In the era of remote work, law firms need to stay mindful of maintaining data security. With an increasing number of legal professionals working remotely, this can be a difficult task to accomplish.
When legal professionals work from home, security practices often fall by the wayside.
The ultimate answer is to implement training for your remote law firm employees to improve data security.
Below, we cover some of the top security risks for legal professionals working from remote locations, as well as some best practices for remote firms. Finally, we discuss some specific ways a legal practice can implement the security training it needs.
Security risks for legal professionals working remotely
There are a host of security risks for law firm employees who work remotely. Awareness of these risks is the first step toward prevention.
These are some of the most common threats:
Social engineering attacks
Social engineering attacks seek to initiate data breaches by manipulating individuals into making costly errors.
The most common form of social engineering in the modern digital era is phishing.
Phishing refers to the targeting of individuals or groups with messages that seek to lure them into providing sensitive information. The messages usually come through emails, phone calls, or text messages.
Phishing messages are generally crafted so they appear to be coming from a reputable source. For example, they might impersonate someone within the firm, which could goad an unsuspecting remote worker into falling for the scam.
Sometimes, a phishing message will attempt to directly collect sensitive information, such as login credentials. Other times, they may trick the recipient into clicking a link or downloading an attachment, which will then infect the recipient’s device.
Many law firms, as with other types of businesses, allow their remote employees to use their own electronic devices for work.
These bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies allow the firm’s employees to use their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones. That means that people work on the same devices they use for recreation.
While these policies have obvious practical value, these devices often come with vulnerabilities the firm cannot control, such as outdated security software or a lack of network controls.
The firm can’t impose restrictions on the types of software installed or the other ways that those devices are used.
Other security risks
Other security risks for remote workers include weak passwords and the chance for identity theft directed at the employees themselves.
Many legal professionals do not know how to create strong passwords. They may also use the same weak password for both their personal and work logins, which creates more vulnerability if their password is exposed on any one of those accounts.
Identity theft can happen when an employee enters their personal information into a vulnerable service, gives information in a phishing scheme, or is the victim of a hacked institution.
If an employee’s identity is stolen, the identity thieves may use their personal information to gain access to secure records, bank accounts, or even work accounts. This can be especially risky if the employee doesn’t know about the identity theft or doesn’t notify you that it happened.
Best practices for data security at a remote law firm
Fortunately, there are a set of best practices for data security that remote law firms can follow.
One is to implement multiple layers of security for remote workers.
These layers can include measures such as email encryption, secure cloud storage for files, and VPNs.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) can also help limit unauthorized access to the firm’s cloud system — for example, where the system verifies your identity with a text message to your phone.
Incident response planning is another important task for remote firms.
An incident response plan (IRP) is the firm’s written guide for how it deals with a cyber attack, both in terms of stopping the attack, minimizing damage, and recovering back to normal operations. Not only will the IRP help the firm deal with the data breach, it will help protect the firm against any claims by clients whose data has been compromised.
Employee training on cybersecurity may be the most important step of all for remote law firms, as covered in the next section.
Implementing security training for remote law firm employees
Security awareness training is critical for a law firm’s remote employees.
This training should include not only the attorneys but the entire law firm staff. Included in this training should be the best security practices and ways for employees to maintain situational awareness.
What to include in your firm’s security training
Some specific elements to include in the security training are:
- Education on the red flags associated with phishing attacks or other cyber scams
- Simulated social engineering attacks so employees can grow accustomed to dealing with them
- A policy on what each employee should do in the event of a cybersecurity incident, perhaps as part of an incident response plan
Other lessons to impart in your firm’s security training will be more practical and less esoteric.
For example, strong password protection is a relatively easy skill to master.
Employees should also not share and reuse credentials, such as the law firm’s ID and password; this creates an enormous security threat that is simply not worth the apparent convenience.
Email awareness training
A significant portion of your firm’s security training should focus on email awareness.
Employees need to know the red flags for email phishing scams.
They also must watch for security alerts and software updates — but still know how to discern between authentic alerts and phishing scams.
Firm staff must report any phishing emails or other scams they receive so the firm can promptly deal with potential threats. This means that you should have a process in place for this including a dedicated email address that your team can easily remember.
Regular training sessions
Security training will be most effective when it is more than a one-time event.
Training sessions should be repeated on a regular basis, perhaps once or twice a year. Part of the reason is to ensure the training tips are well-ingrained, or employees will simply forget what they learn.
Just as importantly, security threats are constantly evolving, as are the best defenses against those threats.
Repeated, up-to-date training can ensure your team is keeping up with the current cyber threat landscape.
Remote work as a legal professional need not give rise to any security breaches. The best ways to prevent these breaches are for the firm to follow best security practices and give its team the training they need.