Top IT Security Best Practices for Legal Firms and Organizations with Highly Sensitive Data
Law firm data theft has been on the rise in recent years, and some of these incidents have had significant impact around the world. Hackers have identified law firms as one of the best sources for sensitive information, which can be used for blackmail and other forms of financial gain.
One of the biggest examples is the Panama Papers incident, which involved the public release of 11.5 million confidential documents. The release of this data had a negative impact on both the hacked legal firm and its clients. In fact, the law firm itself was subject to police raids, which led to the shutdown of many of its offices around the world. The leak also resulted in the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister, and led to the nation of Denmark purchasing the stolen data to prosecute tax evaders who were revealed in the documents.
A report released by ALM Legal Intelligence, after surveying law firms in a variety of sectors, found 95% of respondents agreed that there has been an increase in the frequency of cyberattacks. Despite this finding, the report also revealed that many law firms were not practicing due diligence in regard to cybersecurity. In the report nearly one third of law firms surveyed had not conducted a formal IT security assessment. Additionally, 47% of law firms reported that they do not perform regular vulnerability testing.
As these breaches and hacks increase in number and sophistication, it becomes imperative for law firms, and other organizations with highly sensitive data, to arm themselves against attack and demonstrate their commitment to securing the privacy of their clients. To that end, we have compiled the following list of the top IT security best practices these organizations can implement in order to properly secure their data.
1. Mandatory IT Security Training
Hackers know that the weakest links in any organization’s network are the users. As a result, email phishing attacks are now the most common entry point for ransomware. IT security training for staff and even clients is the best way to reduce this vulnerability. This training should include ways to recognize email phishing, ransomware, malware and other cyberattacks fueled by social engineering, as well as the steps to take when an attack has been identified.
2. Full Data Encryption
One of the most important IT security best practices for law firms is the encryption of all data in the organization. Full data encryption must include all emails, as well as data ‘in transit’, which refers to data being transferred over the Internet, and data ‘at rest’, which refers to data stored on hard drives. This will ensure that data is protected even if stolen, whether it resides in the cloud, on the premises, on removable media devices, or on smartphones.
3. Require Multi-factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an authentication method which has been proven to be very effective in blocking unauthorized access to devices or the computer network. When enabled, one or more verification methods such as pass codes, phone calls, smart cards, or biometrics will be required in order to gain access to the system. This adds an extra layer of protection and makes it extremely difficult for attackers to take control of devices or user accounts through compromised passwords.
4. Strong Backup and Disaster Recovery Plans
For law firms, creating only a single backup, whether onsite or offsite, is not nearly enough. The best strategy is to employ the 3-2-1 backup strategy. With this strategy there are always 3 copies of every file: the original, an onsite backup for fast data recovery, and an offsite backup for added security and reliability. This will protect the firm’s data against natural disasters, human error, and even ransomware attacks.
5. Periodic Vulnerability Testing
Any serious law firm IT security plan must include vulnerability testing in order to expose hidden security holes before they are exploited. While employee training and strict IT security policies can reduce the chances of falling prey to an attack, without real life testing the organization can’t be sure how they will perform when an actual attack occurs.
Vulnerability testing can utilize all possible attack vectors, including email phishing and other forms of social engineering. It can even include physical facility penetration testing. If these tests are performed periodically, the law firm will be able to discover hidden weaknesses and significantly reduce the success rate of cyberattacks.
6. Strict Security Policies
Every secure law firm needs clearly defined rules which govern the handling of data by staff, as well as penalties for violating them. These policies should ensure that the best practices mentioned above are implemented. In addition, they should:
- Define procedures to ensure network access is removed when employees resign or are terminated.
- Ensure that confidential data is stored in a highly secured environment with restricted access to only the staff members who need to access it. These staff members will also need to undergo thorough background checks before they are given access.
- Require that only company issued devices can connect to the computers in the firm, in order to prevent data leaks.
- Define a strict schedule for reviewing and monitoring server logs to identify suspicious remote access activity.
- Limit the functions staff logging in remotely can perform.
- Implement geographic restrictions to block access from countries where system users do not log in from.
Keeping an organization safe from cyber attacks is a combination of people, policies, and technology. By implementing and enforcing these policies the organization can create a company culture where IT security is everyone’s responsibility, not just the IT department’s.
Cyberattacks continue to grow in number and complexity every day. This growth is expected to continue far into the foreseeable future. Much like physical facility security, cybersecurity has become a way of life for business organizations. This is especially true for law firms and other organizations which house an increasing amount of sensitive data digitally.
By Implementing the IT security best practices described above, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to protecting their client’s sensitive information and avoid the high costs of data breaches.
One of the most important steps in improving data security is performing an IT security assessment. This assessment is a thorough security audit of the organization’s network environment in order to find vulnerabilities and areas at risk. The IT security pros here at Outsource IT can help with that. Contact your Outsource IT account manager or click here to learn more.