While many cyber-risks exist, it’s the users of the protected system who constitute the greatest danger to effective cybersecurity procedures. An overwhelming majority of cyber attacks begin when a user clicks a link they shouldn’t. How are users tricked into clicking these links?
This is accomplished through what is known as a phishing email. This describes an email designed to look like a communication from a well-known, trusted entity, (e.g., Facebook, Bank of America, etc.) which tricks the recipient into clicking the link, and exposing the system to the cyber-attack. The best defense against this attack is an informed workforce, trained to remain vigilant, and to recognize a scam. Here are some best practices your law firm can put in place to protect your employees and clients from these attacks.
Phishing sites pretend to be real entities to fool a user with near identical-looking sites or URLs. To avoid being tricked, train your lawyers and employees to not rely on their own judgment, but to use a password manager to check the authenticity of the site. These programs auto-fill usernames and passwords on the correct domains, but refuse to do so on an incorrect website.
This form of security, also known as multi-factor authentication, requires a username and password be used in conjunction with another factor only the user possesses, like information, a token, or a device. Many law firms already require this for physical and information system access. Adding this layer to an email system further protects sensitive data, blocking unauthorized users from viewing protected data.
Employee Metadata and PII
Documents carry certain data unique to the user who created it, also known as metadata. To prevent client or employee Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from accidentally being exposed, users should be required to convert email attachments into PDFs or inspect documents in Office to remove hidden metadata.
Emails present the same threat, data that is targeted with spymail containing code that steals embedded recipient metadata. This data can include physical location, email statistics, and sending history, which aids a phisher in creating more deceptive emails. Law firms should employ a centralized anti-spymail tool, but users can also reduce risks by stopping external content from automatically loading (e.g., preventing pictures from being displayed when the email is opened).
Increase Awareness with Cybersecurity Training
Users form the first line of defense against phishing scams, so law firms should require training programs teaching steps their lawyers and employees can use to protect themselves and the firm. Train all users to be discerning regarding who the sender is, refusing to open emails or attachments from unknown senders. Users can compare the actual company URL the phishing email is imitating to the link provided in the email. If an email arrives with embedded or attached forms, never insert sensitive data into the form.
Users should question any email asking for financial information, especially account update notifications, wire transfer requests, or failed transaction alerts. Threats to disable an account or reduce service support are a clear sign of a scam. In all cases contact the merchant directly, rather than responding to the email. The best defense against phishing scams is an educated workforce. Investing in cybersecurity training will reduce the risks to sensitive data and prevent costly responses to a cyber-attack.