Why Legal Firms Need a Security Audit (and 3 tips for carrying one out)

You’re going to need more than the latest antivirus software to make sure your law firms network is secure. A cybersecurity audit helps you create a complete picture of your security strategy.

Cybercrime has grown into one of the epidemics of modern times. And the legal sector is one of the primary hunting grounds for criminals. Law firms handle significant volumes of confidential and sensitive information and client monies as part of their daily work. Meaning legal firms need a security audit more than most.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), recently carried out thematic reviews covering cyber security and found that

75% of law firms visited reported having been the victims of a cyber attack

For 23 of those that were directly targeted, over £4m of client money was stolen

Half of the firms were found to have allowed unrestricted use of external data storage media

25% of firms are not encrypting their laptops.

If you don’t prioritise cybersecurity, you place yourself and your practice at risk of attack.

Now, it’s likely that you already have some strategies in place to combat hackers and other evil cyber criminals. However, you also need to feel sure that the measures you have in place are sufficient.

That’s where a cybersecurity audit becomes important.

In this article, we explain why legal firms need a security audit, we examine what a cybersecurity audit is and share some crucial tips for running one in your firm.

WHAT IS A CYBERSECURITY AUDIT?

Think of an audit as a comprehensive examination of every cyber security strategy you’ve got in place. The audit will have two goals:

  • Identify any gaps in your system so you can fill them.
  • Create an in-depth report that you can use to demonstrate your readiness to defend against cyber threats.

A typical audit contains three phases:

  1. Assessment
  2. Assignment
  3. Audit

In the assessment phase, you examine the existing system. 

This involves checking your practices computers, servers, software, and databases. You’ll also review how you assign access rights and examine any hardware or software you currently have in place to defend against attacks.

The assessment phase will likely highlight some security gaps that you need to act on.

Once the assessment phase is complete you move onto the assignment phase.

Here, you assign appropriate solutions to the issues identified. This may also involve assigning professionals to the task of implementing those solutions.

Finally, you conclude with an audit.  This takes place after you’ve implemented your proposed solution and is intended as a final check of your new system before you release it back into the business. This audit will primarily focus on ensuring that all installations, upgrades, and patches operate as expected.

THE THREE TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CYBERSECURITY AUDIT FOR YOUR LEGAL FIRM

Now that you understand the basics of a cyber security audit, you need to know how to run one effectively so that it provides the information you need. After all, a poorly conducted audit may miss crucial security gaps, leaving your systems vulnerable to attack.

These three tips will help you conduct an effective cybersecurity audit in your practice.

TIP #1 – ALWAYS CHECK FOR THE AGE OF EXISTING SECURITY SYSTEMS

There is no such thing as an ‘evergreen’ security solution. Cyber threats constantly evolve, with hackers continually coming up with new ways to breach existing security protocols. Any system you’ve already implemented has an expiry date. Eventually, it will become ineffective against the new wave of cyber threats.

So, you always need to check the age of your company’s existing cyber security solutions. Make sure to update your company’s systems whenever the manufacturer releases an update. But if the manufacturer no longer supports the software you’re using, that’s your sign to make a change.

In fact, this goes for ALL software not just your cyber security solutions. Unsupported, out of date software is a major security risk. You need to eradicate it from your business as soon as you can! Making sure you have an IT Roadmap, or strategy, which includes when both software and hardware needs replacing is a great way to keep on top of this.

TIP #2 – IDENTIFY YOUR THREATS

As you conduct your company’s cyber security audit, ask yourself where you’re likely to experience the most significant threat.

For example, the large number of lawyers working from home has become a magnet for cybercriminals, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has said, revealing there was a 300% increase in phishing scams in the first two months of lockdown alone. In the first half of 2020, firms reported that nearly £2.5m held by them had been stolen by cybercriminals, more than three times the amount reported in the same period in 2019. Legal firms need a security audit now more than ever.

Phishing attacks and ransomware are major issues for law firms, so you should be ensuring you have a good password policy, multi-factor authentication and regular staff training in place.

More threats can come internally, whether they come from malicious employees or giving access rights to employees who shouldn’t be able to see specific data.

And sometimes, employees can leak data unknowingly.

For example, allowing employees to connect their own devices to your company network creates risk because you have no control over the security of those external devices.

You need to understand the potential threats before you can focus on implementing any solutions.

TIP #3 – CONSIDER HOW YOU WILL EDUCATE EMPLOYEES

You’ve identified the threats and have created plans to respond.

However, those plans mean little if employees don’t know how to implement them. 

If you face an emergency, such as a data breach, and your employees don’t know how to respond, the cyber security audit is pretty useless.

To avoid this situation, educating your employees on what to look out for and how to respond to cyber security threats. This often involves a plan that incorporates the following details:

  • The various threat types you’ve identified and how to look out for them
  • Where an employee can go to access additional information about a threat
  • Who should an employee contact if they identify a threat?
  • How long it should take to rectify the threat
  • Any rules you have in place about using external devices or accessing data stored on secure servers.

Remember, cyber security is not the IT department’s or external IT support providers domain alone. It’s an ongoing concern that everybody within an organisation must be aware of. By educating employees about the possible threats, and how to respond to them, you create a more robust defence against future attacks.

How Can We Help

We work with a number of law firms offering Fully Managed IT Support and Cyber Security Services. Because we know the sector we are able to provide tailored support that addresses the needs of solicitors firms of all sizes.

We offer all law practices businesses a free Cyber Security Assessment. So, get in touch and we’ll help you identify whether you have the basics in place and then offer expert advice on how to strengthen your security. All with no obligation to buy anything, ever.

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