The danger of ransomware as a threat to your law practice has increased exponentially the past few weeks. You’ve heard about viruses and malware for years and, for those who have never had a data loss, it is easy to become complacent.

Recent events demonstrate how weaponized ransomware has created such a dangerous threat that responsible and cautious lawyers must act to protect both their business operations and their clients.

The WannaCry outbreak subsided when a researcher somewhat accidentally created a so-called kill switch. The Petya aka GoldenEye outbreak this week looked like ransomware, but researchers now believe it was not actually ransomware. Rather it seems to be designed to do as much damage as possible, particularly to the Ukrainian government. An email address used to facilitate ransom payments was quickly shut down by authorities, so any files encrypted or wiped by this will be lost forever in any event. Prominent global law firm DLA Piper has been offline since Tuesday. See Fortune, Law Firm DLA Piper Reels Under Cyber Attack, Fate of Files Unclear. Imagine your clients reading that headline while your phones are going unanswered.

Take precautions now.

  1. Warn and train your staff. Today’s message is “Think before you click.” The most common attack vector for malware is someone clicking on an email attachment or a link in an email. This is important communication to staff. If you must visit an unfamiliar website, it may make sense to use your smart phone for that purpose rather than your office computers.WannaCry Attack
  2. Update the operating system on all Windows machines (Microsoft security update website.)
  3. Make certain your anti-virus and firewall are updated and your subscription payment is current.
  4. Create an image Backup of every computer and store it on media unconnected to the machine. (Flash drive or DVD) Label appropriately. Repeat monthly. See How to Create a System Image Backup in Windows 7, 8, or 10 from How-to Geek.
  5. Back up your data either continuously or daily. An online backup service is recommended. If you back up to another hard drive, it must be disconnected from your system when not in use or the backup could be encrypted or wiped too.
  6. Do not fear the cloud. Some lawyers have been reluctant to use the cloud for some data, but the evidence is pretty clear at this point that the cloud solutions have survived these threats even while their subscriber’s local networks were being encrypted. They have experts and engineers working full-time on this. You don’t.

See also my column from the May 2017 Oklahoma Bar Journal, Cyber-Attacks: Is It Really Not If You Will Be Attacked, But When?  Personally I am now very concerned about what comes next. You should be, too. Take action.