A siege mentality has long pervaded attempts to secure IT networks, encrypt data, and control access to a law firm’s sensitive information. That thinking tracked along medieval concepts of securing a fortress using thicker walls, stronger gates, and deeper moats. If you remained inside the walls, then you were protected, but if you ventured out then risks spiked, and all protection was lost.
Today’s growing cybersecurity threat environment has many firms feeling besieged, but an effective modern response is available that protects hybrid cloud and remote work scenarios with an adaptable mesh rather than an impregnable wall. A cybersecurity mesh is a holistic way to manage and protect your firm that comprehends the evolving threat landscape and instills a cooperative and secure ecosystem of software, devices, and people who rely on them.
It’s clear in 2022 that law firms are experiencing tension between being explicitly targeted by novel cyberattacks while also increasingly seeking to provide flexible and secure remote access to staff and clients. That conflict poses significant security challenges to firms of all sizes. Long reticent to adopt technology or enact security protocols that are overly complex, expensive, and unfamiliar, law firms find themselves at a decision point. Change management must limit disruption while also availing the firm of current security best practices and facilitating employee’s preferred working scenarios. Those countervailing motivations can create a freeze state in which status quo security protocols age rapidly and improved options are ignored or rejected without due consideration. A silver lining from the adaptations of recent years? Most businesses have realized productivity gains and enhanced work/life balance from remote work options to an extent that no one wants the only secure option going forward to be a forced march back to an office bunker.
So, what’s a modern law firm to do? Many forward-looking security experts and “top ten law tech trend” articles have consistently identified a sea change occurring in how firms both protect and provide access to sensitive data and business systems. Specifically, the leading recommendation is to consider replacing antiquated and location specific protections with a cybersecurity mesh.
As cryptic as it may sound, the concept itself is simple. In essence, instead of protecting a central network, your mesh extends a security perimeter around your people, their devices, and their connection points, wherever they’re located. The mesh is a more robust, nimble, and less “office-centric” approach to network security. Providing each employee with a security perimeter means the firm can monitor and maintain different levels of access to each node which offers better protection against hackers attempting to access the network. Mesh protections were once only available to entities with ample resources to establish and maintain the separate nodes, but cloud-based legal practice management, accounting, and document storage services now deliver distributed networks by design. The enhanced protection from this new paradigm is huge, with Gartner predicting that by 2024, organizations adopting a cybersecurity mesh architecture as a collaborative ecosystem will reduce the financial impact of individual security incidents by an average of 90%.
While managing multiple nodes as a remote mesh appears complex, there are protocols and best practices available that make configuring, monitoring, and protecting your mesh no more difficult than maintaining older, centralized systems.
- The first element is to move your practice management, your documents and data, and your communications to a cloud-based practice management system. With a cloud platform, you inherit secure and remote accessibility on day one.
- Second, ensure that your mesh proactively protects each connection point and device. This is done with zero trust profiles, real-time activity tracking, endpoint anti-malware, and IP access monitoring.
- Third, strong passwords, data and disc encryption, and authentication controls that verify each user’s credentials every time they connect are foundational.
- Fourth, automatic backup and remote wiping software will ensure that no end point remains exposed. Whether new hardware is brought online, or a device is lost or stolen, the end point can be remotely updated and completely erased if need be.
- Fifth and finally, email encryption and client portals enable secure communication and document sharing. The sensitive content in messages requires encryption, and password protected file sharing portals enhance document collaboration with convenient e-signature capabilities.
Law firms have faced numerous technological challenges to navigate the past few years as antiquated network security systems and resistance to remote and hybrid working arrangements were no longer viable. Forward-looking and change-tolerant firms have largely emerged stronger with enhanced tech adoption, updated security protocols, and tools that empower their remote and hybrid workforce. The next big tech leap forward will be removing restrictive security barriers and embracing a cybersecurity mesh to increase productivity and enhance data protection.
To learn more ways in which advanced security measures can increase employee engagement and client satisfaction in our whitepaper.