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Top 5 biggest security risks for the legal sector

Did you know that cyberattacks targeting the legal sector are rising? A recent report from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre reveals that law firms are increasingly targeted by bad actors, ranging from activists and criminal groups to nation-states.

Another cause of concern is that many security breaches are accidental. But whether caused by human error or bad actors, the result is the same: data breaches cost even smaller firms millions of dollars, not to mention the reputational damage from leaking sensitive client information.

Given the increased threat and high-stakes consequences of data leaks, legal firms must take proactive measures to safeguard their data. The first step is to understand the top security risks facing the legal sector. We explore some of these risks below.

1. Human error: Something we’re all capable of

Simple errors are the most common cause of data breaches, like using the wrong permission settings on sensitive files or sending information to the wrong recipient. An issue with minimizing human error is that it can happen often and easily; so easily that 77% of firms experienced a cyber attack resulting from staff error, according to a PwC report on legal security.

Building a security-conscious culture can help avoid human error. Systems like integrated email security solutions are key to minimizing security risk, especially as email is the primary form of communication among law firms. The right tool can improve productivity and prevent human error before it occurs.

2. Phishing: Fake messages, real consequences

Phishing is a form of social engineering where attackers gain sensitive information by pretending to be a trusted party. A single click on a malicious link in an apparently genuine email can expose client details. While email phishing is most common, attacks include fake phone calls and even online meetings. These days, AI tools enable bad actors to easily replicate the voice and video of people you know. 

Firms can protect against phishing by deploying anti-spoofing controls to filter out deceptive emails. Ensuring all devices are well-configured and equipped with robust endpoint defenses is critical to safeguarding sensitive legal data from unauthorized access. Frequent employee training on social engineering tactics, including phishing tests will support your teams in identifying phishing attempts. 

3. Insider threats: The enemy within

Insider threats emerge when individuals within the organization deliberately compromise the firm's data security. These incidents are fairly common, with PwC research finding that 8% of firms have experienced a data breach caused by a malicious insider​.

To combat these risks, law firms should implement stringent access controls, ensuring that employees can only access the information necessary for their roles. Data hygiene is equally important. When an employee leaves, for instance, ensure that they lose access to firm data and devices. 

4. Ransomware: Holding your firm hostage

As the name implies, ransomware is malicious software that enters your system and holds it hostage until you pay an extortion demand. These attacks can completely prevent you from retrieving data while giving your attacker full access to your files. 

Law firms combat ransomware by performing security updates as soon as they are released. These updates often contain patches for vulnerabilities that ransomware could exploit. Implementing strong passwords and adopting multi-factor authentication (MFA) significantly enhances security and can deter attacks.

5. Friday afternoon fraud: The weakness at week’s end

Friday afternoon frauds are hacking attempts that typically occur on Friday afternoons, when staff may be more distracted or rushing to finish work before the weekend. Scammers exploit this vulnerable time to trick legal professionals into transferring funds or revealing sensitive information.

This fraud also involves criminals hacking into the email chains of clients or providers, taking advantage of unencrypted emails in transit. Hackers then divert payments like mortgage transactions to their bank accounts, using the weekend and three-day transfer time to escape with the money. 

Friday afternoon fraud can be prevented by heightening vigilance around security issues, encrypting and otherwise securing communication channels like outbound emails, and implementing strict verification processes for any financial transactions or sensitive information requests. 

How Zivver can help

At Zivver, we offer an integrated email security solution that helps mitigate security risks for the legal sector. Our user-friendly tools integrate seamlessly with email clients (M365, Outlook, Gmail), enhancing secure communication without altering user workflows.

Key features include two-factor authentication for added email security, zero-access encryption that protects data from external threats, and secure file transfers for preventing data leaks. Our active error detection tool spots human errors, like sending emails to the wrong recipient, and helps prevent them before they occur. 

Learn how legal firms like yours are using Zivver to prevent data leaks. 

First published -
Last updated - 23/04/24
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