Law Firms and Insider Threats

Law Firms and Insider Threats

Law Firms and Insider Threats Workplace Connect

Insider threats are a growing risk to law firms within the UK; according to official statistics from the Information Commissioner’s Office more than two-thirds (68%) of data breaches at law firms were caused by insiders. Therefore, it is important to understand how to mitigate this risk. It has been found that law firms are at high risk of a cyber-attack occurring to them because they hold a high volume of sensitive information for their clients. There are many motivations for insiders wanting to cause harm to a law firm such as: sabotaging, espionage, insider trading, activism and back market exchange.

An insider threat can be defined as anyone inside of an organisation who has access to sensitive information and harms the business. This can include certain stakeholders such as employees, managers, vendors and contractors. It is important to note there are mainly two kinds of threat actors:

  • One of these is malicious threat actors – they purposefully chose to cause harm and chaos to the business.
  • The other main type is accidental threat actors – this is when someone causes harm to the business however it was not their intention to. This can be through negligence, carelessness, or poor systems and procedures.

We will now give you 4 tips on how to mitigate this risk within your law firm.


  1. Stricter Access Management for Privileged Users

There need to be stricter procedures in place for people within the law firm who is in a high authority role; this includes partners, executives, directors or administrators. In most cases, they get to view everything which can be detrimental to the security measures you have in place. If the privileged user gets to access anything they want within the business this means they can tamper with system logs and reports; and be met with little to no resistance when conducting a cyber-attack whether it was intentional or not.

 To implement this, you should start with reviewing every account which is linked to your network to decide if the access they have to specific data is appropriate and relevant for their role within the workplace. To prevent data breaches, it is important that employees only have access to data which is relevant to their role and are blocked from the data they don’t need.

You can also implement security-focused protocols for anyone who wants to access data that is not relevant to their role. For example, you can make them seek approval from three different high-status employees for the data therefore multiple people are aware of the situation and will notice if something is not right. Another way you can implement this is by getting employees to go through an administrator for the data they are seeking. This maintains an audit trail of data access, and the administrator can make the relevant data authority aware of the request. The data authority will know who to talk to if something doesn’t seem right, like a request outside the scope of the requesting parties’ usual access requirements and scope of their job.


  1. Classify Your Data

It is important to look after your data because this is one of the most valuable assets within your law firm. If a data breach occurs in your workplace it is usually because the malicious insiders are seeking classified information. The two most targeted types of data within law firms are classified data and regulation required data. Therefore, it is vital that these two types of data are protected with most of your security resources.

As well as protecting it as much as possible, you should also identify where these kinds of data are stored, what channels they are moved through, and which stakeholders have access to the data. Completing this can help you understand all possible methods by which an insider can gain access to or tamper with the information. It was found by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that half of the firms they met with, were found to have allowed the use of external data storage products which is a huge risk for the mishandling of data. You should be wary of allowing employees to store confidential or sensitive data on external storage drives, these can easily be misplaced and leaves the firm open to data breaches if gets in the wrong hands and are used for malicious purposes.


  1. Back-Up Regularly

Back-ups are a great and reliable way to prevent your law firm from losing valuable information. These should be done consistently on all files your law firm works with. Furthermore, they should be completed in several different locations to minimise the risk of you losing everything if an attack was to happen. They can be stored onsite, offsite or archived, however, if stored onsite, disaster recovery plans should be in place for events that could affect your premises and any subsequent data stored – if a fire caused serious damage to the building – would you have a backup of everything stored onsite?

You should also test these back-ups regularly to make sure they have been successful. It should be confirmed that all data:

  • Is encrypted
  • Has been backed up successfully
  • That none of the data has been corrupted

Ensuring these three measures are in place safeguard against data breaches and help to prevent any issues when in recovery after a breach or disaster event.


  1. Staff training

Unfortunately, staff training regarding cyber-attacks is often overlooked within law firms. A study conducted by the SRA found that 20% of law firms never provided specific cyber security training. In addition to this, they also found that 50% of law firms have provided training but there were no records showing that to be the truth.

Staff training regarding cyber security should be done consistently because new threats and new approaches emerge every day. The expectation of how staff should conduct themselves regarding security should be clear otherwise it won’t be considered or understood.

Employees should be taught how to make good decisions regarding:

  • Whether they should be opening an attachment sent to them
  • Where they should seek help if they are unsure of what to do
  • How to spot phishing, spam and malware attacks – it was found that a quarter of breaches within law firms were due to phishing attacks which can be easily avoided with consistent training
  • How to prevent common security mistakes


Utilising these tips will build a stronger security practice within the workplace and can reduce the risk of your law firm suffering a cyber-attack.

If your business would like further support or guidance, contact us today:

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