Top Cyber Security Tips for Law Firms

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

- Roy Russell, CEO, Ascertus Limited

At our recent ‘The Cyber Threat Landscape for Law Firms’ seminar, a number of experts in the industry presented their observations, views and suggestions on how law firms can effectively mitigate the impact of security breaches on their organisations. I thought I’d share some of their top tips with you:

  • Know your people – Hackers manipulate people, so gain an understanding of your employees and the organisational culture so that you can monitor threat activity by exception. This approach will also enable you to ‘grow’ your own social engineers as employees will learn the mindset of hackers to spot potential breaches.

  • Adopt behavioural analytics– Behavioural analytics can help you ‘know’ your employees. This approach provides a ‘finger print’ of each employee’s work practices. Any change in these habits could serve as a good indicator of a potential breach. For instance, a hacker using a, Intellectual Property lawyers ID to access sensitive M&A files on a matter would instantly flag up to the IT department as an anomaly, for appropriate action to be taken.

  • Block all the ways malware can infiltrate your organisation – Email is one of the most common vectors for malware to make its way into the enterprise. Ensure that your email security systems, network protections and web preventions recognise and block ransomware.

  • Play out the attack scenario – Put your systems to the test. In the event of an attack, how quickly will you be able to gain access to back-ups? Will your most business-critical systems continue to function, if hit by ransomware? Ensure that your contingency resources are adequately insulated from live ransomware attacks.

  • Enlist vendor support – Your technology suppliers must be able to support your systems and ensure that they are always current with security updates. Discuss with them where you can harden your systems, be it via application control, whitelisting, continuous endpoint recording, advanced threat protection and so on.

  • Ensure that security, legal, privacy and compliance teams work together – These disciplines are inter-related and a combined approach will ensure that you develop a comprehensive security framework for your firm, especially with the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

  • Adopt intelligence-driven security operations – Go beyond traditional IT security to embrace Adaptive Threat Processing. This will facilitate a big picture of the threat landscape – everything from assessing new threats, adaptive controls, detecting manifesting threats, mitigating the impact as well as monitoring threats and their evolution.

  • Take a long-term view of security – The threat actors are evolving and becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way they operate. They operate differently in different sectors. As you develop your firm’s cyber defences; incorporate future security requirements, looking at the business and threat scenario at least three to five years ahead so that your security measures remain strong and pre-emptive at all times.

Law firms are a major target for all manner of cyber criminals – from Organised Crime Gangs, Hacktivists and perhaps even Nation States. These above tips will help bring together people, processes and technology to shore up your law firm’s cyber defences in a measured and practical manner

This blog includes tips from experts from The Security Alliance, iManage, Mimecast, DocuSign, Jenny Radcliffe and QuoScient.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Analytics and Machine Learning Can Help Detect Cyber Threats

The challenge of cyber security is laid bare when RSA, one of the world’s preeminent security firms providing solutions to address cyber threats, is unable to prevent a social engineering attack on itself. This of course happened in 2011, but given the frequency with which companies are breached today, no enterprise can be a 100% sure of preventing an attack. Why? The real threat lies ‘within’ the organisation. Employees are the weak link and hence the easy target for cyber criminals to exploit in order to get hold of sensitive data.

So, how must a law firm defend against its own employees – the very people who it must provide data access to – without ‘getting in the way’ of their work? Furthermore, it’s not always apparent that the organisation is hacked. The average time that an attack went undetected in a network in 2016 was approximately 150 days.

Best practice suggests that in the immediate aftermath of an attack, firms must:

  • Understand how the breach occurred in order to immediately remediate any deficiency that was exploited

  • Quickly identify where the firm’s exposure is, especially which clients are impacted

  • Recover lost data

  • Notify the relevant regulators and the ICO of the breach. This will become even more pertinent with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation that comes into force next year

A document management system (DMS) plays a key role here – after all, this is where the firm’s ‘crown jewels’ reside and so protecting the sensitive information within it is essential. Today, technology has advanced and security is no longer simply about complex passwords. Adoption of analytics and machine learning is essential to proactive data security and loss mitigation.

Firms that deploy iManage Work, a next generation DMS, are now able to automatically profile the typical behaviour of users and use this information to identify potential social engineering attacks and take pre-emptive action. This is provided by the recently announced Threat Manager module, which uses machine learning to automatically generate a digital ‘finger print’ of all employees based on their individual history of interaction with data in the DMS. Any deviation from this baseline is a good indication of anomalous activity and warrants investigation. The behavioural analytics used by Threat Manager is significantly more advanced than simple threshold reporting; and by understanding the matters, clients and practice areas relevant to the firm’s personnel, it can identify a hacker using stolen credentials to view even a small number of files as being an anomaly, and flag this for immediate action. In fact, an interesting finding during the testing phase of Threat Manager was that it is also able to predict with high accuracy, personnel who are likely to be leaving the firm. This is often a concern for firms due to potential loss of organisational and client IP.

