In the news, there is a constant stream of reported law firm cyber attacks on successful law firms.
In 2023 alone, there were 6 law firm cyber attacks in January and February, and this number is steadily increasing. But why are law firms more vulnerable to a cyber attack, and why are they being targeted by cybercriminals in the first place?
There are many reasons law firm cyber attacks are on the increase. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your law firm against rising levels of targeted cyber hacking.
Recent Law Firm Cyber Attacks
Between the years 2018 and 2019, the number of firms who reported experiencing a cyber attack was 45%. However, since then, the number has catapulted to 73% in 2021-2022. This number is rising exponentially.
This is potentially due to the rise of employees working from home, as your law firm’s data becomes less centralized. Your firm’s data could be spread over a multitude of different networks and devices, making it more likely to be vulnerable to a cyber attack.
Furthermore, in the past 5 years, cyber hacking has become increasingly more sophisticated with the rise of AI and other technological developments.
Why Do Cybercriminals Want To Attack Law Firms?
One of the major reasons cyber criminals want to attack law firms is because of the wealth of data that is involved. Law firms hold a lot of data about their clients, data that is particularly valuable.
This data is used by cybercriminals in a myriad of different ways:
- Data can be used to attack more people and steal more money, and it can also be sold on the dark web to other cybercriminals.
- Stealing data is one of the most lucrative ways you can make money as a cyber hacker.
- Law firms hold many types of data for their clients. Because law firms hold a lot of potentially sensitive data about their clients, such as medical histories, relationship details, financial records, social security, trade secrets and much more. This means that a cybercriminal is looking at a potential gold mine of information by targeting a law firm – and they won’t stop at anything to get it.
- Law firms also make a lot of money, which makes them an ideal mark for a cybercriminal. They have everything a cybercriminal wants – wealth and data.
Cyber Attacks on Small Law Firms
Statistically, the concentration of cyber attacks against top-25 law firms was much higher, but that does not mean that smaller law firms aren’t at risk.
In fact, many cyber criminals may be more likely to attack a smaller law firm, as they lack the resources and infrastructure to better protect their business.
For a smaller law firm, a well-executed cyber attack could significantly threaten the core of your business from the sheer cost of recovery. On average, a cyber attack costs a business £3.5 million – which could be devastating for your firm.
Furthermore, law firms face significant reputational damage following a cyber attack, as clients place a lot of trust in a firm’s confidentiality and security of information. A cyber attack could cost you more than money.
What Law Firm Cyber Attacks Are Being Used?
The attacks that are primarily used against law firms are ones that are designed to yield as much sensitive data as possible. It is important that employees at a data firm are as educated as possible when it comes to the recent developments in cyber security.
Many cybercriminals exploit law firms and their employees using sophisticated techniques – however, here are the main ways in which law firms are being attacked in 2023.
One of the most common cyber attacks ever is phishing, especially against law firms. Phishing attacks involve an attempt to obtain sensitive information by masquerading as a trustworthy source, usually via email.
Scammers usually go to extreme lengths to make their scam look legitimate – the emails usually look almost identical to emails that the company would typically send out. Phishing attempts on law firms can imitate a lot of different organisations, from banks or even the Supreme Court.
Hackers can imitate a lot of different legitimate organizations, and there will usually be a link within the email. This link will then direct the employee to a fake website or malware which will then steal your company’s data – this could cost your company millions in data recovery. Your employees need to be trained in how to spot phishing attempts in order to mitigate this risk.
Spear Phishing Attacks
Spear phishing refers to phishing attacks, which are much more sophisticated. Regular phishing attempts will usually be sent to the employee list of a whole law firm, however, spear phishing will attack individuals.
In the modern era, information about your employees is readily available on websites such as LinkedIn and other forms of social media. They can easily leverage publicly available information from the internet to make their scam seem more legitimate.
Furthermore, if the structure of your business is easily available online, it is easier for cybercriminals to find out who the new employees are. New employees are statistically more vulnerable to cyber attacks, as they are less aware of the company’s internal structure and policies. Protecting your staff against spear phishing attempts is one of the best things you can do in order to protect your firm.
Cybercriminals know your data is precious, and they know you will do anything in order to get it back. Ransomware is one way in which they can guarantee that they will get either data or money from you.
Ransomware is a form of malware which will encrypt all of your client and employee data, preventing you from accessing it. You will usually get a message instructing you to give money in order to get your data back, usually paid in crypto.
This is usually spread via phishing attempts and other scam methods. This way, scammers can usually get either the data or an extortionate amount of money from you.
Ransomware has been on the rise for the past couple of years, and it is only getting more technical and sophisticated. You need to be aware of ransomware attack attempts and how you can protect your firm against them.
How to Protect Your Law Firm from Cyber Attacks
There are many ways in which you can protect your law firm from cybercriminals. These methods are crucial when it comes to ensuring your business is protected as possible.
- Train your Staff – Firstly, you should make sure all of your staff are significantly educated when it comes to spotting common scams. Your staff are your first line of defence against cyber criminals, and investing in their education with business cyber security courses can be one of the best ways to protect your law firm.
- Invest in Cyber security Tools – Secondly, investing in your everyday cyber security, such as antivirus software, could significantly decrease your chances of falling victim to an everyday attack.
- Develop a Response Plan – Having an incident response plan in place could allow you to further protect your business in case of a data breach and mitigate the amount of damage.
Finally, on Law Firm Cyber Attacks
If your law firm falls victim to a cyber attack, making use of dark web monitoring can allow you to trace where your data is being sold, and can help you bring the criminals to justice and protect your company’s data.
Make sure that you seek advice from business cyber security providers and experts – no cyber security plan is 100% foolproof, but you are significantly less at risk if you take the steps to protect your firm. Don’t delay in protecting your firm – don’t become a statistic.
Zoe-Louise Tomlinson is a freelance writer with a particular interest in cyber security, business and law. She has a vast portfolio on a myriad of different topics.