When you seek help from an attorney, you take comfort in the fact that what you tell your attorney remains confidential. If you’re a business owner, for example, you may share information about your company’s valuable intellectual property or trade secrets. If you are creating an estate plan, you may feel keeping the details of your will secret is very important. In either situation, you have confidence that your information won’t be shared with anyone else.
Yet, in the 21st century, legal offices operate much like any other type of business, keeping their records on computers or in the cloud. Unfortunately, this means a law firm’s confidential information may be at risk for a cyberattack from hackers. About 42% of large legal firms with more than 100 employees already have become victims of a data breach. Often, hackers target legal firms to gain sensitive data and then demand ransom money to not release that information publicly or to make profitable insider trading decisions based on the information they collect.
Legal information and cyber security
In 2018, the American Bar Association directed its members to increase their cybersecurity efforts. This included recommending the following:
- Firms conduct an internal and external audit to identify possible data security threats and entry points.
- Firms train employees how to recognize suspicious activity, including phishing emails and suspicious email links and how to increase their password security.
- Firms only give employees access to information that’s absolutely necessary to do their jobs.
- Firms implement two-factor authentication for employee access.
- Firms have anti-virus software and update software frequently.
- Firms encrypt their data.
- Firms hire an IT department or external IT consulting firm to regularly simulate cyber attacks to expose potential threats.
- Firms keep their computer servers in a locked, secure location.
- Firms understand the privacy policies and data security of any vendors they work with.
- Firms ensure they wipe computers clean before disposing of them.
When legal data breaches occur
When a firm experiences a legal data breach, the firm needs take reasonable steps to:
- Stop the breach
- Avoid further exposure of its data
Lawyers need to inform their clients of the data breach in a timely manner. Also, clients should be aware that they can sue their attorneys for legal malpractice if their attorney’s firm had substandard cybersecurity and their information was leaked.
The litigation attorneys at Houston Harbaugh, P.C., are accomplished business trial lawyers, providing comprehensive support in litigation across a broad spectrum of matters throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and other jurisdictions upon a special admission basis. Our clients are regional and national small, medium and large companies and individuals who seek well planned and aggressive, but cost effective litigation. We counsel, we budget, we have a deep bench, we act quickly when needed and we have experienced trial lawyers who know the courts and bench. We serve regularly as local counsel for some of the largest law firms in the country when they have matters in this region.
Henry M. Sneath
Co-Chair of Houston Harbaugh’s Litigation Practice, and Chair of its Intellectual Property Practice, Henry Sneath is a trial attorney, mediator, arbitrator and Federal Court Approved Mediation Neutral and Special Master with extensive federal and state court trial experience in cases involving commercial disputes, breach of contract litigation, intellectual property matters, patent, trademark and copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, DTSA claims, cyber security and data breach prevention, mitigation and litigation, probate trusts and estates litigation, construction claims, eminent domain, professional negligence lawsuits, pharmaceutical, products liability and catastrophic injury litigation, insurance coverage, and insurance bad faith claims.
Samuel H. Simon
As co-chair of Houston Harbaugh’s Litigation Group, Sam focuses his practice on commercial/business litigation. Sam regularly represents clients in the construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and wholesale/retail/ distribution industries, as well as individuals in matters such as:
- Construction litigation
- Environmental litigation
- Breach of contract disputes
- Oil and gas litigation
- Restrictive covenants (non-compete agreements)
- Civil rights
- Collections/creditors’ rights
- Lease disputes