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Is Paying the Ransom Always a Non-Starter?

What Should Law Firms Do When Faced With Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are increasingly common, with some estimates suggesting that they’ve risen in frequency by nearly 500% from 12 months ago, according to Forrester Research. If your law firm IT were to be affected by such a cyber incident, would you pay the ransom?

Entertaining such a question seems to not only go against conventional wisdom but what IT security experts have long cautioned – that you can’t negotiate with the unscrupulous. Further, capitulating to hackers’ demands in no way guarantees that they’ll wind up surrendering the information stolen or encrypted.

However, given the sensitivity of the data involved, some IT authorities say it’s not so nonsensical a notion after all, as its in bad actors’ best interests to deliver on their promises when those they prey upon pay up.

Florida City Opts To Pay $600k To Retrieve Data

From small-business owners to international conglomerates, companies of all sizes have ultimately decided to cut their losses and pay the amount that perpetrators insist on. Even municipalities are acquiescing, the latest example being Riviera Beach, Florida. Located north of West Palm Beach, the city and its 35,000 residents have been unable to use public service utilities over the last three weeks because attackers hacked into the city’s network servers, disabling phone lines, emails and payment processing, The New York Times reported. Unable to retrieve the hijacked data, local lawmakers voted unanimously to pay the $600,000 ransom, which officials are hopeful will put computer servers back online as happened for a  Georgia county that paid $400,000 when it was victimized in March, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Riviera Beach spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown told the Times that it’s coordinating with law enforcement and informed them of its decision prior to wiring the money.

“We are well on our way to restoring the city system,” Brown explained.

“170 government entities have experienced ransomware infections since 2013.”

In addition to Baltimore, which is steadfast in its decision to not paying the ransom, Riviera Beach is only the latest municipality hit by such a cyberattack. Based on data obtained by CNN, no fewer than 170 government entities – meaning cities, counties or state – have fallen prey to ransomware infections in the last six years. Forty-five of these were sheriff’s or police departments. This may be particularly worrisome for law firms, given they’re often in regular communication with law enforcement regarding pending cases, which entails the sharing of data.

“We were crippled, essentially, for a whole day,” Albany Police Department patrolman Gregory McGee told CNN. “All of our incident reports, all of our crime reports, that’s all digitized.”

Acceding To Ransomware May Be Best Of Bad Options

IT teams were able to resolve the issue in New York’s capital city within 48 hours and did so without giving in to the offenders’ demands. However, given the stakes involved, many believe that paying should not be summarily dismissed as a non-starter.

“There’s a tendency to answer the question by sloganeering: Never negotiate with terrorists,” wrote Stephen Carter, law professor at Yale University, in an opinion piece for Bloomberg. “Otherwise, so the reasoning goes, you will get more terror attacks. But while this argument makes sense for those who are likely to suffer repeated attacks, it’s not clear that those less likely to be regular targets should reason the same way.”

Josh Zelonis, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, feels similarly, noting that cities who hold the line may suffer from diminishing returns as Baltimore is learning first hand. The financial fallout from the attack is believed to be in excess of $18 million and counting. In other words, the ransom demanded may be a pittance compared to the alternative.

“Many organizations significantly underestimate the scale of disruption they need to plan for or make too many assumptions about what functionality will continue to exist after an attack,” Zelonis warned.

He added that while paying the ransom may indeed be inadvisable, it should at the same time not necessarily be completely out of the question, but explored “in parallel with other recovery efforts to ensure you’re making the best decision for your organization.”

Of course, the best solution is to avoid becoming a ransomware victim altogether. This is possible by remaining vigilant.   Perhaps above all else this also means leveraging a multilayered approach to data security, including multifactor authentication, software patches, updates and a good disaster recovery plan.  Look to a reliable cloud solution, like the Afinety Cloud Platform, which runs on the largest and safest cloud provider in the world, Amazon Web Services to reduce your risk of outside threats in today’s world.

