The Biggest Cyber Security Challenges Facing The Legal Sector

The legal sector needs to adopt new technology faster. As online threats become more sophisticated and common, traditionalist views are leaving law firms exposed. As an experienced supplier of IT Support for law firms, we've highlighted some of the biggest cyber security challenges facing the legal sector so your firm is aware of the threats.
23.01.23 Charles Griffiths

Executive summary:

Effective cyber security is a challenge facing every industry. Attacks are on the rise, and measures that may have been secure 10 years ago are no longer enough to protect valuable data.

Hackers are getting smarter, and their attack methods are becoming more dangerous.

Phishing scams are one example. These emails have come a long way from the mistake-ridden, incomprehensible junk that plagued inboxes. The latest efforts look professional, replicating reputable companies or impersonating people the recipient will know, like a manager or client.

Hackers use these scam emails, along with text messages and phone calls, to get unsuspecting employees to transfer money, download malware or hand over their account details.

New malware also presents a serious threat to law firms. Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) means wannabe hackers can rent the software and infrastructure needed to carry out cyber attacks, without themselves needing to be tech experts. MaaS has broadened the threat landscape so anyone can launch attacks against companies.

One worrying type of MaaS can bypass multi-factor authentication, meaning that previously secure cyber security methods are starting to be tested by modern attacks.

These are just two of the cyber threats facing law firms.

As failure to protect data can lead to heavy financial consequences, your firm needs to take every possible measure against online threats.

Whether investing in employee training, implementing new cyber security measures or updating your incident response plan, taking action today will mitigate the risk and severity of an attack.

Looking for more information? Read the full article below.

dark web scanning

Cyber attacks are becoming more damaging

A study of the top 200 UK law firms revealed that over 80% were running at least one service with a known vulnerability that hackers could exploit.

The cyber threat landscape is constantly evolving. Vulnerabilities in a network’s cyber security threaten the confidentiality, integrity and availability of law firms’ systems and data. A successful attack could result in the theft of sensitive client information and cause financial and reputational damage. In 2017, £10.7 million of client money was lost to cyber criminals.

To stay ahead of the attackers, it is essential for law firms to keep up-to-date with the latest cyber security threats and trends.

cyber crime statistics

Cyber threats facing the legal sector

Insider threats

Insider threats are employees who intentionally or unwittingly compromise cyber security by divulging sensitive information. Successful phishing scams could mean an employee enters their login details into a fake website, giving hackers the tools they need to breach a law firm’s internal network.

Alternatively, disgruntled employees could deliberately leak this information in return for payment.

Such threats are becoming more common in an increasingly digital business landscape, and businesses need robust cyber security protocols to mitigate them.

Malware-as-a-Service

Much like ‘Software-as-a-Service’ provided by firms like Microsoft, Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) is software ‘rented’ by cyber criminals to carry out attacks.

Hackers no longer need extensive technical expertise to attack businesses. They can instead rent the necessary tools online and then use these to launch phishing campaigns and ransomware attacks.

This democratisation of hacking has opened the threat landscape and has contributed to the increasing volume of cyber attacks experienced by businesses.

EvilProxy:

EvilProxy is a recent type of MaaS that can bypass 2-factor authentication, essentially hijacking account sessions by tricking browsers into thinking the hacker is an authenticated user.

EvilProxy works by using a ‘reverse proxy’. A reverse proxy is a server between the phishing site and the service the victim is trying to connect to, such as Microsoft. The reverse proxy intercepts information sent from the service.

When victims click on a phishing link, they see the expected login page. Once they have entered their details, the credentials and MFA are sent to the service. This service then gives the user a ‘session cookie’, which authenticates the victim by telling the browser they are authorised.

The reverse proxy steals this session cookie, meaning the hacker can authenticate themselves. They don’t need MFA; the session cookie is enough to grant them access to the user account.

EvilProxy is just one type of damaging MaaS that hackers rent out to other cyber criminals.

Business email compromise

Business email compromise (BEC) is a common cyber attack in the legal sector. In this attack, the hacker sends an email that appears to be from a legitimate sender but is actually from a fake address. The email usually contains a link to a phishing site, so their data is stolen when users click on the link and enter their login credentials.

This attack presents a significant risk to law firms, particularly as 79% of firms have at least one domain registered to a personal or individual email address. If that address is compromised, the knock-on effects could impact business continuity.

Another common method of BEC is ‘man in the middle’ attacks. Hackers intercept information sent between two parties, such as between a user and a financial institution, and then use this information to steal money or sensitive data.

