The reputational and financial damage caused by a law firm data breach can be huge, with devastating consequences caused to systems and data. There are guidelines in place regarding how best to deal with a law firm data breach, but as well as these, there are further things you should consider doing upon discovering the breach to limit this damage.
Cyber attacks and breaches targeted towards law firms are increasing and are becoming more volatile, so let’s take a look at 5 things you should do in the event of a law firm data breach.
Be aware of potential attacks and security risks
Law firms need to be prepared for specifically targeted law firm data breaches. Law firms are becoming primary targets for cyber criminals who are looking to infiltrate sensitive information and access funds. The legal profession is unique in that they handle a large number of sensitive and valuable documents, as well as high volumes of funds, which hackers can use in order to extort victims of law firm data breaches. This means that it is important for law firms to be aware of the potential attacks and security risks that they face.
One of the most common forms of law firm data breaches is a ransomware attack. This type of breach is used to gain access to a device or network so that the criminal can then demand a payment in ransom to return the stolen data. Phishing is also another common form of attack used in law firm data breaches where a cyber criminal will attempt to trick email recipients to provide sensitive information. To learn more about the different types of attacks that are typical of law firm data breaches, read our blog post – Cyber Attacks Against Law Firms.
What to do in the event of a law firm data breach
One of the best ways to prepare for a law firm data breach is to have an incident response plan in place so that, in the event of a breach or attack, the right defences are in place in order to mitigate any further risk. At CYFOR Secure, we can ensure that your incident response plan is customised to your law firm (such as taking into consideration whether your firm is small or large, and what unique types of data, if any, it handles, plus making a note of your network infrastructure) so that, in the event of a targeted law firm data breach, we can quickly respond in a timely manner. As well as having a customised incident response plan, there are other things that you should do in the event of a law firm data breach.
Investigate the breach
When you first identify a law firm data breach, it is important to try and investigate the breach in order to understand the full extent of what might have happened. However, it is also important to avoid doing anything which may make the situation worse, such as moving or deleting any files. If you have an idea of how the breach happened, then this can help speed up the recovery process.
Tell your insurers
When letting your insurers know about a law firm data breach, you must be aware of the possibility of breaching client confidentiality. With personal indemnity insurance, you must tell your insurer about any circumstances in the event that they lead to a claim. You will likely also have to give details of your insurers to clients under the SRA indemnity insurance rules. It is recommended that you don’t give information about your insurers beyond that which is necessary. Ideally, you should get your insurer to agree to what you may or may not tell clients or other parties.
Reporting a law firm data breach
In the event of a law firm data breach, there are expectations in which the leak and compromise of sensitive data needs to be reported. If client money or information has been lost, then you should tell the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), even if you plan on recovering it at a later date. The SRA will expect you to tell the client or clients affected, plus repay any money that has been lost and take further steps on how to reduce the risks of further attacks.
If sensitive data and information have been affected as the result of a law firm data breach, then under GDPR regulations, you need to report this to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). You may also consider reporting the breach to the SRA and Action Fraud in order to raise awareness of the risk and allow other law firms to learn from the breach.
You should also contact your bank to see if they are able to repay funds, plus your professional indemnity insurer.
In regards to telling clients, you may wish to tell them if the law firm data breach is likely to have a negative impact on their personal data. If you can prove that the data lost was protected using encryption or another similar form of security, then you may not need to do this if you don’t wish and you are confident that it can be resolved.
Consider taking your website down
If your website has been compromised, then it might be a good idea to take it down during the course of investigations and recovery. If you don’t already have a back up plan in place, then speak to your site hosting provider as they should be able to back up your website data. Taking your site down can prevent any further damage from being done and helps to give you some extra peace of mind during the process of recovery.
Review and update your cyber security
Hopefully, a law firm data breach only happens to you once, but this gives you the opportunity to take a closer look at your cyber incident response plan. Once you have notified all relevant parties and have got the breach under control, with a recovery plan underway, it’s time to review and update your cyber security measures in order to prevent this from happening again.
At CYFOR Secure, we can provide personalised cyber security plans, tailored to suit your law firm and business needs. In the event that you spot signs of a law firm data breach and require support, contact us for cyber incident response and our team can help mitigate the damaging effects of an attack.