of the enormous and constant flow of monies to and from trust accounts.
Phishing scams are fake messages (often emails) sent to a person or people in the hopes of obtaining personal information from them. Due to the enormous volume of emails sent from outside sources, this risk is especially frequent in legal firms. If the attack is advanced enough, the attorney's entire email account might be compromised, exposing a slew of critical client information.
Data breaches involve the theft of personal or sensitive information from law firms for financial gain or retaliation. These assaults are often carried out by cybercriminals remotely accessing the law firm's computer, gathering personal or sensitive data, and transmitting it to third parties.
Miscellaneous cyber threats: Additional concerns to law firm security include (1) malpractice lawsuits following a data breach and (2) insider cybercrime. When a client believes, their attorney has failed to maintain proper controls over their sensitive information, they might initiate a malpractice case.
Bolstering a Firm’s Cybersecurity
Learn about practical steps that law firms can take to strengthen cybersecurity for their benefit and the benefit of clients.