Cyber Security in the Legal Sector: Risks, Impact, and Action

Cybercrime is fast becoming the biggest and most expensive threat to Australian businesses in the 21st century, and despite the government’s best efforts, it is not something that is going to be eradicated any time soon. In the 2020 - 21 financial year, Australians reported losses of more than A$33 billion, which is a staggering 1500% increase from the same period just a decade before.

While every sector is at risk these days from a cyber-attack or a data breach, legal practitioners should be particularly vigilant about keeping their client data secure. A breach of data security in the legal sector has the potential to cause serious reputational damage to a law firm, as well as serious financial and legal consequences for the clients whose data was exposed.

There is good news, though. With the right security controls and practices, you can ensure that your legal firm is one step closer to safeguarding your sensitive client information from unauthorised access and protecting your business’s reputation. But first, you need to understand the security risks associated with a cyber-attack, and the full impact that it could have on your law firm.


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The Risks and Impact

There is a reason it is called a ‘risk’. Just like a bad investment or badly thought-out plan whereby you failed to weigh up all of the options, there are significant consequences if things don’t go your way - and the numbers are not on your side.

According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), a data breach is reported by an Australian business, on average, every 10 minutes. That amounts to roughly 164 reports a day, 365 days a year. If that statistic isn’t enough to make you concerned, let’s try this: a malicious actor can be in and out of your systems with your entire client database in a matter of hours, but it can take up to 200 days for the organisation to notice.

Imagine what a malicious actor can do with your complete database during that time. They could use or sell your corporate or financial information for large gains, hold your sensitive information for ransom, or target your client’s directly with the information they have in their possession - and the list goes on.

The truth is that legal firms are bound by client confidentiality, and without the right security measures and practices, not only has that client confidentiality gone out the window, but you are also putting your entire business, your reputation, and your clients at risk.

Understanding the full risks of cyber security negligence should be enough for any business to ensure they are fulfilling their cyber security requirements and doing what they can to mitigate cyber threats, but in reality, the risks continue beyond what the cybercriminal will do with the data alone. Unfortunately, it has a ripple effect, and the impact will continue.

Clients whose data has been stolen are likely to then hold your firm responsible and, therefore, seek financial retribution. It is also highly likely that the government will hold your firm accountable should you not be able to prove that your cyber security policies and procedures were robust enough to ensure that you had done everything in your power to prevent this from happening. This means that you will be again financially liable for your negligence.

The fact is that NO business is immune from an attack. The cyber risks ARE real. And your law firm needs to be doing everything it can to prevent breaches from happening. So, what can you do?


The Action

Cyber-attacks happen, but with the rise in cyber-attacks, we also have seen a rise in cyber security offerings to combat them. It is important to have a robust cyber security strategy and breach prevention plan in place. By partnering with a quality managed security service provider (MSSP), you will have a team of cyber security experts at your disposal who are well-versed on the cyber threat landscape and know how to navigate it. They can also ensure that your IT system is correctly configured to reduce the possibility of unauthorised access and data breaches.

Additionally, you need to implement robust cyber security policies and procedures. These should include strict guidelines on who has access to your network, what they are allowed to do, and how they are monitored. You should also have a process in place for reporting any incidents or breaches so that you can take action as soon as possible to mitigate the damage.

You also need to start seeing cyber security as an investment. By investing in the right technology (such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and data encryption software) and implementing it correctly, you can better protect your data and systems from attack.

Lastly, your digital environment and practices should be continuously self-assessed to make sure that there are no obvious vulnerabilities in your system or practices that could leave your law firm exposed.

If you are wondering whether your business is adequately protecting itself from a possible attack, take a look at Essential Tech’s Cyber Security - IT Self-Assessment Checklist, or contact the team today to see how they can help enhance the security of your law firm.


Does your Law Firm need help to comply with State & Federal regulations?

Download our free self-assessment ALPMA checklist

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