26 Actions to Take To Become Cyber Secure

cyber security

When I first joined ALPS over 20 years ago, most of my risk management efforts were focused on proper file documentation, calendaring best practices and the like. Things are different nowadays as a significant amount of my risk management efforts have been redirected.  Today it’s all about trying to help lawyers become as cyber secure as possible.

One common concern I continue to hear from lawyers trying to do so is frustration over not knowing the specifics of what to do.  While our Rules of Professional Conduct and various ethics opinions mandate all kinds of things to include requiring lawyers to take steps to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client [See ABA Model Rule 1.6 (c)], these rules and opinions often fail to provide any meaningful guidance.

In order to try and address this problem, I have put together the following checklist.  It is intended to help those of you who have a desire to become more cyber secure know where to start. It may also be helpful in identifying areas of concern that can and should be discussed with IT support personnel. Be aware, however, that cybercrime attack vectors will continue to change and evolve so your effort to become cyber secure will never be a once and done kind of thing.  That said, here are the basics; and note that when the word “devices” is used, this word is meant to include all mobile devices and any home computers that are being used for work.

Checklist for Becoming Cyber Secure

____ Keep hardware and software as current as possible. You don’t need to be first in line for the latest and greatest; but don’t be the last in line either. Newer devices and programs almost always include improved security features and cyber criminals often target older devices and programs as a result.

____ Keep your server in a locked room because physical security matters!

____ Install effective security software suites on all devices.

____ Utilize intrusion detection systems.

____ Use a spam filter.

____ Keep all software on all devices up-to-date with the latest critical patches.

____ Determine where all firm data is stored and then create a security policy that responsibly addresses the situation.  For example, if you are backing up to external hard drives that are rotated off-site, these drives must be password protected and encrypted.

____ Password protect all devices.

____ Use two factor authentication whenever available on any device or with any application.

____ Develop a password policy that mandates the use of strong passwords (14 characters or more using upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters) and requires that passwords be changed on a regular basis.  Note: Every application and device in use should have its own unique password and no password should ever be reused once changed.  The use of a password manager can make this task easier and more secure than, for example, storing passwords in a file labeled “passwords” or writing them down and placing that list in a desk drawer.

____ Prohibit the sharing of user ids and passwords with anyone, to include others within the firm.

____ Have your IT support person change the default values on all wireless routers, server operating systems, etc.

____ Wireless networks should be set up with proper security to include enabling strong encryption. This means you must disable WEP and WPA encryption and require WPA2 encryption. Do not overlook home networks if home computers are being used for work.

____ Backup all data, periodically do a test restore of the backup, and store the backup in accordance with a disaster recovery plan because floods, fires and ransomware attacks happen. Backups should also be encrypted if taken off site or stored in the cloud. If using a cloud vendor, the vendor should not have access to the decryption key.

____ Any device that goes off site and contains any client confidences must be password protected and should be encrypted. This includes jump drives, external hard drives, laptops, smart phones, tablets, and home computers.

____ Limit privileges and access as appropriate. For example, does everyone in the office need access to the firm’s financial or employment records? Can everyone download and install anything they want on any device they have access to? Can everyone make changes to the system configuration? Don’t make it easy. Place limits on what people can do. Such limits can either be set up electronically via file permissions or physically via a locked door or cabinet.

____ Encrypt email and all data you place in the cloud. Some cloud companies advertise that they encrypt your data but only do so while the data is in transit. You must make certain your data is encrypted “at rest” as well. Better yet, don’t rely on the cloud provider for this at all. Encrypt your data before placing it in the cloud to enable you to have control over the encryption key.

____ Mandate that all work-related Internet sessions be encrypted and prohibit the use public computers and unsecured open public Wi-Fi networks. This does mean that access to the office network must always occur through the use of a VPN, MiFi, smartphone hotspot or some other type of encrypted connection.

____ Prohibit the use of any public computer for any reason. This would include the use of computer stations made available in the business center of a resort or hotel.

____ Have a policy that prohibits the jailbreaking of any mobile device that will be used for work. Jailbreaking is defined as modifying the operating system from its original state.

____ Never allow a non-employee to have access to your network absent appropriate oversight. In a similar vein, immediately cut off all avenues of access to the network upon terminating anyone’s employment. Terminated individuals should never have access to any office computer or network plug, even if it’s to simply download personal files, absent a trusted escort.

____ Provide mandatory social engineering awareness training to everyone at the firm at least once a year.

____ Develop a cyber breach incidence response plan and provide the necessary training. At its most basic, if anyone suspects a device has been breached, teach them how to immediately disconnect from the Internet and/or the office network and instruct them to contact IT support immediately. They should never try to resolve the problem themselves!

____ Purchase a cyber liability insurance policy.

____ Check your internal and Internet facing network security at least annually to make sure your network is secure. This can be done by having a vulnerability assessment or penetration test done.

____ Properly dispose of any device or digital media that has or had any firm related data on it. Don’t overlook digital copiers, digital cameras, memory cards, CDs, DVDs, jump drives, backup tapes, etc. All devices and media must be digitally wiped clean and/or physically destroyed. This does mean that devices cannot be given away for personal use, donated, recycled, or sold unless the entire drives have been overwritten.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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