NI: Cyber criminals see law firms as lucrative targets

Michael King
Michael King

Cyber criminals are increasingly seeing law firms as lucrative targets, the head of Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s cyber risk unit has warned.

Michael King spoke to Irish Legal News in the wake of a wave of global cyber attacks which made headlines over the weekend.

Earlier this year, Cleaver Fulton Rankin became the first Belfast law firm to set up a specialist cyber risk unit.

Explaining why, Mr King told ILN: “There were two reasons. Firstly, we’ve seen an increase in our clients being affected by some kind of cyber issue - not just attacks, but also disputes over the Internet.

“We’re also seeing that solicitors are perceived as the weak link.

“For example, we act for banks who have major security in place - but when they give information to a third party, such as an accountant or a solicitor, sometimes the security’s not as good.

“The law firm, in many instances, is perceived as the weak underbelly. Solicitors have a lot of information and we hold a lot of client money, and cyber criminals are now seeing that as quite a lucrative source.”

CFR’s cyber risk unit works both “internally and externally”, Mr King explained, advising clients as well as providing “extensive training” for Cleaver Fulton Rankin staff and ensuring the security of its IT systems.

Mr King believes other law firms will follow in Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s footsteps as cyber attacks like those on the weekend - as well as those on TalkTalk and Sony - bring the issue to wider attention.

He said: “Businesses, quite rationally, have only a certain budget - and cyber issues have often been put at the bottom of the agenda.

“I think with these sort of attacks, and evidence that other people have been hit, that you’ll see businesses take a more pro-active approach now, and the same with governments.”

Mr King welcomed government investment in cyber initiatives, and praised Belfast’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) as being at “the vanguard of cyber risk and protection”.

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