Law Firm Security
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5 Reasons Why Every Law Firm Needs Cybersecurity

Have you ever studied what would happen if your business was exposed to a cyberattack? The fallout from this is not only life-altering; it can be the end of the world as you know it. You could lose everything because your clients’ information is compromised, and the cost is not just monetary.

As a whole, the legal community is becoming more dependent on technology because of business growth. With excessive confidential information, law firms are prey to cyber-attacks. They do not have robust protection, which leaves them open to data breaches. This security upgrade is a must.

At this time, there are no formal cybersecurity laws set in place; however, it began in 1996 with HIPPA and the protection of private health information. There have been several state and federal laws put in place in the attempt to put a plug in the leakage of specific documentation. 

Security is evolving and if you see below, note that there are good reasons for the legal system to protect your information and what they should do to keep your records safe.

Why Does Every Law Firm Need Cyber Security?

All businesses need cyber security. Any place that keeps other people’s records should require cybersecurity. There also must be a plan in case a breach of security occurs. Everything should be done to protect the client’s information, which should be a top priority.

Is it a Moral Issue?

Every attorney has a moral obligation to protect and not reveal their clients’ information. The American Bar Association states that:

  • A lawyer may not disclose client information without the informed consent of their client
  • Disclosure only to prevent loss of life or bodily harm
  • To prevent their client from perpetrating a crime or fraud
  • To avoid significant injury to another, after their clients’ crime
  • To glean advice from another lawyer regarding the client’s case
  • For defense on the lawyer’s behalf to a criminal or civil allegation relating to his client
  • Court order to release information
  • The lawyer will make a reasonable effort on the client’s behalf not to disclose information without the authorization of the client

It is the lawyer’s moral and sworn duty to hold client confidentiality according to his oath.

Sensitive Information Must be Protected

The growth of malware and cyberattack is a significant threat to society. Privacy is essential for a law firm that keeps sensitive information about clients. An example of this is the Panama Papers scandal. 

Hackers stole millions of documents containing sensitive client information and fiscal documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. It was alarming to the legal community. Confidential information became public, and the clients became susceptible to threats. 

Because of this incident, lawyers and law firms now know that cybersecurity is paramount to every law firm. It has become a priority that law firms protect the client’s privacy and install quality cybersecurity.

The Firm’s Reputation is at Stake

Law firms can be liable for legal action for allowing sensitive information to be released to the public. Large companies may switch to a firm that has better cybersecurity. In the Mossack Fonseca case, millions of files were acquired because they had out-of-date software and a lack of encryption.  

The ramifications of a security breach at a law firm include possible lawsuits, loss of business relationships, and employee termination. Many companies often use employment confidentiality agreements. A security breach violates this contract. 

As a whole, when you are building your law firm, reputation is everything. You can advertise, offer reasonable pricing, and have the most educated staff. However, if your client is happy, your business will grow because of the clients’ feedback. See what you can do to protect your practice and clients.

Protect Your Client at All Costs 

Not only could a breach ruin your business and your good name. If an intruder gets your client’s safety-sensitive information, the client could be destroyed for their life or many years of that life. You must exhaust all efforts to keep all data safe and secure.

Gearing up for this protection is a pricey situation; however, if you experience a breach, the cost will outweigh what you will pay for your cybersecurity. First, you must vet and hire a company you trust to apply the proper protection for your information.

Once your IT company is secured, they will evaluate your computer system and advise what equipment is needed to protect your information. 

  • Antiviral software 
  • Internal firewall
  • Firewall hardware
  • Data backup
  • Virtual private network

Once you get your hardware safe and in place, it’s time to put into practice proper computer use. 

  • Continually update operating system and software
  • Perform scans of peripherals 
  • Watch your e-mail 
  • Do not trust e-mail links
  • Only use trusted browsers
  • Watch those websites 
  • Manage passwords
  • Block dangerous sites 
  • Disconnect from internet

All computer users should practice these preventive computing techniques. If you do not need the internet, be sure to turn it off. That will go a long way toward keeping you safe. 

Cyberattacks Are More Prevalent

Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent, and criminals’ efforts and ways to steal money and information have become more intricate. As quickly as organizations are implementing newer technologies, hackers are finding ways to target the weaknesses of security systems. 

Because cyberattacks have become so commonplace, it is more important to step up security and ensure that clients’ personal information is protected; no matter their size, law firms are often the subject of hackers trying to obtain sensitive information.

While the use of firewalls and encryption of e-mails containing personal information should be the norm, many law firms still fail to take reasonable action to ensure that e-mails are encrypted, leaving them vulnerable to a cyberattack. 

Law firms must take efforts to comply with rules and federal and state statutes by employing written information security programs and data policies that focus on the following:

  • Identification and classification of sensitive information
  • Written data security policies
  • Third-party vendor protection of sensitive data
  • Use of anti-spam, anti-virus, and malware software
  • Cyber insurance
  • Risk and susceptibility assessments
  • Intelligence testing
  • Action ready incidence response plan
  • Disaster recovery plan

If action is taken to protect sensitive data, law firms can improve or lessen the risk of liability from lawsuits. How a law firm does before a breach in security is as relevant as what happens after one transpires. 

