Last year, a renowned entertainment law firm called Grubman, Shire, Meiselas, and Sacks (based in New York) fell victim to one of the most devastating high-profile security breaches we have seen in recent years. Hackers denied the firm access to its critical data. Instead, they made away with high-profile data such as nondisclosure agreements, contract agreements, private correspondence, phone numbers, and email addresses. The attack has garnered a lot of local and international attention for the impact it caused on high-profile celebrities like Madonna and Springsteen. The perpetrators of the data breach, who call themselves REvil, demanded $42 million as a ransom.
More recently, Gateley, a UK-based legal and professional firm, revealed that it had fallen victim to a data breach. The firm was forced to take down its system to try and reduce the impact of the breach. Although the impact was not as significant as hackers might have intended, the firm lost a substantial amount of sensitive user data.
Although data breaches targeting law firms are not a new phenomenon, the incidence rate has increased rapidly over the past few years. For example, a 2018 ABA report reveals that 42% of law firms have fallen victims to data breaches.
At this point, it is clear that law firms are targets of cybersecurity breaches. Luckily for you, this article gives you some tips that you can use to protect your law firm website from data breaches.
1. Employee Training and Awareness Program
Employees are the biggest cybersecurity vulnerability in any organization. Employees form an easy target that hackers can quickly leverage to find their way into your law firm website. So, the question that you should seek to answer today is, how well are your employees and all stakeholders in your law firm equipped to safeguard themselves and your organization against cybersecurity attacks?
Most data breaches indeed rely on exploiting the human element of the organization. With the help of innovative phishing schemes and other attack vectors, hackers target employees of an organization. To help them be safe from such threats, you must ensure a proper employee training and awareness program. The reasons to have an employee training and awareness program are as follows;
- It provides every stakeholder in your law firm with adequate knowledge and experience to mitigate the existing and potential cyber vulnerabilities. It is thus the foundation to ensuring a sound law firm security strategy.
- It helps to create a cyber-resilient culture.
- It helps to save on the cost of data losses, disruptions in normal business operations, and terrible lawsuits and fines.
- It boosts the confidence of all your stakeholders.
2. Implementing Secure Socket Layer Certificate
The Secure Socket Layer certificate is the most critical element of your law firm website, without which your law firm website remains open to attacks. An SSL certificate encrypts the communication between your law firm servers and your clients’ browsers. In simple terms, the SSL certificate converts plain text data or information into ciphertext. The ciphertext is information scattered in an indecipherable form. To decrypt the data, one needs to have the decryption key.
Because your law firm website carries a lot of sensitive user data, you have no choice but to buy and install an SSL certificate. It is crucial that you only acquire an SSL certificate from a trusted certificate provider. Some of the best SSL certificates on the market include the Comodo SSL certificate, Geotrust SSL certificate, and Rapid SSL certificate.
3. Use Security Plugins
Another great way of ensuring utmost law firm security is by using vibrant security plugins and extensions. Security plugins and extensions enhance the general security of your law firm website by adding web application firewalls, protecting against brute force attacks, and scanning your networks for any form of malware attacks.
However, you must be careful with security plugins. You should always ensure that you keep them updated. An outdated security plugin can be a brutal weapon that could be used against you. If you use WordPress to power your law firm website, you might consider using wordFence and Sucuri. The two are the best security plugins that will ensure the security of your law firm website.
4. Access Limitations
In the security of your law firm, its is important that you apply the principle of the least privilege. It would be best if you never gave your users and employees more access than is needed. The principle requires data owners never to give users an ounce more access than they will require to fulfill their responsibilities on your website.
Additionally, you must ensure that employees who no longer work on your firm are denied access to critical data files. For instance, employees who have long retired or moved out from your law firm should have their accounts deleted. You must also ensure that the power to read or edit the contents of a file is limited to only those responsible.
5. Properly Configure Your Server and Files
With file and server configuration, you might require the services of an expert developer. One mistake in configuration would render your servers vulnerable to data security threats. Proper server configuration is part of hardening your law firm website to protect it from back-door threats. With appropriate file and server configuration, you must make sure that you do the following;
- Set up appropriate file permissions.
- Prevent directory browsing
- Limit access to vital configuration files.
6. Strong Passwords and Multi-factor Authentication
Proper password hygiene can go a long way in ensuring that your law firm website is safe and secure from unauthorized access. Weak passwords provide the easiest and quickest route to your networks. Before a hacker tries out other tricks, they will first need to taste the strength of your passwords by trying out password hacking techniques such as brute force attacks and dictionary attacks.
If you are using weak passwords, then it is about time you revised them. The following are some of the properties of strong passwords;
- With passwords, complexity is vital. The more complex a password is, the stronger it can withstand any attempt to get past it. Complex passwords are those that combine numbers, letters, and special characters.
- Using long passwords is also a great tactic. An ideal length would be more than ten characters. However, it would be best if you did not use too long passwords to make it hard to remember them.
- It would help if you minded how you store the passwords. It is not recommended to write down the passwords. Anyone who comes across the written source can easily access your accounts. You should also not let your browsers store your passwords. This will make your law firm vulnerable to attacks in case your device lands in malicious hands.
- Always use password manager tools.
- Use a different password for every account.
7. Always Update
If you look at some of the previous attacks, you will realize that one thing is common- outdated software or operating system.
Software and operating systems become vulnerable over time. Vendors and developers usually try to fix the vulnerabilities as soon as possible. Failing to carry out the update is like choosing to live with the security loopholes that would put you right at the jaws of cybercriminals.
The best practice is to ensure that you frequently update your operating system and software and update quickly. The same should apply to every third-party plugin and extension that you acquire for your law firm website.
8. If All Else Fails, Have a Backup Plan
What happens when, after all the security measures you have taken to protect your law firm website, a security breach still occurs?
The only thing that will save you in such a situation is when you have a backup plan. As I will always say, there is no foolproof cybersecurity strategy that can guarantee 100% immunity against cyber breaches. For this reason, you must have a contingency plan. Always ensure that you conduct regular backups to plan for uncertainties.
Law firms have become attractive targets to hackers. If you have a law firm website, there is a reason to be worried. However, the best strategy is to ensure that you have the security tips mentioned above to help protect yourself against cyber vulnerabilities. For the utmost security, ensure you implement all the measures. The more the security measures, the stronger your law firm website will be.