The adverse impact if your law firm website is hacked

Don’t be fooled into thinking website security is only relevant to large organisations, as research has shown that 60% of cyber-attacks are aimed at small to medium-sized businesses, which includes law firms.

​A survey carried out by Pew Internet shows that 91% of adult internet users, use search engines to find information online. It should come as no surprise then that a company’s website is considered one of its most important business assets. As a result, most law firms have created an online presence such that potential customers can find them and engage with them – but what many website owners neglect to consider is the security of their website.

Small law firms are a target!

No matter the size of your practice, website security should be a priority as it can cripple your legal firm regardless as to whether you perform financial transactions on your website or not.

The Law Council of Australia’s Cyber Precedent website estimates the average cost of an attack at $265,000 and 25 days loss of service. For small law firms to think they are safe, think again. Most experts point to a dual loss, the immediate financial loss to firm or client but equally the reputational loss.

It’s not uncommon that the smaller the firm, the weaker the defences and the greater the risk of a ‘break-in’. This was recently illustrated by the ease with which a conveyancing firm lost control of its comparatively tiny network and its clients lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, the loss was restored by the industry participants.

Key negative business impacts of being hacked

Marketing

Search engines crawl websites for several reasons, one being to confirm the website is safe for its users. If your law firm website has been compromised by malicious code and has been blacklisted by organisations that monitor the internet for malicious activity your search engine rankings will be negatively impacted until you have cleaned your website and restored it to its former status.

Naturally, this has an enormous negative impact on your law firm’s reputation, your marketing efforts for growing your customer database and overall customer enquiries, as visitors will think twice about trusting you and doing business with you.

Trust and Reputation

What’s more, if your website is accessed by hackers, they often insert code into your website that redirects visitors to another website or uses your domain to send spam emails. Not only does this malicious behaviour impact your marketing efforts, resulting in a loss of customers, but your reputation is damaged too as these visitors will lose trust in your law firm and won’t return in the future. Another tactic implemented by hackers is to change some or all of your content, for example by linking to porn sites, negatively influencing your customer experience and your business goals.

Accessing Private Data

An insecure website is a potential target for cybercriminals to gain access to your website environment, which not only allows them to change the content as mentioned above, but also to steal the information you have stored on your servers. Such data breaches give hackers access to information such as customer details, passwords, financial transactions, credit card details etc. which in turn gives rise to potential online identity fraud.

Cybercriminals also implement ransomware techniques which completely blocks access to your website until you have paid a ransom to regain control of your own website environment!

There are some simple steps you can take to safeguard your law firm website making it less prone to attacks, for example:

  • use strong passwords
  • implement two factor authentication
  • keep your website software updated
  • implement tight network security
  • install security tools and practices

Protect your law firm’s website

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to safeguard your website, as every website consists of several interrelated elements. We recommend that you seek professional advice from your web developer or hosting provider regarding your law firm’s specific requirements.

It’s also important that your website is monitored and security audits are conducted regularly to identify possible vulnerabilities and rectify any weaknesses as soon as they are identified to protect your law firm website from potential hackers.

Website security is a concern for users too, customers will start choosing to only do business with those companies that show they care about their customers’ privacy and personal information. It’s therefore imperative for the future of your law firm to portray a secure website that your visitors believe they can trust.

Next steps

Cyber fraud has become a major problem globally and Australia is no exception. Hackers are continually finding new ways to intercept communications and divert funds to different accounts, robbing innocent individuals.

Your firm is only as strong as the weakest link in your processes, procedures and the people involved and remote work only magnifies the risk.

To protect your firm, always be smart with what information you share, invest in strong technology services, good training and get the right insurance if something does go wrong. Know who you are communicating with and always choose the safest method to do so.

If you want to know more contact Peter Heazlewood on 0407 018 109 or email me at [email protected]

About the author
Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.
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