Cyber security: it’s big and it’s scary

This week’s issue is devoted to cyber security, a topic simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.

Catrin Griffiths

Along with our lead feature, we also have an interview with the in-house team at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Our sister company Global Security Finance, a subsidiary of VB Research, has interviewed key players in the sector, which we’re also running. If you try a bit of reverse reading you’ll see that where there are opportunities for those  specialists, there are risks for law firms and corporate legal functions. Law firms run on confidentiality. It’s drummed into you from your first day’s training. But what if the trust between lawyer and client is at the mercy of external factors? What if there’s a massive security breach?

As general counsel you can’t take the IT security decisions, but you’d better have thought through the risk implications. Banks have been in  hackers’ sights from the off and many have hired security legal specialists – and they may well push their external counsel for security audits.

For what would be a particular prize for hackers? Law firms. As Freshfields’ Jane Jenkins points out in our main article, firms hold a huge amount of confidential and sensitive information. And it doesn’t help that much if the court infrastructure is not fit for purpose. As our interview with lawyers from the ICO notes, faxes (remember them?) are routinely sent to courts because of their near-obsolete technology.

Business is interconnected. Senior partners have Facebook accounts. (And even if they don’t, their partners do.) Everyone brings their own devices into work and most of us have loyalty cards. An increasing amount of personal and institutional data is held in the cloud. 

Business is at risk from three types of hacker: criminals, spies from China or Russia and ‘hacktivists’ who breach company security for ideological reasons. Talk to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the information security business and they will tell you the scariest threat is the one from China or Russia. Any law firm doing business in China will be acutely aware of the dangers.