The legal sector is more intertwined with technology than ever before. From managing sensitive client data, to conducting virtual court proceedings, technology plays a pivotal role in the day-to-day operations of law firms.
But with this convenience comes the duty to safeguard the immense amount of confidential information that law firms handle. This is where the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Essential 8 Risk Mitigation Strategies come in: a roadmap designed specifically to bolster cyber security efforts.
This article will break down each of the Essential 8 strategies, discuss their relevance to the legal world, and provide actionable steps to help your firm fortify its cyber defences.
When it comes to your apps, some are essential tools that help you get the job done, while others can be Trojan horses, hiding malicious intent. For law firms, where the stakes are high and the data even more so, having only trusted apps run is paramount. Application whitelisting helps ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the data law firms manage daily.
- Audit current apps: Start by taking stock of all the applications currently running on your systems.
- Create a whitelist: Verify the legitimacy of each application and create a whitelist of approved apps.
- Monitor and update: Regularly review and update the whitelist, ensuring that any new apps meet the necessary security standards.
Updates: we’ve all been there, postponing them for later or dismissing them altogether. But did you know that keeping your software updated is one of the most straightforward ways to stay protected? Outdated software provides malicious actors with a gateway into your systems. What seemed like a harmless delay can turn into a significant security crisis.
- Automate updates: Rather than relying on manual updates, set your applications to update automatically or schedule regular intervals for manual checks.
- Stay informed: Subscribe to notifications or bulletins from software providers. This way, you’ll be the first to know when a critical update is available.
- Educate your team: Ensure everyone in the firm understands the importance of updates. Sometimes, the delay might not be due to negligence, but simply a lack of awareness.
Configure Microsoft Office macro settings
Microsoft Office macros are sequences of commands and instructions grouped together as a single command to accomplish a task automatically. While they can be incredibly efficient, they also pose risks when sourced from unverified locations.
Imagine receiving a seemingly innocent document from a known contact, only to discover it contains a malicious macro. Once executed, this macro could give attackers access to sensitive data or even control of your system.
- Disable macros: Ensure that the default setting for macros in Microsoft Office applications is set to “disable”.
- Allow trusted sources: If certain macros are essential for work, identify them and add to a trusted list, ensuring only those run.
User application hardening
Just as you’d secure your home by locking doors and windows, application hardening is about securing the vulnerable points of an app by disabling features or functions that aren’t necessary. Law firms handle a plethora of applications daily. From client management tools to research databases, ensuring each of these is hardened adds an extra layer of security.
- Disable unnecessary features: Not using a feature? Turn it off. This minimises potential entry points for attackers.
- Regular audits: Periodically review application settings to ensure they align with best security practices.
- Stay updated: Ensure that the latest security configurations recommended by software providers are applied.
Restrict admin privileges
Users with administrative privileges can make significant system changes, intentionally or unintentionally. This could lead to data breaches or system failures. Not everyone needs admin privileges to do their work, and reducing them will bolster security and accountability.
- Role-based access: Ensure that users have access only to what they need for their roles. A junior associate doesn’t need the same access as an IT manager.
- Review access rights: As roles change, access rights should be updated. Conduct regular audits to ensure no one has unnecessary privileges.
- Multi-level authentication: For those with administrative rights, implement additional authentication steps to access sensitive areas.
Patch operating systems
Much like patching applications, updating operating systems is equally crucial. An OS interacts with all the software on a computer, meaning a compromised OS could lead to a complete system takeover, putting client data, financial information, and more at risk.
- Automate updates: Set the OS to update automatically, ensuring it’s always equipped with the latest security patches.
- Monitor for patches: Stay informed about any urgent patches or updates released by the OS provider.
Passwords alone just don’t cut it anymore, which is where multi-factor authentication, a simple yet powerful way to add an extra layer of security. Instead of just entering login credentials, users must provide a second (or even third) form of identification. This could be a text code, a fingerprint, or a security token.
- Select the right solution: There are various MFA solutions available, each with its strengths. Choose one that aligns with your firm’s needs.
- Mandate MFA: Ensure everyone in the firm, from interns to partners, uses MFA for all accounts.
- Password policies: Create a strong password policy and ensure your people understand the significance.
Data is gold, and like any treasure, it needs to be safeguarded. Whether it’s a cyber-attack, a hardware failure, or human error, backups ensure data is not permanently lost. For a law firm, lost data can mean lost cases, breached confidentiality, or reputational damage. Regular backups are not just good practice; they’re essential.
- Automate backups: Set systems to backup data daily without manual intervention.
- Off-site and encrypted: Store backups in a location separate from the main data center and ensure they’re encrypted for added security.
- Test restoration: Periodically test the backup restoration process to ensure data can be retrieved when needed.
Tailor your law firm’s cyber security framework with expert help
When it comes to cyber security, it’s always better to be proactive. By implementing the Essential 8, law firms can confidently stride forward, knowing they’re taking the best steps to protect their clients, their reputation, and their future.
The security team at Itopia specialise in aligning the ACSC Essential 8 Risk Mitigation Strategies with the daily operations and regulatory compliance requirements of law firms. Reach out to us today.