Technology

Ransomware: When a Law Firm Can’t Access Its Documents

Imagine you are an attorney preparing to address a critical filing that is also time sensitive. You planned to have the filing complete by the end of the day. But wait. There’s a problem. You go online to access the necessary documents only to discover you cannot get to them. Worse yet, the company you trust to provide electronic document storage isn’t answering your phone calls or e-mails.

The scenario just described isn’t fictional. It actually occurred in October 2019 when a Florida-based electronic storage company was struck by ransomware. It turns out that the company specializes in legal document storage. Approximately 5% of its clients were locked out of their documents for the time it took them to address the situation.

It’s not often we hear of incidents like this involving law firms and document storage. The legal sector has been fortunate in that regard. But such attacks are increasingly more common throughout every sector of business. Computers locked down by ransomware suddenly cannot be accessed, jeopardizing a company’s ability to conduct business.

How It Affects Law Firms

A ransomware attack is never good regardless of how and where it occurs. But in a legal environment, such attacks can be absolutely crippling. In a worst-case scenario, a court might be forced to dismiss a case because supporting documents on one side or the other can no longer be accessed.

Attorneys are impacted by not being able to address court filings on time. They are unable to furnish clients with documents ranging from contracts to billing histories. And of course, there is plenty of anxiety to go around. From the client who suddenly thinks all is lost to the attorney who loses sleep wondering if documents will ever be recovered, it is an unpleasant situation from start to finish.

What Can Be Done About It?

Knowing that ransomware attacks occur is only the half of it. The rest of the equation involves coming up with strategies to avoid being victimized. So how does a law firm do it? There are multiple strategies to consider.

First up is conducting regular security audits on a firm’s network and computer systems. The results of such audits should be heeded without question. Any uncovered security flaws should be addressed immediately. If something cannot be addressed with current technology, an upgrade is in order.

Next is moving to an integrated solution. Rather than using a locally hosted case management application combined with off-site document storage, law firms can and should adopt an integrated solution like NuLaw. Integrated solutions are cloud-based solutions that keep data in secure locations and protected with the latest security protocols and techniques.

A third strategy is one that every law firm should be practicing anyway: making daily backups. In the modern era, there is absolutely no excuse for not backing up data. Backups are critical for protecting data against a variety of threats including security breaches, equipment breakdowns, natural disasters, etc.

Waiting Until It’s Too Late

The moment that Florida attorney discovered he could not access his documents due to a ransomware attack was a moment too late. That moment you find yourself locked out of your documents is also that moment you realize you should have been proactive. What is the lesson here? Do not wait until it’s too late.

There is no perfect solution to prevent every possible security breach. However, it is possible to beef up a law firm’s systems and policies to such a degree that the chances of being victimized are quite small. So, how is your law firm doing?

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