Sept. 16, 2020 – Solo attorney and law firm technology consultant Brent Hoeft says cybersecurity threats such as phishing scams and ransomeware have something in common: they look for human vulnerability to find their gateway of opportunity.
“Those are threats that are attacking the human first,” said Hoeft, who runs FirmLock Consulting LLC and is speaking on “Currents Trends in Cybersecurity” at State Bar of Wisconsin’s 2020 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference (WSSFC), a virtual event Oct. 28-30.
“The hackers look at humans as the weak link in the security chain.”
Clicking on a simple link in what looks like a legitimate email can unleash the digital infections, such as viruses that steal information or lock files until a ransom is paid. Hackers use a variety of sophisticated tactics to fool their targets, hoping busy professionals miss the subtle warning signs.
Professional service industries such as law firms are high-value targets, Hoeft says, not because the information is valuable to someone else.
“We have information that is valuable to us,” Hoeft noted. “We have client information that, by the rules of professional responsibility, we have an obligation to protect.”
Lawyers also have a responsibility to understand the risks and benefits of the technology they use. As cyber threats constantly evolve, Hoeft says lawyers – especially solo and small firms without information technology departments – should educate themselves annually about new threats and what they can do to mitigate risk.
“We need to be sure that we understand the threats that are out there in our use of technology,” said Hoeft, a frequent speaker at the WSSFC. For instance, the purpose of phishing scams through emails is usually to deliver ransomeware onto your system.
Ransomeware encrypts your files. You no longer have access to your files until you pay the ransom. That can create malpractice issues. “All different situations can arise, not only the fact that your stuff is locked up and you don’t have access to it.”
Once ransomware is unleashed, the law firm has a choice to make. Do you pay the ransom or rely on back-ups to recover your data? “Either way, it’s going to cost you time, money and you’re likely going to have to bring in professionals to assist you in doing so,” Hoeft said.
You also may lose the trust of your clients, in the worst case scenario, and get hit with malpractice claims, Hoeft notes. “None of those things are good for your livelihood.”
Education and Training is Key
In his session at WSSFC, Hoeft will go through the current cybersecurity trends, including a disturbing trend in 2020 of hackers exfiltrating data before encrypting it.
“That includes another set of issues that could arise and could be extremely detrimental,” said Hoeft, noting reported cases where hackers use the information to then extort money from individuals whose confidential information has been exposed.
“It’s a serious trend and it’s going up amidst COVID-19 and people working from home,” Hoeft said. But don’t despair: There are things lawyers can do to minimize these risks.
For instance, Hoeft will help lawyers detect suspicious emails. “If you stop the phishing emails, you stop the ransomeware,” he said. “We will discuss the importance of education and training, and being proactive” with policies, back-up plans, and other mitigation tips.
More on the 2020 Virtual WSSFC, Oct. 28-30
The 2020 Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference (WSSFC) is coming to your computer Oct. 28-30.
WSSFC will be a virtual conference – and will have all the events that make the conference a great one for Wisconsin’s solo and small-firm lawyers.
Attendees will be able to attend CLE and plenary sessions, browse and meet with exhibitors in the vendor hall, network with colleagues, have a private conversation with a speaker, and enter for a chance to win prizes – all while social distancing at work or home.
Plus, you’ll save on the expense of a hotel and travel and meals away from home.
Attend the Conference – At Home or Office
This conference “is my favorite conference and the most important conference each year for solo and small-firm attorneys,” says State Bar President Kathy Brost, who has been involved with organizing the conference for going on 10 years.
“While it is virtual this year, this conference is full of practical tips and techniques that will help you both practice law successfully in the age of COVID 19 and enjoy life.”
The schedule continues its tradition of four separate CLE tracks: Substantive Law, Practice Management, Technology, and Quality of Life/Ethics.
The conference will be the debut of the State Bar Professional Development Department’s new and extremely versatile virtual platform.
“We’re lifting the curtain on a new model of learning. We’ve been experimenting with this new technology,” says Theresa Elliott, Director of the State Bar of Wisconsin Professional Development Department. “This conference is a great opportunity to premiere it.”
At the Virtual Conference
While details will be announced at a later time, Elliott says that attendees can easily engage with speakers and colleagues throughout the conference.
You can browse the vendor hall and grab information from the vendors to put in your personal virtual "brief case." You will also be able to share business cards and other information with colleagues. The electronic brief case will be available after the conference.
But what about that great vendor swag characteristic of the Solo & Small Firm Conference? “No worries, our team is working on different and creative ways to make sure our attendees get the takeaway gifts they are accustomed to finding at the conference,” Elliott said.
For more information, visit the conference website on WisBar.org.