The march of technological innovation continues apace, and in many areas the legal sector has gone along with it. In the midst of a global pandemic, legal firms looking to maintain open lines of communication with clients, the courts, and between team members embarked on a tentative programme of digital transformation. Collaboration and video conferencing tools became commonplace, digital documents became a necessity, and cloud technology entered the legal sector’s vernacular.
Despite this, data storage and security is the one area in which many smaller legal firms are still leaving themselves vulnerable. From USBs to on-premise storage we look at why these are no longer the most secure options, the implications of data loss and why law firms must update their approach to data storage inline with their digital collabaoration tools.
Hard-disk storage is still rife
A recent thematic review carried out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (published as the Covid-19 pandemic broke out) showed that more than half of the 40 legal firms they spoke to were still relying on unsafe and unsecured methods of data storage. Among them was the fact that many were allowing external data sticks to be freely plugged in and used across company machines.
This is concerning for the legal sector because, when even IT security professionals admit to not encrypting their USB storage devices, there’s a high potential for the loss or theft of highly valuable information. Client data, case files, contracts and all manner of sensitive and proprietary information can be taken not only off internal systems, but off the premises. The effects of such a loss or theft don’t bear thinking about.
Dongles and data insecurity
Data loss is not always the result of system breaches, hardware malfunction or malicious attacks by nefarious third parties. Sometimes it’s as easy as simply misplacing a laptop with locally stored data, or losing an external storage device in the, ‘where was the last place you saw it?’ sense. It’s an unavoidable truth that whenever the physical transportation of sensitive data is involved, whether that’s as paper files or digital documents stored on a device, there’s the potential for loss. And in the same way that misplacing a folder from your physical paper-based archive can mean it’s gone forever, the loss or theft of a USB stick, laptop or external hard drive can mean that whatever is on it will never be recovered.
Around 66% of all USB sticks that are bought are lost. But even more worryingly, around 60% of those lost hold valuable commercial data.
Loss of data means loss of so much more
Data is integral to the ongoing operations of a law firm. Case files, client financial data, contracts, appointment information, discovery documents and court files are all critical, and they all need to be kept as secure as possible. If an employee loses a laptop or storage device where that data is locally stored, that information is gone forever. And while the loss of the data itself is huge, the loss extends to the client, the court system, the reputation of the firm as a whole, and almost certainly the reputation of the individual involved.
Why do law firms rely on on-premise storage?
For many law firms, there’s a belief that keeping data under their roof – in filing rooms and on local servers – is the safest option. They see the physical proximity of data as the surest way of maintaining control over it, of protecting it and keeping it shielded from prying eyes. But just because the door is locked at night, your data isn’t necessarily safe.
The risks of using removable storage and keeping your data on-site
- Loss. Whenever humans are involved, mistakes can happen. If files and data are being moved around and out of the office, there is potential for valuable and critical data to be misplaced.
- Accidental deletion. Human error can also result in accidental deletion of critical and highly valuable data. And if you’re not regularly backing up your data, this could mean it’s gone forever.
- Theft/break-ins. Criminals know how valuable the data being held by law firms is, and this leaves both removable storage devices and your office vulnerable to being targeted.
- Fire/flood. Keeping all your data in one place – whether that’s paper files in the office or digitally in a server room – leaves your firm vulnerable to losing everything in the event of a fire, flood or arson attack.
- Cyber criminality. By allowing unchecked use of removable storage devices, your firm cedes all control over the security of its data. USB sticks given out as freebies at trade shows and corporate events could come pre-loaded with malware to infect your systems. Individuals could also use their work storage devices on unprotected and vulnerable home computers, again leaving your sensitive data exposed.
- Costs. Few other sectors generate and handle the amount of data a law firm does and it’s costly to store it, whether as paper files or digital documents. Whatever space your firm does have will also inevitably run out, meaning further costs incurred when you need to expand your archives.
The solution for law firm data is in the Cloud
The Cloud can help law firms mitigate all these data risks and more, all while cutting your IT costs and offering robust solutions for essential data back-up and recovery in the event of a catastrophic loss.
For more about how cloud solutions could help protect your law firm’s critical and sensitive data, bolster your business continuity plan and enable resilience into the future, get in touch with our team today.