The rate at which sensitive data gets compromised is growing exponentially. In a recent series of tech articles, the Wall Street Journal examined how people in the public and private spheres are vulnerable to and seriously impacted by various cyber-attacks. Governments experience losses of upwards of fifty-thousand dollars from ransomware attacks, and that is just in ransom alone. Corporations are wrestling with protecting computer and network supply chains from information-stealing software. And individuals must now contend with new methods of phone hacking, such as when hackers swap SIM cards. The answer? An alternative secure communications channel that runs independently from your public, private or individual networks.
Face ID is a facial scanner that will replace Apple’s Touch ID, allowing people to unlock their iPhone with their face. Sounds simple and convenient but it also has many privacy experts concerned. In fact, Apple’s embrace of facial recognition opens a whole can of worms over security, the idea of people’s faces as their password and where this technology may take us.
Author–Kristi Perdue Hinkle
The revelation last week that 11.1 million confidential client documents were compromised at a Panamanian law firm is a mammoth triggering event for the legal industry. Legal is next up to feel the hot glare of the cybersecurity spotlight, following on the heels of healthcare, retail, banking, entertainment and government headline-making cyber-attacks. At 2.6 terabytes of data on business transactions of global public figures, the Panama Papers leak is the largest data breach ever.
A Call to Action.
The notion that law firms are soft targets for hackers is not new. In 2012, the FBI warned major US law firms: hackers see attorneys as a back door to their corporate clients’ valuable data. According to the head of the FBI’s New York cyber division, “[a]s financial institutions in New York City and the world become stronger, a hacker can hit a law firm and it’s a much, much easier quarry.”
Despite this warning, many law firms have been complacent in taking action to develop a cyber security plan for their firm. Unlike other industries, most law firm breaches have been kept private in the past, however it does not mean they have not occurred. In fact, some estimate that 80% of the AmLaw 100 firms have been breached. Recent headlines revealed that hackers gained access to networks at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, two prominent New York firms. Cravath acknowledged a “limited breach of its IT systems” in 2015. Law firms holding client healthcare information, banking information and personal information such as social security and license numbers and credit card numbers are prime targets for hackers. In the last few years, Chinese hackers have infiltrated major law firms to gain advantages in M&A and trade export matters, for example. Law firms, similar to the healthcare industry, have experienced ransomware attacks, where bad actors break into networks and encrypt files, demanding money for the key to decrypt the files. Ransomware attacks have become so common that we recently blogged on the outbreak in 3 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Cyber Hostage.
The Panama Papers however, just shattered the delusion that the law firm and its clients could remain in the background of the cyber breach media frenzy. With a breach at this scale, and the associated scandal, you can bet that it is creating a new level of awareness and lighting a fire under managing partners across the globe.
In order to remain competitive, law firms will be required to beef up their security and governance programs and to do it now. “I want an assessment of your cyber-security program on my desk by Friday,” is a phrase likely uttered by many general counsel to their law firms this past week. How law firms react to this call for action will make or break many firms as they move forward under this new post-Panama Papers world.
With the “breach of all breaches” highlighting law firm security, law firms must act now to secure all client content and forms of communications, including mobile communications. Those that don’t jeopardize the sensitive data that their clients entrust to them. At a time when cyber-criminals are targeting law firms, a lackluster response can expose clients to identity theft, loss of intellectual property, personal embarrassment, harm to corporate brand and, as we are seeing in the Panama Papers, government investigation and litigation risks. Clients will demand better.
Law firm InfoSec and IT teams must rapidly establish a strategy and security protocols to satisfy increased client concerns and scrutiny of document and client communications. Your cyber security strategy should include security protocols that reinforce client confidentiality, governance policies, back-up and recovery as well as breach notification.
Firms must secure documents, emails, desktops, mobile devices (such as smartphones, laptops and tablets); and of course the network, systems and applications. Encryption is now a must for data at rest and in transit, as are annual third party security assessments and information governance policies. Vendor security protocols should be double checked, especially if they touch personally identifiable information (PII) or personal health information (PHI) – both considered extremely valuable on the black markets where hackers reap profits.