An example in the legal sector would be where invoices between a firm and a client are intercepted, and with the account number changed, the client unwittingly sends money to criminals.

Incident response

One of the biggest cyber security threats facing legal firms is the need for an effective incident response plan. If a hacker manages to gain access to the network, it can be difficult for the firm to contain the damage and prevent further attacks.

If the firm doesn’t have the necessary expertise or resources to deal with the attack, hackers can cause extensive damage to data and systems.

Another problem with incident response is that many firms don’t test their plans regularly. If an incident does occur, the firm may respond incorrectly. An incorrect response could lead to further damage and loss of data.

Firms need to implement robust incident response plans and test them regularly to prepare them for any type of cyber attack.

Vulnerability of cloud networks

Cloud networks are becoming increasingly popular among law firms due to their many benefits, such as flexibility, scalability and cost-effectiveness. However, these networks are also vulnerable to cyber attacks, which can devastate the firm.

One of the biggest threats posed by cloud networks is the lack of security controls. Many firms haven’t implemented the necessary security measures to protect their data, making them vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hackers can exploit these vulnerabilities and gain access to the firm’s data, leading to financial loss or bankruptcy.

Another threat cloud networks pose is the lack of visibility into the network. A firm that uses the cloud as a replacement for on-site computing infrastructure is entrusting its networking to a third party. That firm can’t see what’s happening within the network nor know what devices are connected. This lack of transparency can make it difficult to identify and respond to cyber attacks quickly and effectively.

Firms need to be aware of the risks posed by cloud networks and put in place strong security controls to protect their data. They also need to have a plan to deal with cyber incidents, so they can respond quickly and effectively if an attack occurs.

effective cyber defence

The latest developments in cyber security

AI

In recent years, AI technology has significantly advanced. It is now being used to improve cyber security. Organisations are using AI to identify and respond to cyber attacks quickly and effectively. It can also detect malicious activity on the network and prevent data loss.

Companies can also use AI to improve the security of cloud networks. Using AI, firms can see what’s happening on the network and identify connected devices. IT teams can then identify and respond to cyber attacks quickly and effectively.

The use of AI is therefore helping to improve the security of networks and protect against cyber attacks. Automated tracking and rapid response also help firms to reduce the impact of a cyber incident if one does occur.

Zero Trust policies

A zero-trust policy is a security model that treats all users and devices as untrusted. This model means that the network doesn’t trust any device or user and requires authentication for every interaction.

Sophisticated attacks can bypass ‘traditional’ cyber security measures, with new methods, like EvilProxy, even able to repurpose MFA to compromise accounts.

Implementing a zero-trust policy reduces the risk posed by modern cyber attacks. Accounts that are compromised can be more easily isolated, and segmentation of data storage ensures that employees can only access files relevant to their jobs.

Additional password controls

Hardware tokens are physical devices that are used to authenticate users and devices.

Hardware tokens are becoming more popular as they are far more difficult to hack than other forms of multi-factor authentication. They aren’t connected to the internet and are unique to the user, making it easy for authorised users to authenticate themselves.

Encryption

Encryption is a process that protects data from being accessed by unauthorised users. When encrypted data is ‘scrambled’ to look random and prevents the information from being read. Decrypting the data requires a key only authorised parties can access.

The UK legal sector was worth £37 billion in 2020, with the high amount of data processed making firms a prime target for hackers. As such, data encryption will be a priority for law firms for security and regulatory compliance.

As of November 2022, 95% of web traffic on Google has been encrypted. Law firms must introduce internal policies that ensure encryption across communication devices within and outside the organisation.

Better protection for the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices that are connected to the internet. It includes everything from smartphones and laptops to smart TVs and cars.

The Internet of Things offers new opportunities for automation, reporting and connection in business. However, IoT devices are notorious for lax security controls.

Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in these devices to gain access to the network or data. For instance, printers that aren’t protected could be compromised, meaning cyber criminals can read everything that is printed, such as contracts or sensitive client data.

With more firms incorporating remote work and more devices connecting from outside of protected networks, better protection of the IoT is needed.

New encryption and authentication methods will help law firms to protect their data from being accessed by hackers and reduce the risk of data loss.

Law firms must prioritise cyber security to succeed in an online world

Law firms that take advantage of technology’s new ways of working will gain an edge over competitors. However, companies must secure devices and networks against online threats as the legal sector becomes more digital. Read our article on how digital transformation will impact the legal sector. At AAG we offer fast, accurate IT Support for law firms.

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