How professional services firms can navigate cybersecurity threats | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

With cyber-attacks against professional services firms increasing at an alarming rate –  the number of the UK’s top 100 law firms alone experiencing an attack rising from 45% in 2018/19 to 73% in the most recent financial year – the sector must find new ways to strengthen its defences. Ed Boal, the head of legal at Shieldpay, explains the need for robust processes, systems, and security measures to ensure the safe and secure management of client data and funds.

With escalating cyber threats, safeguarding client data has become non-negotiable for legal practitioners. A staggering 75% of legal firms in the UK have fallen victim to cyber-attacks in the past year- a statistic corroborated by the recent Chaucer Report, which found that the number of data breaches from cyberattacks against UK legal firms has risen by more than a third since 2023. This notable increase in quantity and sophistication of incidents, underscores the vulnerability of law firms.

A recent attack on specialist infrastructure service provider CTS affected a great number of firms, and drew attention to the acute need for the legal sector to reconsider their cybersecurity practices and implement enhanced security measures to protect against direct and indirect threats. The volume of attacks is one challenge, but where concerted efforts need to be placed is in keeping up with the advancing sophistication of attacks as they deploy new tactics and new tooling, such as artificial intelligence, to increase the threat.

Navigating cybersecurity challenges

The repercussions of cyber-attacks extend far beyond financial disruptions, encompassing severe reputational damage and potential legal ramifications caused by compromised client confidentiality.

Despite the escalating threat landscape, many firms persist in using outdated security methods, leaving them vulnerable to severe consequences. As cyber threats continue to mature, law firms must prioritise ongoing employee training, updating security measures, and refining incident response protocols to mitigate risks effectively. The urgency for a transition to proactive cybersecurity strategies cannot be overstated, given that financial implications of cybercrimes are projected to reach $10 trillion annually by 2025.

To realise this work and build more proactive resilience strategies, law firms need to invest in robust security protocols, with many now relying on external security providers.

The latest developments

While the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into legal practices introduces new opportunities, law firms must recognise the vulnerabilities it creates. Integrating new AI tools increases the vectors that attackers can target. A new assessment by the National Cyber Security Centre warns of AI’s role in malicious cyber activities, with AI-driven attacks expected to surge in frequency and sophistication in the years ahead. This democratisation of cyber threats empowers even amateur criminals to conduct more effective operations.

Nevertheless, AI can also serve as a valuable defence mechanism. There are now AI-powered threat detection and analysis tools in the market which help to identify and prevent malicious activities. These have automated incident response systems powered by AI to facilitate real-time responses by risk and security professionals, mitigating the impact of attacks and safeguarding critical data.

Navigating the digital landscape requires a multi-faceted approach to cybersecurity. Law firms must cultivate a culture of resilience towards cyber security threats, continuously adapting to emerging threats and collaborating with experts. By integrating technologies that secure data and contribute to an evolving defence strategy, firms can effectively safeguard against cyber threats to ensure continued success in a digital era.


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National Cyber Security