Firms must implement breach incidence response plans, intrusion monitoring and detection and technology to track unusual downloads. Importantly, firms must constantly update and educate lawyers and staff on hackers’ ploys such as phishing, back door attacks, bots, denial-of-service and other threats, including a rise in malicious browser extensions that collect data every time a user opens a compromised webpage, according to the Cisco 2016 Security Report.
“Our external-facing Internet sites are probably getting hit 400 to 500 times a week” by third-party bots or denial-of-service attacks. That kind of activity is the new normal and it’s hitting everybody.” CIO, AmLaw100 firm, 2014
Not all law firms are new to the expectation of increased security. Banks have audited Big Law firms on security protocols for a number of years now, often sending thick questionnaires and onsite auditors to inspect the firms’ data centers and protocols. Afterwards, the law firms are often required to implement new security measures and investments. Many firms now include security requirements in “outside counsel guidelines” that their firms must sign and execute. An ABA article offers key steps to survive a client cyber-audit and is a good place to start when planning for future requirements.
Heed the Spotlight.
The Panama Papers breach has put an intense spotlight on law firm data security that will not fade anytime soon. Like the Snowden revelations, the fallout from this ethical hack will go on for months to come if not years. As public figure resignations, tax evasion investigations and litigations mushroom, we will continue to uncover the depth of this breach and its cause. Every time a corporate counsel hears another news bite, they will ask their law firm for a security update and stricter guidelines for audits will be created.
Firms need to get ahead of the curve and invest in policies and technologies to increase its security posture. The risk to your clients’ and your firm’s reputation is simply too huge to ignore.
To find out how Vaporstream can help law firms better address their security posture, contact us.
Today’s workforce has gone beyond mobile. It is fluid. The physical mobility of devices has improved so drastically that the lightest devices from 20 years ago would be the heaviest devices today. People aren’t just working in different places because they have to, they are working everywhere because mobility enables them to. The freedom to get things done instantly, without having to rearrange your life, has taken hold of today’s workforce. With it come efficiencies and benefits to the organization, employee and consumer, but also risk that must be considered.
Moving with the fluid workforce are their devices; laptops, tablets, phones and everything in-between are constantly being pulled out at soccer games, doctor’s offices, coffee shops and airports. Everywhere you look, someone is connecting. The problem is that interruptions in the real world are often sudden, abrupt, and urgent. Devices may be quickly put down to address a disruption. It is in that moment that the security of the device and everything on it matters the most.
The devices that enable our freedom contain valuable information. When they are lost, stolen, or simply misplaced, that information becomes vulnerable. What’s more, despite the best efforts of IT professionals to educate people about the importance of securing their device, it doesn’t always happen. With almost every security measure that IT forces onto a device usability is degraded a bit. Degrade usability too much, and users simply move to another device. Even enforcing the use of a passcode on a phone causes consternation:
“Do I use a 4-digit pin or a complex password? I need to take pictures of my kids quickly before the moment passes. Maybe I should disable the code on family days so I don’t miss anything? Not having a code will also make it easier for my kid to play games on it when we’re in the car.”
In fact, studies show that despite the need for security, alarmingly, only 46% of users set a screen lock using a four-digit PIN, password or fingerprint. This means that over 50% of mobile device owners still do not take the basic step of password-protecting their devices. And password protection is just the first step; device encryption is equally important. Without it, a moderately sophisticated attacker can simply access device storage directly, sidestepping password protection altogether.
One obvious reason to care about mobile device security is the sad fact that some of your organization’s mobile devices will be lost. Make no mistake about it: No matter how diligent your staff may be, devices are going to be lost or stolen – eventually. In New York City alone, 73,000 mobile devices were left in taxi cabs in 2014. A lost device should always be regarded as a security breach. Whether the finder attempts to extract information with intent to steal intellectual property, or with the benign intent of identifying the rightful owner, unauthorized access will occur. Unlocked phones and unsecure apps can leave your organization open to a data breach. And this risk certainly is not limited to smartphones – laptops and tablets, while larger, are misplaced every day as well. Unfortunately, there are numerous examples where organizations have been fined for failing to encrypt lost laptops containing PII or PHI. Just this month, Premier Healthcare reported that a non-encrypted laptop was stolen from its billing department, exposing over 200,000 patient’s PII; almost 2000 of those records including social security numbers and/or other financial information.
