In our last blog, we discussed the best way to go about setting up and testing your IT security. But we also mentioned the risks of overestimating the abilities of your security measures.

Security is like insurance – just because you have it, doesn’t mean that you’re 100% protected. Like road accidents, security breaches can happen to even the most careful and prepared among us.

In saying that, it isn’t enough to have the right security measures in place. It’s also important to know exactly what to do if you do encounter a security breach.

Being prepared and reacting appropriately can put you in the best position to minimise the consequences to your firm and your customers, and mitigate the risk of the breach reoccurring.

Even small breaches can have a big impact

First, it’s important to understand that ‘breach’ is a wide term for many possible different security violations. IT system breaches come in all shapes and sizes, hazard levels, and originate through many avenues.

Breaches can be:

  • Malicious or accidental;
  • Internal or external; or
  • Targeted or non-targeted.

While each of these can differ in risk and intent, it’s important to respond to all breaches in a serious and appropriate manner.

For example, a smaller breach shouldn’t be given less attention because you see it as being small. Leaking of small amounts of information is one of the easiest ways for outside parties to gain access to larger pieces of information. An inept response to a small breach can lead to a bigger one down the track.

As you can see, breach severity can compound if not immediately addressed, which can leave your firm privy to all kinds of snowballing consequences. Costs can include:

  • Financial loss;
  • Interruption or shutdown of operations;
  • Time and cost of system repair or replacement;
  • Reputational damage; and
  • Lost clients.
Law Firm IT security

It’s essential to respond to all security breaches – big or small

3 steps to ‘proper’ breach response

To minimise the risks associated with a breach, it’s important to ensure you follow the right steps, in the right order, when responding.

Fully assessing and understanding the breach and its implication is vital to deciding on the steps to rectify and treat the infiltration. If you don’t, you risk anything from impeding the operation of your firm, to breaking reporting regulations.

While specific actions to manage the breach will differ depending on the circumstance, the following three steps should always be taken when facing an IT system security violation.

  1. Assessment

This needs to be carried out by two or three people, or a small team for larger firms. The team should include a member of your IT team or provider, and a business manager/s. Together, they need to assess the impact of the breach in terms of both IT systems and firm operations. Once the impact has been assessed, they’ll need to assemble a larger team to help deploy an appropriate response.

  1. Response

The larger team will have the responsibility of communicating information and response both internally and externally. That includes notifying affected teams, individuals, clients, and law enforcement (if required). They will also engage IT security or software specialists if the breach has impacted an application or IT system specifically.

  1. Implementation

The next step is implementing changes that will isolate the breach and minimise compounding risks. This includes short-term changes:

  • Changing passwords; and
  • Patching servers by updating to the day the latest AntiVirus matrix.

And long-term changes:

  • Retiring older systems completely;
  • Updating policies and implementing them into the firm;
  • Ensuring staff adhere to security policies, including password management; and
  • Ensuring management consider security in new projects.

The required implementation will become clear once step two has been carried out, with a full investigation into the breach and input from experts received.

In most cases, the long-term changes are important to consider, as they are likely to provide more benefit and security to your firm on an ongoing basis.

When it comes to securing your IT system, teamwork and expertise are the best answer

An appropriate response to a breach can not only save you from financial and operational losses, but can strengthen your system by allowing you to identify and rectify weaknesses.

However, your ability to respond quickly depends on the support of the team around you.

Your team plays an important role in the response and prevention of IT system breaches. When a breach does occur, employees need to play their part to ensure the implementation of response and prevention methods, and regulations, are followed.

You’ll also need to rely on your IT provider’s expertise, as well as their knowledge of your IT system, to help you assess the impact and implement a plan of action. So, having a reliable and experienced IT team is a must to ensure quick and simple identification and response to a breach.

Innessco is a leading provider of IT services with expert knowledge in the IT and security needs of law firms.

If you’d like more information about mitigating your security risks, or ensuring your IT system is optimised for your firm, click here to contact Innessco.

Alternatively, you can assess your IT needs on your own by evaluating your firms IT via our free online tool.