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3 Cyberattacks and 3 Practical Measures Lawyers Can Take to Protect Themselves

Hackers are targeting lawyers with cyberattacks, and coronavirus is making things worse. With the recent Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant remote work, hackers are exploiting lawyers with even greater intensity. The ABA Journal recently reported that “scams multiply during the COVID crisis.”

The Top 3 Cyber Attacks Targeting Law Firms

You’re probably displaced from your usual working space and feeling out of whack. That sets the stage for hackers to advantage of the confusion — and your home computer setup. You need to know the traits of the most common cyberthreats so you can identify a scam.  

1. Phishing Email Scams

Hackers send phishing emails that impersonate a legit sender and fool the recipient into giving up information. Most phishing scams trick their victims into clicking on malicious URLs. These phishing links redirect the victim to fake sites — most commonly, the spoofed login pages to Office 365 and online baking — and capture their username and password. Now that the hacker has these credentials, they can legitimately access confidential data or withdraw funds. 

In 2018, nearly 80% of law firms experienced phishing attacks, according to security research firm Osterman Research. As COVID-19 increases anxiety and the amount of emails in your inbox, hackers have taken advantage. In mid-March 2020, right as COVID-19 ramped up in the United States, hackers purported to be the World Health Organization (WHO). The phishing email asked the victim to open an attachment containing official information on protecting yourself from the coronavirus. Little did they know that opening this attachment downloaded a keystroke logger that records what’s being typed. Keystroke logging is typically used to capture even more login credentials so the hacker can access as many sites and services as possible.

For further details, learn how viral coronavirus scams are attacking computers and smartphones

2. Ransomware

Ransomeware is one of four of the biggest cybersecurity risks law firms face according to Law Technology Today. This cyberattack is a type of malware that, once installed, denies access to a computer system or data. Typically, email attachments, “malvertising”, or drive-by downloads install ransomware onto devices. To regain access to the compromised device, the victim must wire funds to the hacker. Even if the ransom is paid, it’s not guaranteed that the hackers will restore system access. 

3. Data Breaches

Data breaches result in the loss of confidential data or the unauthorized access of that data. They occur after hackers execute a successful phishing or ransomware attack, which are common entry point of a data breach. The loss of this data could have devastating consequences on a law firm. If clients feel that their privacy was violated in the breach, they might sue.

3 Practical Cyberthreat Solutions Law Firms

Law firms can take several practical measures to protect their systems and data. Safeguarding identity and access, encrypting data, and investing in cybersecurity software (if possible) for anti-phishing and anti-malware will lower the risk of a successful cyberattack.

1. Encrypt Data

Lawyers rely on email and document sharing to run their firm. As these documents and communications travel across the internet, they can be intercepted. But when data is encrypted, it is substantially harder for a hacker to intercept. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts data in a cost-effective, non-intrusive, and reliable way. Creating a secure “tunnel” between your computer and the internet, VPNs protect data using 256-bit encryption. This protocol is so secure that banks and the U.S. government use it to protect classified data.

2. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

If you’re in the 50% of people who use the same passwords for personal and work accounts, then take note. Weak and reused passwords increase your chances of experiencing a cyberattack. 2FA adds protection to your username and password, making it much harder to compromise your credentials. Think of 2FA as a dynamic, time-sensitive, secondary password.

2FA uses a password alongside a second one-time passcode that is sent to the employee’s device. Unless this code is submitted on the follow-up login screen in a timely manner, it will expire. If codes are not used, then biometric authentication such as a retina or fingerprint scan provide the second factor. 

3. Investing in Intelligent IT systems

When dealing with high volumes of very confidential data, you can never be too confident of your online security. The odds are not in your favor: one in four organizations in the US will be breached. And recovering from a breach is pricy. Law firms lose, on average, $4.62 million dollars every data breach. If you worry about the expense of cybersecurity solutions, remember that other number. 

You can spend money on anti-phishing, anti-malware, and data loss prevention tools. Or you can not spend the money and risk having to pay a ransom, deal with legal fees, reputational damage, and more. Although it’s a tough pill to swallow in the current economic landscape, preventative security is cheaper than dealing with a breach.

If you cannot afford a cybersecurity system at this time, just update your software whenever you receive a notification. This is the easiest and quickest way to secure your systems. Software updates come with security fixes that will patch any vulnerabilities in your system. Hackers are known to exploit old/known vulnerabilities. Take the time to vet your network or cloud service providers to see what precautions they have to protect your firm from cybercriminals.

You Must Anticipate Cyberattacks on Your Firm 

Law firms possess sensitive data that hackers would love to leverage. Using intelligent IT systems, updating software, encrypting data, and setting up two-factor authentication are the most effective ways that lawyers can protect their data while working remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown.

© Copyright 2020 PracticePantherNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 134

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The Panther Story

PracticePanther was founded by two partners on a mission to create the easiest law practice management software. Why? Their wives made them! Every night their spouses (both attorneys) complained about how difficult their programs were to use.

Billing took a full day. They couldn’t work from their phones or tablets. So, they decided to create PracticePanther – a mobile friendly software so intuitive, easy to use, and user friendly, no training was needed.

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