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Legal Profession: The New Frontier For Cyberattacks

Law Firms Are Now Cyberattack Targets

Retail. Finance. Healthcare. Hospitality. Government. Transportation. You name the industry, it’s likely experienced the ills of data theft. Yet one sector that’s remained relatively unaffected by sensitive information hackers is that of private law.

At least, that was the case, until recently. A newly released study from the American Bar Association suggests firms of all sizes are in computer criminals’ crosshairs like never before.

“Nearly 25% of attorneys acknowledge their offices have been affected by a breach.”

Roughly 1 in 4 attorneys in ABA’s 2018 TechReport acknowledge that their offices have been affected by a breach at one point or another. That’s a considerable uptick from as recently as five years ago, when the rate was in the teens. Of those who attest to being victimized, firms with between 50-99 employees on staff were affected the most at 42%, followed by firms employing 100 or more at approximately 31%.

Rich Santalesa, a cybersecurity expert and counsel for the New York City-based law firm Borstein Legal Group, told the ABA Journal that no industry is entirely immune, but one thing that lawyers and attorneys have going for them is hindsight. Because the frequency of attacks on firms have risen only recently and remain fairly low relative to sectors like retail and healthcare, they can glean insight from others’ miscalculations.

“Law firms as a whole can learn a lot about cybersecurity by looking at other industries,” Santalesa explained. “Unfortunately, other industries have had to learn their lessons the hard way – by having breaches that have received media attention.”

At the same time, though, law firms haven’t entirely escaped the fourth estate’s observations. Indeed, as chronicled by the National Law Review, a Washington-based lawyer noted in February 2018 that attempted cyberattacks were a daily frustration at his firm, up 500% during the previous 24 months. In June 2017, multinational law firm DLA Piper was one of several other organizations whose networks were hijacked by ransomware, forcing the shutdown of the company’s IT systems for days in several of the 40 countries where DLA Piper has offices). And in April of last year, a specialist law firm’s computer networks were breached, which wound up exposing the personal commercial insurance policy data of over 1,500 companies in the U.S.

“North of 446 million records were exposed in 2018 and 1.68 billion email-related credentials.”

Ways Law Practice Data Can Be Breached

Part of the problem – both for law firms as well as virtually all other businesses that aggregate data – is the variety of means by which identifying material can be purloined. As previously referenced in this space, ransomware is increasingly common and phishing – which utilizes bait-and-switch emails to bamboozle targets – has never gone away since this means of communication debuted. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, north of 446 million records were exposed in 2018, along with 1.68 billion email-related credentials.

“When it comes to cyber hygiene, email continues to be the Achilles Heel for the average consumer,” warned Adam Levin, founder and chair of CyberScout, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based data security services firm.

Left alone or quickly deleted, phishing emails are benign. But because they look so authentic and are designed to mimic the typeface, tone and design of legitimate companies, approximately 33% of them are eventually opened, according to a 2017 data breach report from Verizon.

Adopt A Security Culture

How can law firms immunize themselves from data disaster? It’s virtually impossible to avoid cyberattacks completely, but it starts by doing what so many other companies have failed to do, which is adopting a culture of security, Verizon Communications CSO Michael Mason. Speaking to ABA Journal, Mason said firms should approach protecting their data like they would vetting a babysitter.

“When you hire a babysitter for your child, what sort of background check do you use? Hopefully, something so precious is not put into the hands of strangers without a background check,” warned Mason. “Your firm’s data is also precious.”

He further advised that law firms often assume a “one-and-done” approach toward data security, obtaining a professional risk assessment a single time and assuming that it alone should suffice. These must be conducted consistently over time to remain above the fray, ideally once a year.

Take your network security a step further by moving to the cloud for enhanced data protection and true mobility.  The Afinety Cloud Platform (ACP) is designed specifically for law firms by law firm experts and runs on the largest, most mature cloud provider in the world, Amazon Web Services.  AWS data centers and network architecture are built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organizations and designed to keep data safe.  This includes built-in, state-of-the-art network firewalls, automated encryption for data in transit and at rest, plus continuous infrastructure testing with summarized results.   This allows you to maintain the highest standard of security without the cost of having to manage your own network or facility. Other options, such as Multifactor Authentication, will enhance your network security even further to guard against cyberthreats or lost data.

