Data privacy is now a priority for every organization. As regulatory expectations evolve, local and international compliance controls may impact how businesses collect, store and protect data to guarantee personal privacy.
The move to more in-depth data compliance laws is especially impactful for legal firms. These organizations often handle a wide variety of sensitive data for their clients including health records, police files, custody documents and financial documentation. Legal enterprises face increased risk from cyber criminals looking to exploit unprotected IT environments and exfiltrate or ransom critical data.
Privacy law compliance is also more comprehensive for legal firms since data collected, stored and used may fall under multiple regulatory frameworks simultaneously. Failure to uphold data protection due diligence, meanwhile, can lead to loss of client confidence, regulatory penalties, and reputation damage.
Despite the increasing complexity of the privacy and cyber security landscape for legal firms, there are steps companies can take to reduce total risk and achieve reliable regulatory alignment.
Solving for Cyber Security
Law firms face the dual challenge of rapidly growing digital databases paired with the requirement to regularly share specific data sources with other parties via approved e-discovery requests. This creates the need for data protection frameworks that provide security and compliance without impacting performance.
Five steps can help solve for cyber security and retain operational agility:
- Determine applicable standards: Privacy expectations are often governed by data-specific laws such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Safeguards Rule and the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Legal firms may also be impacted by international rules such as General Personal Data Protection Law (GDPR) and LGPD (Brazil’s General Data Protection Law) depending on data origins, storage locations and use cases. Compliance starts with applicability. Determining which laws apply and under which circumstances will help inform cyber security response and better assure firms focus on relevant regulatory expectations.
- Identify sensitive data: Once companies have broadly determined their regulatory requirements, they should identify stored data that must be protected for compliance. This means scanning entire databases for sensitive data that meets privacy criteria — such as medical records under HIPAA or credit card data under PCI DSS.
- Assess current risk: Next, legal firms must evaluate their current level of risk. Are there legacy tools or processes that create weak points in cyber security environments? Are there operational processes or access permissions in place that don’t adequately protect data at rest or in transit? By assessing current risk, firms are better equipped to develop targeted compliance frameworks.
- Consider third-party connections: Some of the most common compliance risks for legal firms comes from third parties. These may include software providers, open-source solutions, or even business partners with access to some portion of a legal database. Here, the rule of due diligence applies: As the first-party holder of data, in most cases, legal firms are responsible for the use and misuse of this data, even if third parties are the cause of non-compliance. It’s critical to define your acceptable level of third-party risk and establish a “duty of care” for cyber security response.
- Develop robust communication: Last but not least, it’s critical for firms to remember that cyber security doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Communication across departments and data silos is necessary. When incidents occur, teams should be able to quickly respond to identify the scope and minimize the impact of any security breach, in turn reducing the risk of regulatory non-compliance.
Streamlining Compliance Solutions
While it’s possible for legal firms to take on the task of achieving regulatory alignment, this process is time- and labor-intensive. HALOCK’s Privacy Solution makes it possible for enterprises to help ensure compliance without taking staff away from mission-critical tasks. By leveraging our expertise in data analysis, defense and incident response, firms can create consistent cyber security policies that deliver complete control and robust communication to meet evolving privacy standards.
Ready to enhance data compliance and reduce regulatory risk? Discover how HALOCK can help.