PRESS RELEASE: Afinety Joins Forces With Netgain Technology To Expand Cloud Offerings And Expertise

Afinety positions to extend legal industry leadership and fund market penetration

Afinety, Inc. logoNetgain Technology: Secure. Specialized. IT. logo

Afinety Acquired By Netgain

Encino, Calif., August 1, 2018 – Afinety, Inc., a leading provider of cloud services and IT resources  to law firms was recently acquired by Netgain Technology, LLC.  Netgain, a leading provider of secure and specialized cloud services to highly regulated industries, continues its aggressive nationwide expansion with the acquisition of Afinety.

Founded in 1986, Afinety combined high-performance cloud solutions with superior customer service to build a strong and loyal client roster.  The Afinety Cloud Platform (“ACP”) is a rapidly growing, market-leading service that gives law firms cloud-based IT scalability, performance and security.

“Netgain is a great partner for us, we couldn’t be more excited to join the team,” said Doug Hafford, CEO of Afinety. “Netgain is dedicated to delivering high-performance, secure, cloud services to specialty vertical markets. Additionally, Netgain thrives on providing superior support to clients, so there was no question they were the right partners to help fuel our expansion in the legal services IT space.”

Afinety will leverage this transaction to extend market reach and penetration with legal practices nationwide while expanding product and service offerings for Afinety’s existing clientele.

“Afinety eliminates IT concerns for the legal practices it serves. The ACP service just works,” said Kevin Lynch, CEO at Netgain. “Afinety perfectly fit our strategy to offer purpose driven cloud services to compliance driven vertical industries in healthcare, financial services and now legal.”

Afinety will continue to operate out of the existing offices in Encino, California and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This acquisition comes shortly after the recent acquisition by Netgain of iManaged Solutions, a cloud services provider in the optometry sector. Netgain continues to seek acquisition opportunities in IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) companies specializing in serving healthcare, RIA, CPA and legal industry verticals.

Netgain’s strategy is supported by Bluff Point Associates, a private equity firm focused on growth-stage investing in the healthcare and financial services IT space. This transaction represents the third opportunity on which Netgain’s management and Bluff Point have collaborated in the past two years.

The financial terms of the acquisition were undisclosed.

Madison Park Group acted as investment banking advisor to Netgain on this transaction. Afinety was represented by Reynolds Advisory Partners, a Los Angeles-based boutique investment bank.

About Netgain Technology, LLC

Netgain Technology, LLC, a secure and specialized cloud services and technology provider, was founded in 2000 and serves highly regulated mid-market organizations, nationwide. Netgain provides highly specialized services and solutions that simplify the cloud and take the pain out of IT so highly regulated organizations can worry less about the security and reliability of their IT and return their focus to growing their practices and firms. For more information, visit https://netgaincloud.com.

About Afinety, Inc.

Since 1986, Afinety has been providing full range of IT services for small and medium size businesses. Specializing in law firms, Afinety services include cloud and on-premise networks, consultation, design, implementation, monitoring, system security, disaster recovery systems, training, macros and templates for law firms, anti-SPAM and virus screening, remote and onsite tech support and help desk services. Afinety’s business model is simple: Provide the best IT support and services with tested solutions that simply work. For more information, visit https://afinety.com.

About Bluff Point Associates

Bluff Point Associates is a private equity firm based in Westport, Conn. Bluff Point actively invests in information services companies supporting the banking, trust, securities, retirement and wealth management sectors of the financial services industry, as well as the healthcare information services sector. Bluff Point’s team collectively has decades of experience in recognizing a company’s growth potential and working with its management to reach that potential. For more information, visit http://www.bluffpt.com.

Why Cloud Should Be Part Of Your Mobile Strategy

 

Legal practice staff members rarely work in only one location. Lawyers might meet up with partners, consult clients and go to court, leaving behind the desktop at the office. Traditionally, lawyers would be required to carry stacks of files with them pertaining to each case, making it easy for these documents to be forgotten, lost or stolen somewhere along the way.

Mobile devices were introduced as a means to provide flexibility, but this hardware alone isn’t enough. Cloud platforms make up for necessary functionality within mobile initiatives. Let’s take a closer look into why the cloud should be part of your mobile strategy:

1. Greater accessibility for business resources

Mobile devices alone can’t guarantee access to necessary information, particularly if it’s only stored on a desktop. CIO noted that the cloud ensures that lawyers have a resource platform wherever it might be required. Paired with a robust mobile strategy, users can have access everywhere possible, solving challenges of scale, platform support and updating. Cloud and mobile technologies provide greater value when used together and actively rely upon each other to produce benefits.

