The life force of any legal establishment is the wealth of information they carry, which more often than not is incredibly sensitive. Clients pay big money to lawyers for their legal services and even disclose confidential information to assist them.
Therefore, it’s only natural for them to expect that law firms and lawyers would take the necessary measures to keep their personal information safe. The importance of maintaining security, though, shouldn’t be limited to keeping your clients happy!
After all, law practitioners also have an ethical and legal duty to protect the information that’s provided to them. And failure to do so could result in severe repercussions, including the possibility of being put out of business.
While the digital age has brought revolutionary change to law firms and made processes much more efficient and robust, it also presents a host of security risks that can leave valuable data exposed to malicious attacks.
In the coming paragraphs, we will investigate why the legal sector is an easy target for cybercriminals, what security threats they are vulnerable to, which measures should be taken to stay safe online, and how the use of a VPN can help.
Why is The Legal Industry So Vulnerable to Cyberattacks?
Now, moving to the all-important question, “Why are law firms and lawyers such an attractive target for cybercriminals?” Well, there are two main reasons for this:
- They possess an enormous amount of sensitive data. Usually, from large businesses operating in a wide range of industries. Cybercriminals want to get their hands on this information so that they can ransom it back to the company, sell it to competitors offering the highest bid, or release it for the general public to see.
- They are behind other industries when it comes to cybersecurity. According to PwC’s 2017 Annual Law Firm’s Survey, a vast majority of law firms reported that they suffered from a security incident in the past 12 months. Furthermore, 12% of firms claim to face such attacks on a daily basis, whereas 30% identify attacks on a weekly or monthly basis.
However, part of the problem could stem from the fact that many law firms and lawyers still don’t understand the severity of the threat they face.
Jack Wilk, Managing Partner at Wilk Auslander, states:
“It’s imperative that lawyers keep safe online, since we deal with highly sensitive information daily. In order to stay as safe as possible, being smart means utilizing appropriate fraud detection software, and keeping work on work phones and computers, and non-work related searches on personal devices. It’s important to be diligent and cognizant that some people have malicious intentions, and to have common sense.”
The Various Threats Law Firms and Lawyers Are Vulnerable To
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at a few ways firms in the legal industry can be hit by attackers:
- Malicious Social Links: Since a vast majority of people are now aware about the importance of avoiding viruses via email, cybercriminals have moved their nefarious activities to popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
- Spear Phishing: Another form of phishing, spear phishing targets specific individuals or organizations by appearing to be a legitimate and trusted source, so that they can gain access to sensitive information for malicious reasons.
- Fake Apps: Whenever a particular app becomes popular, it’s almost certain that fake versions of it will soon appear in the app stores. These fake apps carry malicious malware which allows them to sneak onto and take over your system.
- Ransomware: Ransomware is a kind of malware that limits or prevents a user from accessing their system, usually by encryption, unless the payment of a ransom has been made by the victim. WannaCry and Bad Rabbit are some recent examples.
How Can Lawyers Protect Their Information?
So, what can be done to steer clear from law firm security breaches? Remember, not all law firms are equal and the measures that work for one may not necessarily work for another – or offer adequate protection. Fortunately, a few measures can be employed to improve law firm data security.
1.Use Unique & Strong Passwords
A password is the first line of defense when it comes to preventing unauthorized access and good password management is crucial to make this line of defense effective. Did you know that passwords with less than eight characters are crackable within a few minutes?
Hence, make sure the passwords for all your online accounts are unique and of decent length (15 characters is the bare minimum here). Long, complex passwords aren’t invulnerable, but adding a few more characters can make your password a lot harder to crack.
2.Employ Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication, also referred to as 2FA, adds an additional layer of security in addition to your password. If you setup on two-factor authentication, you’ll be asked to confirm your identity by entering a PIN code or providing your fingerprint.
Using a second factor of authentication can go a long way in preventing cybercriminals from accessing your system or online accounts. After all, they wouldn’t have the information needed to get past this extra step!
3.Be Wary of Social Engineering Tactics
Even if your law firm is outfitted with state-of-the-art network security, it will be of no use when an employee makes the silly mistake of clicking on a suspicious attachment just because they didn’t know any better.
For this reason, it’s vital that you educate yourself and your employees about the best defensive measures against social engineering attacks like unnecessary download requests, dubious links or emails, legitimate-looking social media messages, etc.
4.Don’t Skimp on Your Due Diligence with Cloud Providers
The cloud is not only a necessary but also helpful aspect of doing business as a law firm in the 21st century. It enables you to access the information you want from anywhere, improves efficiency, reduces downtime, and basically makes your life a whole lot easier.
It has numerous benefits for your law firm, but it also means that you’re putting all your valuable information into the hands of another. Every provider out there would tell you they’re safe, but it’s your due diligence that will weed out the best from the rest.
5.Encrypt All Your Data
Encryption is one the most reliable ways to achieve security of your sensitive data, especially in this age of cyberintrusion. Therefore, encrypt the data you’re sending to the cloud, as well as the communications you have with your clients through emails.
Here, a VPN comes in handy – it’s the best encryption method! Not only does it change your virtual location, but also secures all your internet traffic with top-of-the-line encryption to hide your real identity and protect your data from any prying eyes that may be watching.
Why Do Law Firms and Lawyers Need to Use a VPN?
