Best practices for cloud data storage security
A growing number of law firms are embracing cloud technology for everyday functions. Collaboration platforms have become commonplace, videoconferencing is being used for meetings and hearings, and cloud-based software and infrastructure solutions are increasingly being implemented to support hybrid working models.
But one area where the legal sector is perhaps more reticent about adopting cloud technology is when it comes to data storage. Law firms generate, send, receive and store vast amounts of highly sensitive data, and many operate under the belief that keeping data on-site, either digitally or as physical files, is the best way of keeping it secure. But overestimating the risks of cloud data storage can not only mean your law firm is missing out on opportunities to streamline costs, processes and optimise for growth, it can also mean your firm’s data is less safe.
By following a few best practices, your data can be safer in the Cloud than in any on-site store.
Cloud data security best practices for law firms
There’s no such thing as 100% data security, whether that’s through on-site or cloud-based storage. The best – and only – thing your legal firm can do to position itself for robust data security is to undertake stringent risk assessments and formulate a strong risk management strategy. When formulating such a strategy for cloud-based data storage, it’s important to determine where the risks to your firm are, and to weigh up where certain levels of risk are acceptable. You will then be in the best position to make calculated decisions about how those risks can – as far as possible – be mitigated.
It’s predicted that as much as 95% of cloud security breaches are triggered by customers. It’s imperative, therefore, that your law firm has a robust data security policy in place, and that everybody in the firm is not only aware of it, but knows the role they have to play in enacting it. The best data security policies are easy to follow, and everybody – including external partners – should have a copy. A robust data security policy should cover everything from multi-factor authentication and a list of approved apps to detailed guidance around the firm’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.
Educate teams (and clients)
Human error is one of the biggest threats to your firm’s data security. Accidental deletion, lost or stolen laptops and misplaced data sticks can all lead to the loss of valuable client and confidential data. There are also the myriad types of cyberattack that prey on human vulnerabilities to gain access to law firms’ treasure troves of sensitive data. In this respect, a knowledgeable team, trained regularly in all matters data and cybersecurity, is your first and strongest line of defence against breaches.
Strengthen – and regularly change – passwords
Passwords are essential for keeping your law firm’s critical and sensitive data safe, so make sure everyone with access to this data is set up with – and using – strong passwords that are regularly changed. Your cloud provider can have your data storage set up with the strongest security measures, but if individuals within the firm are using their own devices, with weak passwords like ‘123456’, your data is vulnerable. Best practice for passwords is a minimum of 10 characters, with a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters.
Not everyone in your firm needs access to every piece of data, so it’s good security practice to grant access on a role-by-role basis. Whereas a partner might need to be able to access every dataset in the archive, others will need access only to certain files and folders. Conduct a thorough audit of data, as well as the various roles and responsibilities within the firm, and segment your archive to ensure least-privilege access to each piece of data.
Encryption is a simple step that can protect your law firm’s data, whether it’s stored locally or in the cloud. Encryption ensures that, should your data be stolen, intercepted or fall into the wrong hands, it is unreadable without authenticated access. It translates your data – whether stored as a digital file, sent as an email, sat in a cloud application or being accessed through a web browser – into a secret code that requires a password or key to unscramble it. Many cloud storage solutions will offer encryption as standard, but make sure you look for a solution that encrypts both at-rest and in-transit data using the latest industry best practices, such as HTTPS and LTS.
Vet your vendors
When it comes to cloud solutions, not all providers are created equal. Before outsourcing any aspect of your data storage, make sure you know the ins and outs of how, when and where your law firm’s data is being protected. Check your solution abides by the compliance laws in all the locations you need to be compliant, and that it meets all the necessary regulatory standards for security and back-up.
Have a plan for the worst-case scenario
No industry or sector is immune from the threat of catastrophic data loss. Such losses can occur at any time and arise through targeted criminal activity or something as indiscriminate and arbitrary as a connectivity outage. A robust data back-up and recovery plan is not only best practice for data security, it is essential for any law firm. Cloud computing excels in making data backup and recovery both wide-ranging and easy to achieve, with a range of BUaaS and DRaaS solutions designed to make recovery possible within a matter of hours.
Protecting your firm’s data, 24/7
If you’re looking for a trusted technology partner to support your move into cloud-based data storage, get in touch with us today. M247’s range of data storage, backup and recovery solutions are built to the latest industry standards to deliver the strongest data security around the clock.