Mobile devices and cloud enable lawyers to access resources from anywhere_AfinetyMobile devices and cloud enable lawyers to access resources from anywhere.

When integrating these tools, legal practices must gauge employee operation requirements. Mobile needs will largely guide cloud strategy to serve as an enabler to stay connected and engaged. Ensure that mobile apps will work even with poor connectivity to provide true anywhere, anytime accessibility.

2. Better security through centralized management

In bring-your-own-device environments, maintaining governance is a considerable challenge for many businesses. Without being able to manage mobile hardware, it’s uncertain that users will follow data best practices, download appropriate applications, regularly update systems and use security capabilities. Wrangling all of the potential devices and enforcing BYOD policies have posed significant problems for organizations, particularly in heavily regulated fields.

The cloud solves a large number of these issues by offering centralized management for security, data access, computation and storage. Computerworld contributor Bill Claybrook noted that with the cloud, organizations can rely on security of the mobile device to get to the app, but will need to authenticate against the back-end system in the cloud to view critical data. This will ensure that even if a phone is lost or stolen, malicious parties can’t access business resources or information.

“Look for cloud providers with uptime records of 99.999% and 24/7/365 monitoring.”

3. Improved recovery strategies

Mobile devices could be a key part of bolstering disaster recovery strategies. If the office, your desktop or critical files are inaccessible, mobile hardware can easily allow work to continue, provided the information has been backed up. The cloud acts as a centralized storage platform that regularly syncs with essential documents. This ensures that the most recent versions are available to continue operations and reduce downtime.

With a capable cloud provider, law firms can quickly recover during disaster situations. ITProPortal contributor Kevin Scott-Cowell noted that cloud vendors keep systems up and running, enabling you to go through your normal operations. Look for uptime records of 99.999 percent and 24/7/365 monitoring to quickly catch and address issues before they cause damage. If something happens on your end, the cloud vendor is available to guide you and restore critical systems as fast as possible.

Mobile initiatives are critical to bolstering law firm capabilities, but the cloud adds extra necessary functionality. The cloud will enable greater accessibility, improved security and better recovery options across mobile hardware. These features will significantly benefit lawyers as they look to operate in more places and view critical documents on their devices. For more information on how law firms can take advantage of the cloud in their mobile strategies, contact Afinety today.

How The Cloud Can Boost Your Disaster Recovery Plan [Video]

 

Increase Disaster Recovery Rate For Law Practices

More organizations are creating formal disaster recovery plans to ensure business continuity and minimize downtime during emergencies. Implementing cloud technology as part of this strategy can boost your disaster recovery efforts and yield significant benefits.

Reliability is the number one priority when choosing a disaster recovery solution. Cost and speed of recovery are also critical considerations. The cloud takes care of these needs with accessibility on any device and pay-per-usage plans.

Cloud solutions ensure that if your office or hardware is inaccessible, important files can still be accessed. Organizations can also use the cloud as a backup and archive tool. If data is lost or corrupted, it can be easily restored from saved online versions. For more information on how the cloud can boost your disaster recovery plan, stay tuned with Afinety.

Productivity Benefits Gained From The Cloud [Video]

 

Afinety Demonstrates Cloud Law Firm Productivity

Cloud environments bring considerable advantages, but the productivity benefits from using this technology might be the most significant. There are a number of productivity benefits that you can expect by embracing the cloud.

Investing in a tool like the cloud enables workers to access relevant files anytime, anywhere, increasing productivity as much as 400 percent. Nearly three-quarters of businesses noted that the cloud gives them a competitive advantage due to its flexibility to capitalize on opportunities more quickly.

Cloud users have seen real productivity improvement results. In fact, 59 percent of organizations using the cloud are more likely to see productivity benefits like better flexibility and efficiency. To learn more about how the cloud can bring productivity benefits to your law firm, contact Afinety today.