In addition to threat detection, Threat Manager also provides capabilities to assist with investigating the timeline of the attack, leveraging the comprehensive audit trails within the DMS to identify precisely which matters and documents have been accessed. The tool is simple to use and means this crucial capability can be removed from the IT department and given to a more appropriate function such as the Risk and Compliance team. Those responsible regularly receive reports on alerts detected with corresponding scores based on the threat level, enabling them to take immediate action to prevent any further wrongdoing.

Given the nature of the threats faced, adoption of behavioural analytics and machine learning is going to be a key tool for firms wanting to take a proactive stance on data security and providing the assurance their clients are increasingly looking for.

Note: As an iManage partner, the new Threat Manager module for iManage Work is available from Ascertus. Please get in touch via for more information on the module and/or a demonstration of the product.

About Frank White

Frank has worked in legal IT for over 25 years, having occupied a number of technical roles through to IT Director of Ince & Co, responsible for delivering a professional yet personalised IT service and cost-appropriate IT solutions to a diverse global practice. Frank joined iManage in February 2015 as a Subject Matter Expert to help iManage customers realise the best return on their investment in their iManage products, and to enable the company to deliver better products and create more value.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The times they are a-changin’

Guest blog by Bryan King, Independent E-Billing Consultant

The legal e-billing market has been dominated for years by the large software vendors emanating from the North American market. Today, following several mergers and take-overs, ownership now concentrates in three or four major players. While these US vendors still have the largest market share and dominate the electronic invoicing of legal services solutions space, the scenario is changing. A variety of new e-billing or legal spend management solutions are entering the market and challenging the status quo.

Why do we need new e-billing solutions?

Some of the criticisms levelled at these older US based e-billing systems, apart from the fact that they do not necessarily appreciate the European cultural, regulatory and tax differences, is that they are very cumbersome, if not “clunky”, and do not sit well with the current trend in IT for software of requiring “no installation”. They require a degree of user set-up, law firm registration, often do not use intelligent defaults; and need regular maintenance of reference data, such as time-keeper details and charge out rates.

Other negative comments often made are that the US based e-billing vendors are too “corporate” and inflexible in their approach. Also, many law firms, especially those not using the large time and billing systems, are not able to produce Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard (LEDES) files and so the view is that e-billing has not delivered on its promise to clients and law firms.

What do the new e-billing solutions offer?

Over the past few years, new solution providers have come into the market – both in the US and from within the EU. Interestingly, some of these solutions have been founded by lawyers who realised that many clients (and law firms) were resisting the more “traditional” e-billing solutions.

These new solutions bring a fresh perspective to legal spend management and utilise tools and techniques that are breaking ground in the delivery of IT services. For instance:

  • They are easy to configure, and use intelligent defaults and data driven user set-up.

  • They use text recognition software to read/convert the data from the e-bills or from PDF documents.

  • They take advantage of the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate the bill review process, categorise narratives and provide pricing analytics.

  • Some combine AI with machine learning to enhance the data mining possibilities of the invoice information to enable the client to make better and informed decisions.

  • At least one new e-billing solution is totally “Apps” based – and fits the current trend for mobile working and smart phone access.

  • All claim to offer a low cost of ownership as they require no on-site installation and are delivered as web services.

  • They are easily integrated with other client applications such as document/knowledge management, project management, calendaring and the standard desktop – also reducing IT cost for the client.

  • They cover a wide range of business processes – from requests for proposals, procurement, matter budgeting, resource planning and project management, through to e-billing, reporting and management information – with easy to understand metrics for corporate legal departments and law firms.

  • They facilitate collaborative working between the client and the outside counsel. Among other things, they allow the client to review ‘Work in Progress’ and expenses in the pre-billing stages of each matter.

As a result, these “new kids on the block” are winning and taking customers away from the existing e-billing vendors. There is no doubt that these next generation legal spend management solutions are gaining ground. Many e-billing solutions have been in client organisations for up to 10 years; and like for all software solutions, users will be seeking to replace existing systems for new and current functionality. The new providers are in an excellent position to lure customers away from the existing e-billing solution vendors.

About Bryan King

Bryan King is an independent consultant, advising law firms and in-house legal departments on e-billing issues; and assisting with the successful implementation of legal spend management projects. Prior to this, he has senior IT management positions at Linklaters, Lovells and Clifford Chance. At Clifford Chance, he also held global responsibility for the firm’s electronic invoicing (e-billing) projects.