Law firms are in a precarious position when it comes to cyber risk. These organizations are tasked with storing large amounts of sensitive information — from corporate finances to client data to intellectual property (IP) — and, as such, are finding themselves in the crosshairs of threat actors. In fact, the American Bar Association states 70% of law firms with less than 100 employees will experience a breach in the next five years.
In addition, law firms are not like hospitals, which can turn to HIPAA for compliance and security guidance. Instead, they must contend with several sweeping regulations — or face stiff financial penalties.
- Legal sector-specific compliance guidance
- Client industry-specific compliance guidance
- Location-based compliance standards
Law Firms and the Cloud
The legal industry’s cybersecurity landscape is further complicated by the fact that law firms are often tech-savvy organizations, utilizing cloud technology to organize the vast amounts of data they have.
While the industry was historically behind others in cloud adoption, a shift occurred last year, with more law firms migrating data from on-premises servers to the cloud. The 2022 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report showed 70% of respondents reported using cloud computing, up from 60% in just one year. For solo practices, cloud users moved from 52% to 84%, followed by small- and medium-sized law firms (roughly 75%, up from roughly 65%). And survey results found that consumer cloud technologies were adopted more than dedicated legal products.
While the cloud often leads to more productive, agile operations, it introduces new risk to an already targeted industry fighting to stay compliant and secure. While legal firms see the benefit of the cloud in terms of cost reductions and increased data storage capabilities, only 41% of respondents report that adoption of cloud computing resulted in changes to internal technology or security policies.
Learn how working with your cloud provider can help your firm understand how to achieve compliance within the cloud.
Seven Cloud Compliance Challenges Law Firms Face
- Complex hybrid cloud environments. Hybrid cloud models, which often accommodate multiple cloud platforms and providers, make visibility difficult, and cloud responsibilities blurred or potentially ambiguous. Security controls, hardware, and other aspects of your infrastructure are distributed. This lack of a defined perimeter to defend — and the absence of a centralized view of your data, applications, and network —complicates the security landscape and increases the risk of misconfiguration.
- Ever-changing and ever-growing regulations. Because data protection regulations are far-reaching in scope, changing laws and technologies often spur updates or the creation of new regulations. This applies to regulations that are specific to the legal sector as well as the requirements of the industries of legal clients. For example, the FFIEC, which oversees authentication and access standards for online banking, recently released new guidelines to help financial institutions better navigate today’s cyber threat landscape.
- Resilience and repeatability. Firms must routinely assess the effectiveness of their security plans and practices, creating new action plans when they uncover deficiencies. Furthermore, effectiveness must be frequently demonstrated to auditors, third-party risk assessors, and other interested parties through compliance audits and ad hoc requests. To accommodate these ongoing demands, your compliance plan must build in resiliency and repeatability.
- Industry transformation. The adoption of digital cloud technologies across the legal services sector dramatically increases the number and types of access points that must be secured and accounted for in your cloud security and compliance strategy. Inventory the many access points at play in your organization and ensure access and audit controls are in place, along with robust automated procedures to respond to detected security incidents.
- Employee turnover. While employee churn at law firms has decreased from the historic high levels reported in 2021, it remains above levels from previous years. In 2022, geographic relocation was cited as one of the primary reasons for associate departures and more than twice as many litigation associates left their firms in 2022 than did business and corporate associates. Because cloud security and compliance are an all-hands-on-deck effort, loss of experienced employees in any area of the organization presents risk.
- Skills gaps and shortages. As computing environments diversify and compliance regulations evolve, the endeavor to establish and maintain security protocols, as well as demonstrate organizational compliance, grows more time consuming, resource-intensive, and specialized. Exacerbating these challenges is a chronic global cybersecurity workforce shortage, estimated to be at 2.72 million open positions in 2021.
- Increased risk surface with SaaS usage. For software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms, the account is the front line of defense — it’s the most logical place for attackers to enter. Crucially, the other areas —application, network, and physical—fall under the SaaS provider’s responsibility, and outside your own control.
Law Firms Need Outside Support with Cloud Compliance
The fact is that law firms are concerned with taking care of their clients and running their businesses. Cloud, to them, is a convenience and a business advantage, and they don’t want to deal with it as a security risk.
That’s why firms need a partner in their security operations. In addition to their cloud provider, a solution operations provider like Arctic Wolf can make a major impact. The Arctic Wolf Security Operations Cloud collects security-relevant data from across your cloud (as well as on-premises) deployments to provide comprehensive visibility, monitoring, alerting, and reporting on vulnerabilities, incidents, and human risks. In our concierge model, we assign every customer a named Concierge Security® Team (CST). Your CST becomes an extension of your team, providing 24×7 monitoring and response, compliance violation assessment, and custom compliance reports.
Take a deep dive into the challenges law firms face, and how they tackle their cloud compliance to ensure security with “Law Firms and The Cloud.”