Want to protect your law firm’s data? Use the cloud

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Over the past decade, businesses in nearly every industry have moved to the cloud, migrating at least some of their IT infrastructure. Law firms have been more hesitant than most. Many are reluctant to adopt the cloud, fearing loss of control over sensitive data, potential business disruptions for data migration, and of course the perception of higher operational costs (which is not really the case). But their biggest fear is security: they want peace of mind knowing that the company’s data — and that of its customers — won’t fall into the wrong hands.

The most security-conscious organizations such as the CIA, FBI, TSA, and other top government agencies use the cloud. If it’s good enough for those institutions, it should be secure enough for the law firms, their clients, the case data, and the software they manage. To help understand this better, let’s take a look at a company’s concerns and explain why the cloud is an even better security bet for them than ever before.

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Businesses have good reason to worry about data security

Law firms are often the custodians of personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets, confidential information and other sensitive data. Unauthorized access to these files could expose their customers to reputational damage, endless litigation, or regulatory penalties. Unfortunately, 25% of law firms participating in the American Bar Association’s 2021 Legal Technology Survey experienced a cyber breach in 2021.

Previously, law firms invested in highly secure and protected storage facilities for their sensitive information. This has required law firms to maintain onsite servers for data retention and storage. Now, as businesses transition to remote working, cloud-based systems provide secure access to data required by their business and their customers. These types of solutions offer flexibility and scalability, while protecting the company’s most valuable and sensitive data. But can we trust them?

6 Reasons Businesses Can Trust the Security of Today’s Cloud Providers

To ensure maximum security for their users, cloud providers have implemented six advanced cloud security best practices:

1. Cloud governance

On-premises systems require robust management and governance frameworks to meet security objectives. Cloud governance, the framework that minimizes the risk of cloud security breaches as originally defined by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), is the backbone of cloud security. With properly executed cloud governance, cloud customers are more secure and compliant with data and security regulations. HIPAA and GDPR are prime examples.

2. Military Grade Standards

To ensure cloud security, cloud providers use military-grade security standards and protocols. This includes employing best practices regarding the controls used to access, use, transmit and store data. An example of this is the use of the AES256 data encryption standard used for data in transit and at rest. Many of the controls used are a direct reference to the NIST 800-53 safety standard. The substantial financial and infrastructure investments required by these controls are absorbed by the cloud service provider and amortized by the user as OpEx expenses. This provides a predictable and lower operating cost to the business for securing and protecting its sensitive information.

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3. Access control

Cloud security includes user access restrictions. Customers manage access to their cloud servers by assigning certain privileges to specific registrants. This is commonly referred to as role-based access. This feature allows controlled access to sensitive information based on defined roles, rights and privileges associated with access levels. For example, managers and primary litigants can assign access to necessary information to be shared only with those working on the case.

4. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Beyond the usual username and password, cloud providers are implementing multi-factor authentication controls (such as a mobile phone alert or secure USB drive) when users sign in. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized cloud users accessing the cloud server. The use of MFA technologies is based on three basic concepts for authentication: 1. Who I am, 2. What I know and 3. What I have.

5. Monitoring, breach detection and reporting

Cloud providers also use sophisticated systems capable of identifying suspicious activity and patterns of behavior. They alert cloud customers and make proactive recommendations, such as changing passwords, to users. A Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM) system should track, detect, block, and report any breach attempted by a third-party threat. This data is used to support the security standard for the discovery, validation and reporting of such attempts by an external threat.

6. Malware Protection

Anti-malware is an important and must-have feature of cloud servers. Anti-malware software continuously scans servers and file systems for threats and notifies cloud users in real time. These security tools are part of the integrated layered defense system supported by the SIEM system.

Related: 5 benefits of cloud technology for new startups

Law Firms Can Rely on Cloud Migration

Cloud service providers do the heavy lifting, even for national security organizations, when it comes to reducing costs and technical requirements for data and application security. However, for businesses that want even more assurance, additional layers of security can be added to cloud services.

These additional layers of information assurance require selecting a cloud partner that meets high security standards, privacy regulations, and compliance requirements for highly regulated industries such as the legal industry. These higher security controls also apply to data portability and flexibility options for secure data migration if needed.

As with any business affected by data breaches, by leveraging the strict and well-enforced security standards of today’s cloud providers, law firms can focus more on building their practices with peace of mind that their data and customers are secure.