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For Security-Conscious Law Firms, the Cloud Is a Better Option Than Ever Even top government agencies like the CIA and FBI are using the cloud, so it should be secure enough for your law firm to use it, too.

By Rick Cirigliano Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the last decade, companies in almost every industry have moved to the cloud, migrating at least part of their IT infrastructure. Law firms have been more hesitant than most. Many are reluctant to adopt the cloud fearing loss of control over sensitive data, potential business interruptions for data migration and, of course, the perception of higher operational costs (which isn't really the case). But their biggest fear remains security: They want the peace of mind of knowing the firm's data — and its clients' data — won't fall into the wrong hands.

The most security-conscious organizations such as the CIA, FBI, TSA and other top government agencies are using the cloud. If it's good enough for these institutions, it should be secure enough for law firms, their clients, case data and the software it manages. To help understand this better, let's look at a firm's concerns and share why the cloud is an even better security bet for them than ever.

Related: Digital Transformation: How to Make Your Way Through the Cloud

Firms have good reason to worry about data security

Law firms are often custodians of personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets, confidential information, and other sensitive data. Unauthorized access to these files could expose their clients to reputational damage, unending litigation or regulatory sanctions. Unfortunately, 25% of law firm participants in the 2021 American Bar Association's Legal Technology survey experienced a cyber-breach in 2021.

Previously, law firms invested in highly secure and protected storage facilities for their sensitive information. This resulted in requiring law firms to maintain on-premises servers for data retention and storage. Now, as firms transition to remote work, cloud-based systems provide secure access to the data required by their business and clients. These types of solutions provide flexibility and scale, while still protecting the firm's most valuable and sensitive data. But can they be trusted?

6 reasons firms can trust the security of today's cloud providers

To ensure maximum security for their users, cloud providers have implemented six advanced cloud security best practices:

1. Cloud governance

On-premises systems need robust management and governance frameworks to meet security objectives. Cloud governance, the framework that minimizes risks of security breaches on the cloud as originally defined by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), is the backbone of cloud security. With properly executed cloud governance, cloud customers are more secure and compliant with data and security regulations. HIPAA and GDPR are prime examples.

2. Military-grade standards

To ensure cloud security, cloud providers use military-grade security standards and protocols. This includes using best practices around controls used to access, use, transmit and store data. An example of this is the use of the data encryption standard AES256 used for data-in-transit and at rest. Many of the controls used are a direct callout of the NIST 800-53 security standard. The substantial financial and infrastructural investments required by these controls are absorbed by the cloud service provider and become amortized to the user as an OpEx expense. This provides a predictable and lower cost of operations to the firm for securing and protecting their sensitive information.

Related: The Pandemic Transitioned the Legal Industry Into the Digital Age

3. Access control

Cloud security includes user access restrictions. Customers manage access to their cloud servers by assigning certain privileges to specific registered individuals. This is commonly referred to as Role-based Access. This feature enables controlled access to sensitive information based on defined roles, rights and privileges associated with the access levels. For example, managers and lead litigators can assign access to the necessary information to be shared with only those who are working the case.

4. Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Beyond the usual username and password, cloud providers implement multi-factor authentication controls (such as a mobile phone alert or secure USB key) on users' log-in. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized cloud users accessing the cloud server. The use of MFA technologies is based on three basic concepts for authentication: 1. Who I am, 2. What I know and 3. What I have.

5. Monitoring, breach detection and reporting

Cloud providers also use sophisticated systems capable of identifying suspicious activities and behavioral patterns. They alert cloud customers and make proactive recommendations, such as changing passwords, to users. A Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM) system is due to track, detect, block and report on any breach attempted by a third party threat. These data are used to support the security standard for discovery, validation and reporting of such attempts by an external threat.

6. Anti-malware protection

Anti-malware is a prominent, must-have feature of cloud servers. Anti-malware software continuously scans the servers and file systems for threats and notifies cloud users in real-time. These security tools are part of the integrated Layered Defense System supported by the SIEM system.

Related: 5 Benefits of Cloud Technology for New Startups

Law firms can rest easy about migrating to the cloud

Cloud service providers do the heavy lifting, even for national security organizations, when it comes to reducing the cost and technical requirements for data and application security. However, for firms that want even more assurance, additional layers of security can be added to the cloud services.

These extra layers of information assurance require selecting a cloud partner that complies with high-security standards, privacy regulations and compliance requirements for highly regulated sectors such as the legal industry. These higher security controls also apply to data portability and flexibility options for safe data migration if needed.

As with any company concerned with data breaches, by relying on the stringent well-practiced security standards of today's cloud providers, law firms can focus more on building their practices with the peace of mind their data and clients are secure.

Rick Cirigliano

CPO of Assembly Software

Rick Cirigliano leads Assembly’s product strategy, roadmap and release. He uses best practices and metrics derived from the discipline of systems, cloud and product engineering while staying focused on delivering end-to-end cloud services that optimize the business experience of its customers.

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