Cybersecurity for law firms

Kamile Viezelyte
Cybersecurity Content Writer
Cybersecurity for law firms

As the legal sector shifts increasingly toward digitalization, law firms need to worry about more than just the day-to-day management of cases. Confidential data is perhaps the most valuable resource that the industry deals with, and it requires appropriate measures to be handled with care. As such, interest in specialized cybersecurity for law firms has been on the rise lately – for good reason.

As cyberattacks targeting the legal sector continue to rise, it’s as important as ever to ensure that law firms are up to date with their security tools and are prepared to take appropriate measures to get ahead of potential attackers. Let’s find out what risks the legal sector faces today, what strategies may be effective for keeping them at bay, and how using a password manager can make your work easier.

Changing tides

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the course of numerous industries, including law. Many resources and practices moved from the office and into the digital space at a greater rate than before. PDFs more frequently replaced physical documents, Zoom calls substituted courtrooms, online storage housed valuable data – less in-person interaction and more sharing of information digitally became the new normal in only a handful of months.

Of course, the legal sector was already taking steps towards digitalization — even before the world shut down. For example, internal hosting solutions had already become the norm, as keeping things in-house was seen as the safest route to take. Cloud storage and file sharing became essential for enabling faster cooperation between lawyers and their clients or external vendors and often ended up being more cost-efficient. However, the pandemic was inarguably an accelerator for this wind of change. In the years that followed, cybersecurity-based digital tools continuously grew in demand.

Once the pandemic subsided, some services reverted to the old ways, but others maintained the hybrid and remote models. Cybersecurity tools like password managers sunk their roots into the new daily work routine, helping build a more serious attitude toward online safety. They’ve become more essential to everyday life in the legal sector.

Why cybersecurity for law firms matters

So, why is encrypted password management for lawyers so essential?

To start, it’s convenient. If your company uses a secure password manager, it makes the process of sharing login credentials or bank details with your colleagues easier than having to track them down in person and pass the information along yourself. It also saves you the headache of password changes – instead of resetting a password each time you lose track of who used it last, you can quickly update it in the system and share it with your coworker in the app.

Along with convenience comes cost-efficiency. A password manager like NordPass offers a comprehensive solution, managing not just passwords but also other sensitive data, such as credit card details, addresses, and passkeys. Additionally, it’s a time-saver by offering synchronization across different devices.

Last but not least, security is a big factor. We’ll analyze the threat landscape in the legal sector shortly. However, as you can imagine, protecting the company’s sensitive data and clients’ interests is critical. Often, law firms manage access to databases that contain confidential information. Handling it discreetly and securely is the priority.

Lurking threats

The work style in the legal industry has changed during the pandemic, as has the threat landscape. New vulnerabilities have emerged, and hackers have worked on refining their craft as intensely as security experts have focused on staying several steps ahead. Thus, cybersecurity is as important as ever for small law firms and enterprises alike.

When it comes to attacks against law firms, some might still imagine a movie scene – a masked individual sneaking into the company's archives and stealing documents or using a flash drive to override systems and gain access to files. However, real life works differently. Hackers don’t even need to be physically present to breach a law firm’s most vulnerable points.

Law firm data breaches are typically conducted by taking advantage of people themselves. The three types of cyber threats most frequently faced by law firms are:

  • Internal sabotage

  • Social engineering

  • Ransomware

While the goal of the three strategies is more or less the same – to gain valuable internal financial or non-material information – the way they’re implemented may differ. Let’s see how to tell them apart.

Internal sabotage

Unsurprisingly, the legal sector is a prime target for nefarious actors. After all, when your job requires you to handle criminal cases, you can easily become a target for your opposition. As dramatic as they may sound, such scenarios have occurred in the past. They can even happen from inside the business itself, caused by bad-faith employees who may be spying on behalf of the competition.

One potential type of internal sabotage may include a person joining a company without revealing their conflict of interest and working on behalf of a rival to collect sensitive data. Another type may come in the shape of an upset former employee using internal login credentials to wreak havoc on servers or a third-party vendor using their privileges to access information that they shouldn’t have access to.

Internal sabotage may also occur unintentionally due to user negligence. The pandemic and the shift towards the hybrid work model have opened up new vulnerabilities for legal services. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) reported in 2023 that workers often use their home routers to connect to their corporate networks, exposing their data and creating easier entry points for cyberattacks.

Social engineering

Social engineering encompasses several strategies of trying to extract valuable information from users by deception. Like many other sectors, law firms suffer greatly from phishing attempts. Essentially, phishing is an attack where a hacker creates a fake website that looks similar enough to a legitimate portal. The victim is deceived into believing the website is real and enters their login credentials, inadvertently providing the hackers with this information.

For example, a website may replicate a database containing old court files or a governmental portal. The hacker can then use the login credentials to access private files, client details, financial records, and other highly sensitive information.

Cyberattacks on law firms also occur in attempts to gain an advantage in the courtroom. As reported by Reuters in June 2023, French and British cyber watchdogs have warned about cases where opposing parties hire hackers to gain sensitive information concerning litigants. Such leaks can negatively impact the overall course of a case, even causing issues for both parties.


