How Hackers Can Attack Your Firm

Law firm and accounting firm databases are a virtual treasure chest for hackers: confidential financial data, privileged communications and other potentially damaging information.

A cybersecurity analysis of thousands of global law firms conducted at the beginning of 2020 found that 15 percent of firms analyzed showed signs of compromised networks.

Hackers use a number of tactics to infiltrate networks, and once they’re in they have a number of ways to profit financially. These tactics include:

Phishing attacks. This is one of the most common methods for gaining access to a company’s database.

In a phishing attack, a hacker sends an email, instant message or text message that appears legitimate to people within your organization. The email might look like a message from a financial institution, popular retailer, or even from another person within your firm.

Phishing messages contain malicious links that the recipients are tricked into clicking. That can trigger the installation of malware, the freezing of the company’s network, or the directing of the recipient to input a password that the can provide the hackers network access later.

Business email compromise. This type of attack involves criminals gaining access to an email account within your firm or creating a false account to spoof a genuine contact. With an email account that appears legitimate, the criminal can impersonate a lawyer with your firm. In another scenario, the criminal will direct a lawyer completing a transfer of funds to send that money to the scammer’s account instead. Firms that handle financial fund transfer for clients are at extremely high risk for this type of hack.

Malware and spyware. A common goal of a phishing attack is for the hacker to install malware or spyware on a firm’s computer systems. Spyware is malicious software used to gather information about an organization. It’s often used to help hackers steal identities. Spyware can also be used to disable firewalls and antivirus software.

Malware encompasses all types of malicious software, including spyware. It also includes viruses that can damage and spread to other networks.

Ransomware attack. In this type of cyberattack, a hacker plants malware on their target’s network, often by using a phishing message. This malware encrypts all of the victim’s files, leaving them unable to access any information stored on their network. The hackers hold the information ransom and demand a payment. If the payment is made, the hacker restores network access.

A new form of ransomware attack has targeted law firms in the last few years. This type of attack, sometimes referred to as a Maze attack, requires two ransom payments. The first is to unencrypt the victim’s data. The second ransom demand is made threatening that the hacker will make the stolen information public. A report in February 2020 said at least five law firms were extorted by a Maze ransomware attack.

Cryptojacking. An emerging form of online hacking is cryptojacking, which is an attack designed to steal cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. In this scheme, hackers break into other people’s networked devices without their consent or knowledge. The purpose is to steal computing resources from multiple victims, which enables the hackers to lower the costs of mining for digital currency. Victims of cryptojacking will notice their computers and web browsers running much slower. This form of attack can also result in a network crash.

With so many ways to do damage to your networks, it’s important for law firms to work with cybersecurity professionals to shore up computer systems. Also, make sure everybody in your firm use secure passwords and that you conduct regular cybersecurity training with employees on the latest threats.

Even with the best security, it’s possible for hackers to gain access to your firm’s network. That’s why it’s important for every law firm to be covered by cyber insurance that covers your potential losses and liability for data breaches.


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