The importance of cybersecurity in the legal sector

Jul 25, 2023 | News

Every industry sector is impacted by cybersecurity. Daily headlines gravitate around data breaches, ransomware attacks and loss of service.

The more business-critical and sensitive the data you process, the more of a target you become. This is one of the reasons the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has released its “Cyber Threat Report: UK Legal Sector”.

It focuses on the cybersecurity landscape within the legal sector of the UK and highlights the various cyber threats faced by firms, providing recommendations to mitigate these risks.

The report states, “there is an inherent trust and strict confidence from clients that law firms preserve the confidentiality of their information. It is also a legal practice’s overriding professional obligation, as set out in the professional standards, in the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) Standards and Regulations, the Bar Standards Board’s handbook, and is common law, under the Legal Services Act 2007. It is essential that organisations maintain appropriate cyber security measures. Failure to do so can have exceptionally negative consequences for a legal practice and its clients.”

Data, privilege, confidentiality

Legal firms find themselves entrusted with copious amounts of sensitive and confidential information, encompassing client data, financial records, and intellectual property. Safeguarding this wealth of invaluable data from the clutches of unauthorised access and data breaches becomes imperative, not only to preserve client trust but also to uphold legal and ethical obligations.

The status of solicitor-client privilege assumes equal importance. Upholding the sanctity of solicitor-client communications ranks among the foundational principles of the legal profession. Deploying robust cybersecurity measures plays a pivotal role in ensuring that electronically shared privileged information remains concealed, immune to interception or unauthorised disclosure.

It’s easy to discern why the legal sector is a lucrative target for cybercriminals seeking to acquire valuable data and it brings into sharp focus the need for a robust and effective security posture.

Successful breaches of data can instigate harmful consequences, including reputational harm, financial loss, legal liabilities, and regulatory penalties. That means cultivating robust cybersecurity practices becomes instrumental in mitigating the risk of data breaches and curbing the potential fallout.

What are the key findings of the report?

Professional services, which includes the legal sector, is regularly at the top of analysts’ leaderboards as the sector most impacted by the cyber threat.

In 2020 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) reported that 75% of the solicitors’ firms they visited for their cyber security thematic review had been the target of a cyber-attack.

It also reported that 18 law firms were the victims of ransomware attacks in 2021 and that almost three-quarters of the UK’s top-100 law firms have been affected. It also found that smaller firms have little or no dedicated cyber security and IT support, so the risk of incidents is increasing.

The key findings of the NCSC in its “Cyber Threat Report: UK Legal Sector”, gives a comprehensive review of the challenges facing the sector, and we’ve distilled the key findings into the following areas:

Cyber Threats: The legal sector faces a range of cyber threats, including phishing attacks, data breaches, ransomware, and supply chain compromises. These threats can have severe financial and reputational consequences.

Credential Stuffing: The report emphasises the prevalence of credential stuffing attacks, where attackers use stolen login credentials from one site to gain unauthorised access to other accounts. Legal firms are advised to implement strong password policies and multi-factor authentication to mitigate this risk.

Email Compromise: The report highlights the risk of email compromise, such as business email compromise (BEC) and email account compromise (EAC). Attackers impersonate legitimate individuals or use social engineering techniques to deceive employees and gain unauthorised access to sensitive information or funds.

Supply Chain Risks: Legal firms often rely on third-party suppliers and vendors, making them vulnerable to supply chain compromises. The report recommends implementing rigorous vendor risk management processes to ensure the security of the entire supply chain.

Remote Working: With the increasing adoption of remote working, the report highlights the importance of implementing robust security measures for remote access and ensuring employees are aware of best practices for secure remote working.

Incident Response: The report emphasises the need for legal firms to have effective incident response plans in place. This includes regular testing, employee training, and collaboration with relevant authorities and incident response teams.

How to act on the report’s findings?

To summarise, cybersecurity assumes utmost importance within the legal sector, acting as a stalwart guardian of client confidentiality, the protector of sensitive information, the enabler of compliance, the preserver of client trust, and the guardian of the reputation and continuity of legal firms.

By prioritising cybersecurity, legal professionals can fortify their defences, mitigate risks, ensure compliance, and deftly navigate the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

The report’s recommendations include investing in cybersecurity awareness training for employees, implementing strong access controls and encryption measures, regularly patching and updating software, and establishing effective incident response capabilities.

Vaioni has developed a range of cybersecurity services. Working with world-leading Gartner Magic Quadrant partners, we’ve designed a portfolio of proactive and reactive solutions and support options for those working in the legal sector. And for those at the beginning of their cybersecurity journey, we’ve developed our Cybersecurity Resource Hub to help demystify some of the technology.

Please visit www.vaioni.com/cybersecurity-resources for more information

[  Other news stories you may be interested in  ]

Introducing Miles Allcock

Introducing Miles Allcock

From scuba diving to service strategy. We're getting to know the newest member of the Vaioni team, Senior Customer Success Manager Miles Allcock. Miles will be working closely with our customers, so we wanted to take the opportunity to get to know him a little better...

read more