Ransomware is a more technical strategy used by malicious actors. Typically, ransomware is spread via suspicious email attachments and digital downloads. This malware is then used to infect a device, often with the goal of connecting to and overtaking all devices connected to the same network to maximize data access. The hackers may then be able to access all login details stored in the infected devices and shut down the system from the inside, maintaining sole control over the entire network.

As the name suggests, ransom is the key feature of this attack. After gaining access, hackers may demand that the company pay a ransom. Otherwise, control of the network won’t be handed back. Law firm ransomware attacks are considered among the most serious threats to the field because ransomware is difficult to remove from a system, and paying the ransom does not guarantee that the data won’t be leaked, the credentials won’t be changed, or that the network control will be wholly restored.

Learning from mistakes

What we’ve covered so far reveals one thing – the threats aren’t just hypothetical. They’re already affecting the legal sector worldwide. Let’s look at three recent law firm data breaches and their consequences. Familiarizing yourself with past cases can help you develop a better strategy for what-if scenarios.

  • The Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft hack

In April 2023, one of the oldest law firms in New York state, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, revealed the consequences of a hack five months prior, in November 2022. During this attack, the data of more than 90,000 clients was compromised. The company reported that an unauthorized third party wiped the hard drives of the computers clean and completely shut down some of the internal systems.

As you can imagine, the sheer size of the attack had grave consequences for the company. Clients were warned that the data could be used for identity theft and may cause financial or non-material loss. As a result, many of the impacted customers joined a class-action lawsuit against Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

  • The HWL Ebsworth hack

In April 2023, over three terabytes of data were stolen from the Australian law firm HWL Ebsworth. The attackers used malware and conducted several threat campaigns to obtain the data. The files were then distributed online, and the damage was valued at around 140 million AUD.

It was revealed that the hackers used compromised WordPress websites to execute their phishing strategy. Different pages were used to replicate templates and security updates. The number of affected clients, including various government agencies, was in the hundreds.

  • The MOVEit Transfer hack

This large-scale attack took place in June 2023 and affected two major law firms, Kirkland & Ellis LLP and K&L Gates LLP, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The hack targeted MOVEit Transfer, software that was used as a third-party vendor by more than 120 organizations that were impacted.

In total, the hack affected over 15 million people. In the case of the two legal companies, the data was used as ransom. The companies used MOVEit Transfer to store and share sensitive internal documents.

Planning ahead: Proactive data protection measures

While you can’t be certain whether you’ll end up as the target of a cyberattack, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and take preventative measures. Law firm cybersecurity is multi-layered. Some of it involves setting up secure networks and software, but part of it can be handled by your company and clients by employing safe digital practices.

Here are the steps you can take to reinforce your organization against potential attacks:

  • Being thorough in your hiring processes – you need to be certain that there will be no conflict of interest or threats of espionage when you welcome a new player onto your team. It might sound paranoid, but as the saying goes, better safe than sorry.

  • Establishing secure password policies – bad password habits are among the biggest causes of cyberattacks. Changing your company login details regularly – especially those shared by multiple organization members – is essential. Ensure that the login details are updated, and access is revoked after wrapping up services with vendors or former employees. Consider setting up a company-wide policy for routine updates to make the password-changing process faster without compromising security. You can learn more about the security features available in NordPass here.

  • Holding digital safety training for your team – statistics show that 51% of legal professionals haven’t completed their cybersecurity training. Everyone must be on the same page when it comes to company security policy. The training can encompass a wide variety of topics, ranging from learning about social engineering practices to discussing best practices for using a password manager

  • Avoiding suspicious websites and files – this goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Checking links before clicking on them and verifying sites before entering login credentials helps prevent phishing attacks. Don’t click or download unknown, suspicious files – that can save you from being exposed to ransomware.

  • Establishing an official “acceptable use” policy – consider it internal insurance. This policy essentially states how an employee is supposed to handle the equipment issued by the workplace. With an AUP in place, you protect yourself and your company from misuse and potential harm.

  • Using business VPN services – this is particularly important for those working remotely. For example, if an employee were to work from a place that uses public Wi-Fi, they’d be required to use a VPN to connect to the work IP, preventing anyone who may take advantage of the network from breaching it.

  • Making a contingency plan – no one wants to fall victim to a ransomware attack. Unfortunately, these cases still frequently occur. So, it’s best to have a guide for all the steps to take in case of an emergency, including who will be responsible for reporting, how the clients will be informed, and what the investigation process will be. It will make the process of recovery a lot smoother.

  • Using secure cloud storage for lawyers – the usefulness of tools that are tailored for the industry cannot be overstated. These tools help maintain compliance with international privacy regulations such as the GDPR and use encryption technology that ensures confidentiality and file safety.

With appropriate measures in place, you can significantly reduce potential risks and increase both your and your client’s security.

Keeping your law firm secure today

The importance of protecting client confidentiality and sensitive work information cannot be overstated in the justice system. When you’re looking for a solution that can help protect sensitive data, you can’t rely on a random password manager – you need a specialized tool that ensures all-rounded security.

NordPass offers a business-ready solution for secure and easy centralized password management. With NordPass, you can easily generate and store login credentials, and share them with your colleagues with just a few clicks. In addition to passwords, your NordPass Vault can also protect your passkeys, email addresses, and credit card details. Ensure your law firm is ready for the most pressing cybersecurity challenges and keep yourself and your team safe without hassle.

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