Thursday, August 15, 2013

On Protecting Law Firms from Data Theft

A reader sent a link to the latest Harvard Journal of Law & Technology: "Hackers, Spies and Stolen Secrets: Protecting Law Firms from Data Theft" --
  • Cyberattacks are increasingly targeting lawyers, and the legal profession must respond more energetically to the threat than it has to date...The increasing number of data theft and espionage incidents in cyberspace has been widely reported,5 and law firms have become particularly attractive targets. One data security company reports that 10% of the advanced cyberattacks it investigated in the past 18 months were targeted at law firms."
  • "The risks to law firms are increasing for several reasons. First, computer-savvy intruders are drawn by the quantity and quality of documents available in law offices, routinely including investment plans, negotiation positions, business strategies, descriptions of technical secrets, and due diligence material on financing, transactions, and mergers. Infiltrating attorneys’ computer systems is an optimal method of obtaining sensitive material because '[l]aw firms have a tremendous concentration of really critical, private information,' ex- plains Bradford Bleier of the FBI’s cyber division.8 Large law firms routinely hold privileged and sensitive documents worth millions of dollars to foreign intelligence services."
  • "Second, law firms often have worse data security than their clients. 'It’s possible the information comes from a very secure source, a company with very good security. Then it goes to a law firm, and who knows what kind of security they are going to have,' says Lucy Thompson, chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Science and Technology Law."
  • "Third, data thieves may choose law firms as targets in order to filter out low- value material. Large corporations routinely store so much digital data that an intruder may have trouble sorting the wheat from the chaff; however, a corporation’s outside counsel receives and stores a much smaller set of documents, carefully selected for their importance and
    relevance."
  • "This Note considers this problem and proposes some specific measures that the legal profession could deploy to address it. Part II examines the industry-specific challenges that lawyers face when at- tempting to achieve good data security. Part III discusses the existing statutory and professional rules, showing why they have so far been inadequate to address the problem. Part IV considers possible solutions such as government regulation, liability regimes, security certifications, and changes to professional standards. Part V concludes with recommendations for two changes to professional conduct standards that would help to address the threat."

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