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The key cybersecurity threats facing law firms in 2022

With growing levels of cybercrime, cybersecurity is something that businesses in all sectors are having to take increasingly seriously. But it certainly seems that companies in the legal industry are among those most likely to be investing in upgrades to their cybersecurity and digital protection. 

Indeed, it has been known that since 2018 law firms have been ramping up their cybersecurity measures.  This means that if you run a law firm and you haven’t put more into your cybersecurity budget, you run the risk of falling behind your competitors, at least from the perspective of your security. 

In 2022, law firms face a large range of potential threats. In this article, we will look at why businesses in the law sector are being targeted, why the industry is vulnerable, and understand the most significant threats that companies face.

Law firms are being targeted

Law firms are finding themselves increasingly the target of cybercriminals. In fact, attacks against businesses in the law sector have risen by more than 60% in the last two years. This shows that they need to be more prepared for the possibility of attack, as it is far more likely than ever before. 

When you consider that law firms rely on their reputation, confidence and trust from clients, these types of attacks have the potential to be disastrous. Indeed this is a key reason that companies are choosing to upgrade their cybersecurity; if they are seen as a target for criminals, they need to also have the defences in place to protect themselves.

The industry can be vulnerable

The legal industry is particularly vulnerable to cybercrime, specifically because it is a valuable target. Let’s not forget that in the majority of cases, cybercriminals are seeking to extort money. And as law firms are often involved in significant financial moves, they can be seen as a potential way to disrupt and intercept potentially very large sums of money.

However, the level of financial transactions involved are not the only motivators for cybercriminals. Producers of legal industry case management software Insight Legal explain: “law firms can be a target for cybercriminals as they often retain significant amounts of money, information and private data.”

Given the issues of significant money changing hands, as well as valuable personal information, it is easy to understand why the law industry has become a target for sophisticated and well-funded cybercriminals. 

The threats facing law firms

As law firms become the target of cybercrime, it is vital that they do everything they can to protect themselves. But it is also crucial to understand exactly where the danger comes from as well as the most common forms of attack.

Companies can then put effective countermeasures in place to ensure that they are protected. Perhaps one of the issues that is less likely to be on the radar of law firms is the ongoing issue of the cybersecurity skills shortage. 

Lack of available cybersecurity professionals

The cybersecurity skills shortage is something that has been affecting the industry for a number of years which is not solely a problem for law firms. But given the rising levels of cybercrime against law firms and their specific vulnerability, it’s clear that not being able to engage the required specialists is a key problem for the industry. Many law firms won’t have the budget to hire a full-time cybersecurity team, but if they can’t even get access to a specialist for the IT department, it could lead to serious deficiencies in their ability to mitigate cybersecurity challenges.

Thankfully, however, it is still possible to outsource this important work. Many specialist cybersecurity firms offer a wide range of services that can keep any business secure. Law firms should look for an outsourced cybersecurity service that has experience working within the industry and understands the sector. 

Challenges from the pandemic

Some of the challenges that the law industry faces in 2022 have come about purely because of the pandemic and the effect it has had on the industry. There are two issues at play here; firstly, that more law industry staff are working remotely, and secondly, that more business is being done without face-to-face meetings. 

Remote staff pose a particular challenge to the legal industry, specifically because they are more vulnerable to cybercrime.  This is true for a number of reasons; not least because workers are used to operating in a relatively safe office environment, where company software and hardware is regularly updated, and the company uses powerful cybersecurity measures.

When staff work at home, they are less likely to have powerful security measures.

The second issue, relating to law firms operating without meeting clients face-to-face, creates new potential opportunities for cybercriminals. For example, if the majority of discussion with a client is conducted over email, a company can become vulnerable to a so-called ‘business email compromise’ attack. 

Business email compromise attacks

Business email compromise (BEC) attacks are a particular form of phishing. In traditional phishing attacks, cybercriminals may use a fake email address to attempt to trick someone in clicking a link. BEC attacks are more subtle, and they generally involve gaining access to a client or member of staff’s email account.

This way, the email comes from a genuine account. They then make a request which might be something like changing the bank account details for where a deposit needs to be made. The unsuspecting individual then makes that deposit thinking that everything is going smoothly. It is only revealed later that the email requesting the bank account detail change was compromised.

Increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals

As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, it takes more powerful and proactive cybersecurity to defend against them. It is necessary for businesses throughout the law industry to put defences in place, as complacency could result not only in significant financial loss, but also tarnish an established reputation. 

Author: Dakota Murphey

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.

Published on 16th February 2022
(Last updated 17th February 2022)

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