Cybercriminals are becoming bolder and smarter, and data breaches are increasing by the second. Law firms especially are far from immune; reported data shows that breaches involving Canadian businesses have doubled in the past year

A law firm security breach has an impact on all facets of business, including reputation, client and employee trust, and overall business performance and competitiveness. Yet, many law firms lag behind when it comes to data security, even though 43% of Millennials and 33% of those in other age groups say they would lose trust in a business that has a data breach.

Your business collects a lot of confidential data that’s shared throughout the office, and human error rather than cybersecurity is the leading cause of data breaches in law firms. This points out the need for a robust information security policy, frequent associate and partner training, as well as a strong cybersecurity defense. 

Find and fix vulnerabilities before you become a victim

There are a number of ways criminals can launch an attack, including phishing schemes via email and social media networks;  click on that link and it’s all over. Then there’s vishing, which involves both the phone and your computer. Malware is installed without your knowledge and even brute force attacks when hackers use sophisticated software to guess passwords. 

To manage cybersecurity risk in the best way, experts recommend a five-step process: identify, protect, detect threats, respond to threats and use a recovery plan. 

  1. Identify
  • Ask yourself basic questions, such as ‘what information do we collect?’, ‘how do we store it?’, and ‘who has access to it?’. Then take a look at how you currently protect your data, how you secure your computers, network, email, and other tools. 
  • Assess your vulnerabilities by scanning your network using a number of available tools, and make sure all of your software is up-to-date.
  • Initiate a business vulnerability impact analysis to determine how a cyberattack would affect your business. If you don’t have a resilience plan, consult an expert who can guide you through the process. 
  1. Protect

Now that you know your vulnerabilities, it’s time to add protection by using tight internet security, strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, limiting access to files, backing up data to a physical source rather than just the cloud and training your employees using best practices for cybersecurity. It all starts with developing an information security policy

  1. Detect threats

Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes, and this certainly applies to cybersecurity. Use strong anti-virus software and keep it updated, and be sure your cybersecurity platform keeps track of any suspicious activity. 

  1. Respond to threats

Immediately report any suspected security breach concerns to your managed IT solution provider. Report any attacks to the police, per Canadian law

  1. Use a Recovery Plan

The point of a recovery plan is to keep you in business after a cyber attack. If you don’t have a recovery plan, it’s important to create one with the help of an experienced IT consultant

Protect and prepare 

Back in April 2020, a data breach involving two Manitoba law firms experienced a ransomware infection that locked them out of their client lists, emails, accounting and financial information and other digital files, including cloud backups. They had been directed to pay a huge ransom to get their data back, that is if the criminals decided to unlock the information after the ransom was paid. 

In this case, the firms suspected that an employee clicked on a – what seemed to be legitimate – email attachment. As a result, hackers were able to steal their data easily. Pretty scary, right? 

So how can you mitigate risks?

The first step is to understand how common data breaches are. It’s worth mentioning again that between 2018 and 2019, successful attacks on Canadian businesses nearly doubled, so it is imperative that you protect yourself against a law firm security breach. Remember – it’s a matter not if, but when. Below are some high-level steps to help in mitigating cyber attacks:

  • Seek expert assistance: By working with a qualified managed IT services company, they will help identify and mitigate risks by implementing security best-practices, processes and tools.
  • Properly back up your data: Although it is crucial to backup your data in the cloud, it is also important to do the same using an on-site or remote server that is not connected to your network. 
  • Protect your network: Use an Endpoint Detect and Response (EDR) solution as well as DNS security systems and firewalls. 
  • Develop a business continuity plan: Developing a business continuity plan will outline the steps to take to prevent and recover from the business interruption caused by a data breach. 
  • Refine your Incident Response Plan (IRP): Work with a qualified managed IT services provider to perform table-top exercises to simulate responding to a breach. Use these exercises to further develop and refine your IRP. An expert can help you analyze, plan, launch, measure and optimize your response if the worst-case scenario happens.

Staff training is key to prevent law firm security breaches

One of the most important parts of the entire cybersecurity process is education. Updating software and cybersecurity happen regularly, and employee training should be done often. New threats are created daily, and keeping up-to-date on these risks has never been more important. 

  • Create clear cybersecurity guidelines for partners and associates and make them available for reference if needed. Cybersecurity training should be part of employee onboarding, with expectations for behavior and reporting clearly stated.
  • Share news about cybersecurity regularly, including news about the frequency and seriousness of a law firm security breach, which will keep security top-of-mind.
  • Train staff on password security, which means using passwords that are long and use multiple character sets, a lack of complete words, are changed regularly and are not shared across accounts or applications. 
  • Partners and associates should also be trained to recognize phishing and other types of cyberattacks, including on social media. 
  • Provide a simulated, realistic environment and run drills so everyone can test their cybersecurity skills and ask questions.

Law firms are primary targets for hackers; that’s why it is mandatory to take the following steps to protect your firm and your data.

Work with an expert 

Savvy law firms are beefing up their security because when the right measures are put in place, breaches are much less likely to happen. This is so that your law firm, data, clients and reputation are all protected.

Best-in-class cybersecurity means utilizing a managed IT services provider like Vertex to protect your data, monitor, and provide ongoing risk assessments. 

Since 2008, Vertex has been the trusted IT partner for Toronto law firms, providing industry-best specialized information technology support for lawyers. Vertex protects law firms with secure, reliable cloud solutions so you can focus on growing your law practice while our team of dedicated IT professionals in Toronto protects the items outlined in your information security policy.

Ask us about our cloud desktop for law firms (legal software in the Cloud), managed IT solutions for law firms (a suite of services, from strategic planning to unlimited support directly from our Toronto office), and our custom solutions that support your firm’s practice management software, workflow, and culture.


Want to eliminate your worry around data breaches? Let us assist with your security requirements so you can focus on what matters—growing your firm. Contact us to learn more.