PureVPN asked Mike Baker, the Founder and Managing Partner of Mosaic451, a company ranked 6th on Inc. Magazine’s Security category, about what law firms and lawyers can do protect themselves online and here’s what he had to say:
“A virtual private network (VPN) is imperative to protect a legal firm’s and its client’s personal data, especially if a firm conducts any business online. VPN networks are designed to encrypt information before it goes through a network, thwarting potential attacks and making online purchases safer. Your Internet activity cannot be tracked by anyone seeking to monitor websites you visit, see what you download, or monitor whether you use services such as Skype or other applications. With a VPN your origin IP is hidden from potential hackers and identity thieves.”
Here are some other reasons why a VPN is essential for your law firm:
1.Public Wi-Fi Safety
Do you regularly use public Wi-Fi networks to, let’s say, check your emails when you’re away from the office?
Public Wi-Fi’s are unprotected which means cybercriminals can snoop on the data transmitted from your device and use that information to hack into your online accounts and engage in identity theft.
By connecting to a VPN over public Wi-Fi networks, you can encrypt all your internet traffic and keep cybercriminals from accessing your private data.
Since it isn’t exactly easy to decrypt this information without the private key, the cybercriminal wouldn’t be able to track your activities online or steal your data.
Have you ever heard about end-to-end encryption? If not, the one thing you should know is that it ensures the confidentiality of information.
However, while many encryption programs claim to offer “true” end-to-end encryption, the truth is that most of them fail to keep your data protected during transit.
With a VPN, you can securely send and receive emails from clients as everything is encrypted from end-to-end while in transit.
No wonder remote access via VPN is gaining popularity for securely accessing a network from remote locations!
During your legal career, you’re bound to come across situations where you need to make sure no one on the internet knows it’s you.
All the shady stuff aside, there are plenty of reasons why a lawyer may need to be anonymous on the internet. Take, for instance, while searching for sensitive terms on materials.
A VPN will replace your real IP with that of any other country in the world, allowing you to go about your online activities with absolute anonymity.
4.Attorney-Client Privilege Protection
If you think that your conversations are confidential and not important enough to be spied upon by the government, think again.
Simply search on Google about “law enforcement eavesdropping”, and you’ll find countless results about law enforcement agencies abusing the attorney-client privilege.
By equipping yourself with a VPN, you can ensure that communications between you and your clients are anonymous as it makes it appear like your online activities are originating from another location.
Watch this video to learn more about VPNs:
Free vs. Paid VPN: Which To Choose?
Now that you are aware of the importance of using a VPN for your law firm or practice, you may be wondering, “Why to pay for a VPN when I can get it for free?” Well, because there are quite a few things that need to be considered when you’re searching for the best VPN for your needs.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of free vs. paid VPNs:
There’s nothing better than getting something for free, but guess what? You aren’t the only one finding a VPN for cheap! Therefore, don’t be surprised when you experience disconnections and buffering issues as their servers tend to get overcrowded.
Keeping up with increasing network demand takes some serious cash and that’s an area where free VPNs lack. However, paid VPNs can usually support thousands of connections at a single time, courtesy of a global server network.
When it comes to free VPNs, you can never be sure that the data of your law practice will be 100% secure as they only provide one type of protocol: Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). While it is supported by most mobile devices and computers, the protocol is far from secure!
Paid VPNs, though, typically offer a wide variety of options. If we take PureVPN as an example, you’ll be able to choose from PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IKEv2, and OpenVPN. Plus, with 256-bit encryption securing your connection, you’ll no longer have to worry about your data being compromised.
Since free VPNs don’t charge anything for the services they provide, how exactly do they make the money to function and grow? The answer to this question is quite simple: If you aren’t paying for it, then you’re the product!
Not only do they inject targeted ads into your web browser, but they also keep logs of your browsing history and sell it to the highest bidders. Paid VPNs, on the other hand, keep no information whatsoever about their users besides what they need for billing purposes.
Think about it – why would free VPNs bear the hassle of providing you with customer support when you aren’t even paying them a single dime? Remember, they will cater to their users to a certain extent only, so you can’t expect them to give your law firm round-the-clock support.
On the contrary, paid VPNs can afford to give their users customer support – it comes as a part of the plan you pay for. PureVPN, for example, offers 24/7 customer support to assist you and resolve any issues as soon as possible.
How to Setup a VPN?
Thanks to the availability of easy-to-use VPN apps and software, you don’t really need to be a ‘techie’ to setup a VPN on the device of your choice.
All you have to do is follow the simple steps mentioned below:
Step 1: Subscribe to PureVPN
PureVPN offers 750+ servers in 141+ countries, 88,000+ anonymous IPs, and enterprise-grade security to protect your law practice. Simply head over to the order page and sign up for a subscription that suits your needs.
Step 2: Download the App/Software on Your Device
Your credentials will be sent to you via email. Once received, download the PureVPN on your chosen device. There are VPN apps and software available for all major devices and they receive regular updates from time to time.
Step 3: Select Server and Hit Connect!
Now, open PureVPN on your device and select a server from the list of available locations. Hit “Connect” and it will encrypt your entire internet connection, allowing you to browse and access sensitive files securely!
Cybercriminals are actively targeting law firms and lawyers so they can gain access to trade secrets, client data, intellectual property, payment information, emails, and just about everything that their servers contain. However, by following the measures discussed above to the letter, and employing the use of a VPN for lawyers, you can protect the sensitive data your law firm carries, and keep it well out of the reach of hackers.