Click here to learn more about moving your network, including all data and applications, to the cloud.

Case Study – AlvaradoSmith Reaches the Cloud With Afinety

AlvaradoSmith Saw 25% Cost Reduction With Afinety Cloud Platform

The legal world has changed a lot over the years, notably in how legal professionals do their jobs and interact with clients. Cloud platforms have impacted virtually every industry and promise to bring a multitude of benefits to those that adopt the technology. The question for law firms is, how can they take advantage of the cloud in a secure, productive way? Law firm AlvaradoSmith experienced the viability and the power of the cloud first-hand.

IT Network Changed To Afinety Cloud Platform To Achieve Goals

With 3 offices and 57 users, AlvaradoSmith represents defendants and plaintiffs with respective civil litigation, corporate and intellectual property cases. The firm handles employment and mortgage matters as well, supporting businesses of all sizes as well as individuals. With so many different kinds of clients and cases that could come through their doors, it was important to keep files confidential while also ensuring that AlvaradoSmith staff could easily access necessary information.

File cabinets and large folders are no longer viable for modern law firms. Papers can easily be misplaced, stolen or destroyed. The cloud has increasingly become the answer to these issues, providing an online platform for accessibility, mobility and flexibility. Office Coordinator, Gianna Stover, noted that data security is a major concern in the law industry, particularly as ransomware becomes a more prevalent threat. Clients want to ensure that their documents and information are protected, making it necessary to adopt a platform that can meet these needs. That’s where Afinety has made the greatest impact.

Migrating To Afinety Cloud Platform (ACP)

When it came to upgrading the existing on-premises network, AlvaradoSmith wanted to increase mobility for attorneys and ensure security across the board. Many AlvaradoSmith attorneys travel, and the fact that they could get on a laptop outside of the office without an on- premises network was a major advantage. Stover and the firm’s partners met with the Afinety team and discussed what life would be like once the Afinety Cloud Platform Network, powered by AWS would be implemented. They believed it sounded too simple and too good to be true, but once the solution was rolled out, their perception changed.

“The nicest part, which was one of our key selling points, was that we didn’t have to reinvent how we were practicing and what we were doing,” Stover said. “Our programs translated over into the Afinety Cloud Platform seamlessly. We were able to function as we did in the on-premises network and we didn’t have to change every piece that we used.  We just simply transitioned over.”

With Afinety, AlvaradoSmith was able to maintain and improve productivity. Afinety experts walked the organization through the migration step by step, and with diligent, methodical planning, the project progressed to completion without a scramble to get everything done. With their previous network, Stover described how each person was connected to the onsite servers. If one computer was affected by an outage, all users would be affected, creating an issue in rebuilding the workstation and getting everyone back online. The Afinety Cloud Platform runs on Amazon Web Services and provides a separate cloud workspace for every user, thus eliminating the possibility of one workstation affecting another.  If issues do arise, Afinety’s experts provide faster troubleshooting support to eliminate lag time and enable easier login processes.

Measurable Results Gained From ACP

Seeing the benefits of the Afinety Cloud Platform first-hand demonstrates the technology’s true power and serves as an example for how other law firms can reap these same advantages. Stover noted that the solution is more cost-effective than their previous setup, saving the firm over 25 percent compared to an onsite network! In addition, productivity has noticeably improved. Legal professionals at AlvaradoSmith now have faster, more secure remote flexibility that wasn’t available before. They can work remotely when they need to, not even thinking about the network. That’s the true experience of a solid cloud network.

The Afinety Cloud Platform runs on Amazon Web Services, making it a turnkey, secure solution for law firm needs. Storing data on this platform helps put minds at ease since AWS uses batch encryptions and other security parameters to protect sensitive data effectively. This ensures that client confidentiality can be upheld and that industry regulations are in compliance. Afinety has strong track record serving law firms since 1986, with more and more clients moving to the cloud each day.