Preparation Most Important for Law Firm Security

Bloomberg Law: Privacy & Data Security brings you single-source access to the expertise of Bloomberg Law’s privacy and data security editorial team, contributing practitioners,...

By Jimmy H. Koo

Aug. 25 — The most important step in protecting a law firm and its clients from cybersecurity risks is preparation, Sean B. Hoar, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Portland, Ore., said Aug. 25.

Law firms should develop information security policies and procedures; inventory all hardware and software; conduct vulnerability testing; and develop and test incident response plans, he said.

As evidenced by the recent breaches of companies, including Anthem Inc. (25 PRA, 2/6/15), Home Depot Inc. (175 PRA, 9/10/14) and JP Morgan Chase & Co. (192 PRA, 10/3/14) data breaches can affect every sector of the economy, he said. Law firms may be at a greater risk than other sectors because they are “treasure troves” of sensitive data, Hoar said at a Bloomberg BNA webinar sponsored by Citrix ShareFile.

Law Firms Are Prime Targets

“A common misconception among law firms is that they don't consider themselves a target,” he said.

According to surveys by the American Bar Association and the International Legal Technology Association, Hoar said, 34 percent of law firms place no restriction on remote access; 76 percent don't use or require two factor authentication; 64 percent don't automatically encrypt content-based e-mails; 61 percent have no intrusion detection tools; and 64 percent don't have intrusion prevention tools.

Law firms should be concerned, he said, because “the threat is real” and so are the potential consequences. In addition to possible class actions or derivative suits, there are state, federal and industry regulations that could result in enforcement actions, fines, sanctions and/or penalties. Furthermore, a data breach could potentially destroy a law firm's reputation, he said.

“Prepare and you will increase security,” Hoar said. Referencing the Federal Trade Commission's recently released data security best practices guide for businesses (126 PRA, 7/1/15), he recommended implementing best practices, including using current versions of operating systems, automating security patching, enabling intrusion detection and prevention systems, segmenting the network and eliminating unnecessary data and processes. Encrypt data as much as possible, he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jimmy H. Koo in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at