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Instant Insights / Is Your Law Firm’s Data Secure Enough? Probably Not.

Cyberattacks are a fast-moving target, and it’s imperative that law firms, with their confidential client information, get ahead of them. Law.com’s reporting, however, shows that many law firms are poised to get caught flatfooted should hackers infiltrate their data. In this Instant Insights, we look at where the security holes are and what law firms should do to get up to speed.

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Law firms are obligated to protect their client’s data, as dictated by federal and state laws as well as local jurisdictional ethics rules. You’ll read and understand the relevant rules—you’re a lawyer, that’s basically what you do. Technical compliance, however, is where the rubber meets the road. Leaving aside the matter of data breach reporting, to focus on the preliminary issue of data protection, questions of technical compliance, at a number of levels, come to the fore.

Data hackers are relentlessly poking at systems, in order to find weaknesses. It’s telling that a common technique is known as a brute force attack. Throwing everything they have in a concentrated blast at one part of the wall before moving on to the next is basic siege mechanics for hackers. So, in order to effectively track your data, it’s important to protect it at all levels— and, there are a lot of layers here to look after.

Take the humble Microsoft Word document, and consider the myriad ways it might be subject to exposure. At the document level, you’ve got the potential for exposed metadata (essentially buried information about edits), as well as questions about restrictions on document access: Is it encrypted? Do viewers have “read-only” access, or which ones have read-only access? Can the document be forwarded, or printed? Will access to the document expire after a set time period? You can trigger basic protections like those alluded to above within Microsoft Word, or even via conversion to a PDF management program, like Adobe Acrobat; but, unless you’re asking relevant questions related to data security, and acting on those, you’re potentially exposing sensitive data.

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