According to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2019, published in April 2019, 32% of businesses identified cyber security breaches or attacks within the last 12 months.
In the modern digital world, cybersecurity breaches can occur for a variety of reasons, spanning anything from insecure passwords or not having the correct firewall or system configurations in place.
The legal sector is not exempt from these risks and it is important to acknowledge why this is occuring, how it can be prevented and the reasons why firms can be susceptible to potentially company-ending breaches.
Legacy IT systems can date back as far as decades and can pose significant business risks when they don’t receive investment and development needed to accommodate more sophisticated security measures. With legacy systems still deeply ingrained in many practising law firms today, this use of outdated software could leave firms highly susceptible to malicious online activity, which can in turn cause potential damage much faster than teams would have the ability to update systems.
Today, further changes which could threaten the security of a firm’s legal IT systems are very much on the horizon. As of January next year, Windows will be discontinuing its Windows 7 support, meaning that the technical assistance and software updates from Windows which helps firms to protect their computers will no longer be available for anyone running their programmes on the system.
For law firms, changes like this can have a huge impact on their vulnerability to a data breach caused by an event of hacking, malware and viruses. In terms of compliance, this can leave law firms in breach of regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and at high risk of facing a large, crippling fine. Alongside this, cybersecurity flaws can also tarnish the firm’s reputation, due to the impact that a data breach could have on customer information. This could lead to customers losing trust in the firm, due to their data potentially being compromised should a breach occur. In turn, this could result in a loss of both existing and potential customers and revenue in the future.
If modern firms are choosing to operate in the cloud, their data will be held within a cloud-based host platform, such as Microsoft Azure or an alternative. Making this transition poses cybersecurity considerations of its own. Therefore, when selecting a cloud service, it is important that firms check whether the provider will offer continuous security-health monitoring. With continuous support and advice from suppliers on the integrated software, ensuring that any threats can be detected and mitigated.
Despite the ever-growing cybersecurity risks modern businesses face, law firms can now take action to protect their data from being susceptible to hackers or malware issues. It is vital not to forget the importance of keeping software up to date and having a firewall to back up and protect both personal and private data on behalf of the firm and its clients. It is also essential to acknowledge that working with Legal IT suppliers which have the necessary provisions, expertise and support network in place can be a huge asset when keeping a firm’s data secure within their systems.
Implementing these safeguards proactively within a firm could ultimately be the difference to being fully prepared if a security breach takes place, or suffering financial and operational consequences which could potentially harm a firm’s ability to succeed both now and in the future.
About the Author
Tim Smith, Founder and Technical Director at Insight Legal. Tim has over 25 years’ experience in the Legal IT sector. Until 2009, he was responsible for the design and development of all the Windows-based AlphaLAW Solicitors’ system. His software was used by in excess of 1,000 firms, winning numerous awards and accolades from both industry bodies and users alike.