Legal Firms the Target of Cyber Attacks – What You Need to Know 

The rise in the popularity of the Internet has presented businesses with a whole new world of opportunities, such as a larger pool of potential clients and increased networking platforms. However, it has also opened the doors wide to a new type of crime; cyber attacks.  

Many different sectors fall prey to these attacks, however legal firms have emerged as a particularly attractive target for cyber criminals. So, why is this the case, and more importantly, what can you do to protect your own legal firm from cyber attacks? 

Why are legal firms a target of cyber attacks? 

Legal firms handle an array of sensitive client information, from ongoing criminal cases to mergers and acquisitions, these can all be incredibly valuable to criminal organisations. Given that reputation can make or break a firm, these practices also become attractive targets for extortion. 

In concerning news, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed that a staggering 75% of solicitors’ firms they reviewed had fallen victim to cyber-attacks. In 2021 alone, 18 law firms were hit by ransomware attacks according to the SRA.  

As cyber attacks continue to escalate, even smaller firms lacking dedicated cybersecurity and IT support face a growing risk of incidents like ransomware attacks. The threat is clear, which is why it’s vital that legal firms ensure that they have suitable cyber security in place, no matter their size. 

Who might target legal firms? 

Legal firms are enticing targets for a wide array of cyber criminals and other individuals, including: 

Cyber criminals 

Beginning with the most obvious culprit, legal firms hold a wealth of knowledge and data that cyber criminals can exploit for financial gain. This category includes a spectrum ranging from seasoned professional collectives to modest-scale fraudsters.  

Worryingly, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has noted an uptick in the presence of ‘hackers-for-hire’. Criminals can readily acquire pre-designed services from more experienced cyber criminals, negating the necessity for advanced technical expertise. This shift has resulted in a surge in the magnitude of cyber crime, with perpetrators launching indiscriminate attacks on numerous organisations to find those with weaknesses, regardless of their size. 

Nation states 

Nation states engage in cyber activities to advance their own national interests and prosperity, or to disrupt endeavours by professionals aligned with causes the state opposes, such as human rights or regime change. This heightened vulnerability extends to major law firms due to their potential involvement in expansive supply chains utilised by nation states.  

Hacktivists 

A newer term, a ‘hacktivist’ is a computer hacker who is driven by a particular cause, such as advancing political or personal agendas or responding to perceived injustices. Hacktivists have proven proficient in employing Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to either disrupt or vandalise websites.  

Insider threat 

The insider threat refers to the intentional or inadvertent risk posed to an organisation’s security by individuals with authorised access, including employees, volunteers, contractors, or suppliers.  

What are the different types of cyber attacks? 

There are various cyber attacks that pose a threat to the legal firms. The most common include: 

Phishing attacks 

Cybercriminals send emails or messages to deceive employees, enticing them to disclose sensitive information, click on malicious links, or download malware. 

Ransomware 

Hackers encrypt a firm’s data, extorting a ransom for data release, thereby disrupting operations and potentially exposing confidential information. 

Data breaches 

Unauthorised access to sensitive data can result in data theft, identity compromise, and potential legal consequences. 

Social engineering 

Manipulating individuals to reveal confidential details or take actions compromising security. 

Password attacks 

Malicious actors may employ techniques to decipher passwords, potentially gaining unauthorised access to critical systems and information. 

Supply chain attacks 

Cyber attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in the firms’ suppliers’ systems to infiltrate the legal firm’s network, risking the exposure of sensitive information. 

How can you protect your legal firm from cyber attacks? 

Navigating the world of cyber resilience can feel overwhelming in the face of so many different kinds of criminals and criminal techniques. However, don’t panic, there are plenty of things you can do to boost your cyber security, including: 

Staff training 

Educating employees about cybersecurity best practices is crucial as they are often your first line of defence against cyber attacks. Conduct regular training sessions to help them recognise phishing attempts, understand the importance of strong passwords, and raise awareness about potential threats.

Cyber essentials 

Implementing cybersecurity frameworks like Cyber Essentials can provide a baseline level of security. This includes measures such as firewall configuration, secure device management, and controlled access rights. 

Invest in an IT support partner 

Collaborating with a reputable IT support partner can significantly enhance a legal firm’s cybersecurity posture. These partners offer 24/7 monitoring, threat detection, incident response, and ongoing security updates. 

Endpoint security  

Utilise robust endpoint security solutions to safeguard devices that connect to the firm’s network. This can include antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and device encryption. 

Regular software updates and patch management 

Keeping all software and applications up to date helps eliminate vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit, as well as allows you to regularly review security measures. 

Data encryption  

Encrypt sensitive data both in transit and at rest. Even if a breach occurs, encrypted data is much harder for hackers to decipher. 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) 

Implement MFA for accessing sensitive systems and data. This adds an extra layer of security, making it significantly more difficult for unauthorised individuals to gain access. 

Need help with your business’s IT? Contact us today to find out how we can help.