What Can You do to Plug up The Information Leak?

As noted before, HIPPA came into play, and the government placed regulations regarding the handling of private health information. There are set standards for the management and disbursement of patient records set in stone.

Client Information is Subject to State or Federal Laws

Client information considered medical or psychological falls under the guidance of HIPPA, which is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is part of the sensitive information that is supposed to be protected by law firms and other record holders. 

You may not release health records without the patient’s express written permission. 

Why Would Medical Records be Requested for Review?

For example, if a car accident is involved in a case, medical records could be affected during litigation. Law firms are often asked to assist covered individuals and business associates in examining their compliance with HIPPA’s privacy, security, and breach notification requirements. 

Also, there are reasons why a lawyer may request patient medical records for a case. This request could come from the clients’ lawyer or opposing counsel. The client must give written permission for these records to be released and specify which parts of the chart are not allowed.

It could be an ongoing enforcement action between HHS and a covered individual or a covered individual’s preventative self-audit to decrease the incidence of disclosure.

What do you Have to do to Comply with HIPPA? 

Concerning HIPPA’s security rules, the process could include inventorying all electronic equipment and information systems that use electronic PHI. As part of risk assessment, a law firm may be asked to help the covered individual or business associate to do the following:

  • Create a risk management plan to address any risks exposed during risk analysis
  • Explain the covered individual or business associate’s HIPPA privacy and security policies
  • Ascertain and consistently renew training materials for all employees and other workforce members
  • Create procedures to stop access to PHI when employees and other workforce members cease employment   

Law firms are required to comply with the breach notification statutes in the states in which their clients inhabit. Law firms who have their client’s personally-identifying information may also be liable to the notification statutes, as well as federal law. 

Following HIPPA’s Lead

You must have specific standards set to protect data, whether digital or paper information. As noted above, you have to make a plan with a security risk analysis. This evaluation can be performed by the IT company you trust, and they know your computer system.

Time-consuming, yes, worth the time, yes. You need to know how you do everyday things in your office. 

  • Procedure for hiring and firing
  • Policies for training
  • Computer use
  • Password use
  • Guidelines for the release of information

This beginning just scratches the surface; you need to know what you would do in case of a breach:

  • Who will be affected
  • How much will it cost
  • How you will notify the client
  • What you will offer them for protection

So now you have figured out what this will cost you and if recovery is possible. Next, there are your employees.

  • When you hire, have them sign a privacy agreement
  • They have to be trained regularly regarding their privacy with their passwords
  • They have to sign in to the computer with their user name and password
  • You will track them as to what computer they are using
  • You must keep a record of their training, properly keeping records

Now that the employees are covered, you need to keep track of your equipment and ensure it is secure.

  • You have to list every piece of computer equipment, including stationery, peripherals, and mobile
  • Any cell phones that come into contact with employees
  • Servers, if there are any, most use cloud-based systems with no server
  • You must catalog all equipment with
    • Date of purchase
    • Serial number
    • Location
    • Assigned to who
    • Including photographs is a good practice
  • All equipment must be hack proofed when you leave the building

These are an excellent beginning to keeping your information safe, along with the programs and hardware mentioned in the beginning. Always remember, though, you can have the best of everything and feel that it is all in a good place, but you must be hypervigilant.

Authentication and Encryption are Key

Encryption is used to block unlawful access to the information stored on your computer. It also can protect information that you send through the internet. Your data can be stored on your device or in the cloud through legal management software. Encryption is essential to protect confidential data. 

The more you do protect your device, the better the security. Most use a two-step process to authenticate your validity. The password is not enough anymore, and with the two-step, a security code is sent to your e-mail or mobile number. You must set this process in advance to be able to use it. 

What Kind of Cyber Threats Do Law Firms Face?

Criminals often target law firms because they store essential information and have considerable financial resources. Most people who hack typically intend to harm monetary gain. Some of the biggest cyber threats to law firms include the following:

  • Malware is software that will immobilize computer systems or individual machines. 
  • Ransomware is malware that threatens to shut down the computer unless a ransom is paid
  • Spyware is the software utilized to find out your passwords and habits on the computer
  • Trojans are a type of malware that allow hackers to enter your system
  • Viruses are infected software that damage files
  • Worms are a type of malware that duplicate themselves to infect multiple computers

All attorneys must take cyber threats seriously and take measures to protect their client’s information. Law firms should also create a backup plan in case of a security breach. 


The legal industry is a tempting target for hackers. Attorneys are liable for their client’s data. With cyber-attacks becoming more common, the legal community must have the proper security in place. The consequences of a security breach are not worth the risk, and law firms need to be ready. 


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