Simply stated – lost devices are a security breach waiting to happen. With higher local storage capacity and access to cloud storage, lost phones and tablets are next to hit the news for breach of information. No amount of diligence can completely prevent the loss of devices. The best you can do is focus on mitigating the potential fallout and make sure that a lost device does not lead to a data breach.
Beyond securing devices, however, the applications that employees use to share information and communicate vital business information also need to be secure. While many organizations may think that deploying secure apps is excessive given their phone security requirements, those requirements are only as good as the hardware provider’s capabilities and are susceptible to human error.
Apps that encrypt their information prevent sharing, saving or forwarding of information and restrict the extraction of information without proper authorization. This can help mitigate the risk of information leaks or larger breaches. It is a mental shift from only protecting the device to protecting the information that flows between devices and better controlling what can be done with that information. Apps that securely leverage the convenience of mobile devices for rapid information exchange, collaboration and decision making can have a dramatic positive impact on employee workflow efficiency and experience.
Employees just want to use their devices in a way that makes their lives easier and helps them get their jobs done. The introduction of ephemerality has also changed the way we look at collaboration via our mobile devices. Corporate data can now be stored in a secure, fire-walled repository, while removed from devices alleviating much of the risk created by lost or stolen devices.
This is not to say that device security should be ignored. Far from it. Even the most conscientious person might leave valuable information in unsecure locations on their devices, where device security is the last line of defense. On top of reasonable device security, the applications themselves can further protect information on devices and in transit, achieving a deeper level of security and confidence. Secure applications help ensure that the privacy of information belonging to your organization, employees and customers is protected.
In our ever-evolving, technology-rich and breach-heavy world, the need to increase the security on BYOD devices has grown significantly while empowering employee efficiency is just as important. It is incumbent upon every organization to understand the impact of their mobile workforce upon security and compliance mandates in order to minimize the likelihood and impact of data loss or breach. The inclusion of secure apps such as secure mobile messaging help you protect vital information from breach while leveraging the efficiencies of the mobile device. Providing, or enforcing, an option for secure information exchange and collaboration that does not jeopardize privacy or compliance should be included in every organization’s mobile enablement strategy.
To find out more about the benefits that can be realized through secure mobile messaging, contact us.
Contributor: Avi Elkoni
Author–Galina Datskovsky Ph.D., CRM, FAI
As I look back on the year, I can’t help but marvel on the incredible ups and downs that it has brought with it. Although there are many to speak of, both personally and professionally for most of us, cyber security has been front and center throughout 2015 and has become an increasingly prominent topic among companies, families and individuals.
Although an unfortunate reality in the world we now live in, I see the increased interest in cyber security and information security as something extremely positive for our country and all businesses alike. As with many forms of safety, cyber security has developed and grown as a result of incredible technological progress. We have seen firsthand how technology has and continues to improve lives—from smart household gadgets, to healthcare IT, to innovative ways that companies and organizations can now communicate. With great innovation, we also must consider changed behaviors and the impact on how we as human beings interact with each other For me, the increased focus on cyber security in 2015 has been indicative of the extent to which technology has progressed in the last year, how much progress is still yet to come .
At Vaporstream®, we continue to find ways to provide more secure environments to do business, protect sensitive information and communicate. I have been thrilled to see the Vaporstream team grow. I am proud of their talent and look forward to the opportunities ahead.
As we look towards 2016, I anticipate exciting new developments in the world of cyber security, information security, secure mobility and information governance. I wish you the best for 2016. Have an incredible holiday season with friends, family and colleagues. Have a healthy, happy, and peaceful new year!