What Law Firms Should Know About Data Security

According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), 164 cybercrime reports are made every day, with about one report every 10 minutes. The effects of cybercrime are horrendous for businesses, especially law firms.

Each law firm has business and personal client information that they cannot risk getting out. Data security is necessary to stay compliant with regulations and keep a law firm safe from data breaches.

Read on to learn about how lawyers can use data security to their benefit.

Law Firm Data Security Risk

If you don’t secure law firm data, your business is at risk. Not only is your reputation at risk of going under, but your clients will reap negative consequences as well.

A cybercriminal might target law firms to gain the following valuable information:

  • Trade secrets
  • Intellectual property
  • Acquisition and merger details
  • Personally identifiable information (PII)
  • Attorney-client privileged data

Law firms have an obligation to data security as consequences can be extensive enough to lead to serious legal issues. Although not every consequence turns into a legal problem, minor embarrassments are just as hard.

Here’s what you can expect without data protection for law firms:

  • Phished or compromised email accounts
  • Inability to access important information because of ransomware
  • Business or personal information that has been leaked to the public
  • Loss of client and public trust
  • Malpractice lawsuits and allegations

The best way to combat these issues is by employing a beneficial data security system. Your law firm should take advantage of the latest technology with a cyber security strategy from a managed IT company.

Law Firm Ethical Obligations

Data protection for law firms is more than regulatory. You have an ethical obligation as well. These ethical obligations include disclosing a security breach if one does occur.

To comply with these obligations, your law firm can implement the following techniques:

  • Create a cyber security strategy
  • Secure mobile devices
  • Improve email communication practices
  • Vetting tech providers

Among these four protection methods, you should also consider the best legal technology for your law firm.

Law Firm Regulatory Obligations

Data security for law firms will vary depending on where a law firm practices. Law firms can learn from the Privacy Act as the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is responsible for data protection.

Personal information is a term used in the Privacy Act that defines referring to information or an opinion about someone who is identified or even an individual who is reasonably identifiable.

Sensitive information in the Privacy Act includes personal information, health information, genetic information, biometric information, and biometric templates. Sensitive information covers a lot of topics, such as:

  • Racial or ethnic origin
  • Political opinions
  • Membership in a political association
  • Religious affiliations or beliefs
  • Philosophical beliefs
  • Membership in a professional trade association
  • Membership in a trade union
  • Sexual practices or orientation
  • Criminal record

Ensure your law firm is compliant with the Privacy Act to protect data.

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Law Firm Data Security Protection Best Practices

Locking down the data your law firm has is not going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to take a lot of trial and error as new cyber threats continue to come around. These law firm data protection best practices can help.

Create a Data Security Policy

A lot of security problems begin with user error and not technology failures. Because of this, it is essential to have an easy-to-follow plan for data security that everyone at the firm is aware of.

Your data security policy will take time to learn, so put in the effort to educate employees. For example, use two-factor authentication to log into accounts and only use vetted apps.

Continue Training Staff

Not everyone in your firm will know how to spot or avoid common cyber threats like phishing emails. Continuously training staff can help your entire firm prevent user errors and promote best practices for information security.

Training should be completed for every new hire and then at least once a year afterwards.

Encrypt Data

Data encryption is often talked about in the tech world because it is highly efficient. Encryption translates data, no matter where it is stored, into a secret code that requires a passcode or key to access.

Some applications will encrypt data for you, but be sure they have a certificate of authority before using them. If you need peace of mind when implementing data encryption, ask your IT team to handle it.

Secure Communications

Hackers easily steal data through communication channels, so it is vital to secure them. If you note any vulnerabilities within these channels, figure out ways to mitigate them.

An easy way to secure communications is by encrypting firm emails. Another beneficial option is finding a communication app that offers encryption already.

Decide on Access Control Options

Although every employee needs to know your firm’s data security policy, not every employee needs to have access to every piece of information.

Be very intentional about who you grant access control to. Certain employees will have the least privilege, and others will be on a need to know basis.

Review Data Security Regularly

If you don’t review your law firm’s data security, you’ll fall victim to the weaknesses that are out there. Your data security policy should include a schedule for regular audits.

From there, you’ll be able to identify current risks and address them accordingly. For example, keep former employees from having access to legal files and other important information.

You should also consistently check up on the security software you use. When these methods are not working effectively, your law firm is at risk.

Create a Data Breach Plan

If a data breach were to happen, it is essential to have a plan in place. Don’t forget to comply with your ethical and regulatory obligations when creating this plan.

Once your firm decides what to do in the event of a data breach, test the plan. You’ll want to ensure that the strategy works instead of relying on hypotheticals that could get you in trouble down the line.

Lawyers and IT Companies Working Together

Data security is an obligation law firms need to take into account. Without the proper plan in place, your reputation and client trust is at risk.

Although a data breach might only lead to embarrassment, legal issues are at the other end of the spectrum. When you hire an IT company, those risks are minimised for you and your lawyers.

Our IT solutions are customised to fit the needs of your law firm. Contact us now for more information about our services.

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About the author:

Picture of Ash Klemm

Ash Klemm

Ash has over 20 years of experience in sales and marketing. His journey from a casual salesperson at Chandlers to State Manager at a national IT distribution company, while battling health issues, including a double lung transplant in 2015, gave him the experience, know-how, tenacity, and marketing insight, to find solutions and help businesses grow. After spending several years in the ivory tower of state management, Ash missed the genuine connection of face to face meetings and helping make a difference to businesses in need. His authentic, conversational, and easy-going nature helps our customers feel at ease and shows them we are a brand to trust. Ash spends his days advocating for our customers to ensure they receive the best possible service in a timely fashion. Ash is also the in house chair builder. His curiosity and natural problem-solving ability make him the perfect first call for all our new customers to help determine what is wrong, how Surety IT can help and what the best solutions are moving forward.
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