Legal Technology

Law firms can block hackers with 'known good' use of digital documents, expert says

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With hack attacks, including infiltration of law firm email, on the upswing, those in charge of safeguarding computer networks may need to change their tactics, international security experts suggest.

Responding to a report by a British legal regulator that says it issued nearly twice as many scam alerts in 2014 as 2013, experts say law firms should consider a “known good” approach to documents, SC Magazine reports.

Instead of routinely allowing users to send and receive electronic documents, law firms should consider screening documents and allowing only those that have been determined to be OK into their systems, chief technology officer Sam Hutton of Glasswall Solutions tells the magazine.

“The digital files that lawyers use every day are instrumental to running an effective practice,” he said. “But, with files such as PDFs, Word and Excel being the prime threat vector of choice and used in over 90 percent of successful attacks, every one of them could be a source of security vulnerabilities and threats. Attackers look to embed malware into the documents the legal team use, compromising data protection and confidentiality—and ultimately gaining access to the organization’s network and the sensitive information held.”

Under a “known good” approach, security controls determine the “threat footprint” of a digital document and “security policies can be implemented to ensure files only enter the organization’s network once they have been identified as a safe and trusted file,” he said.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority issued 183 scam alerts to the British legal profession in 2014, compared to 97 the year before. The interception of genuine emails, which can be mined for confidential information and used for fraudulent purposes, is the most worrisome trend, said SRA risk analyst Zulfana Bagum in a recent blog post.

Malware, fake law firm websites, email falsely purporting to come from a law firm and phone calls seeking to trick law firm workers into revealing confidential information are also a concern, the SRA said.

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