Australia's law firms 'prime targets for cyber attacks'

Sensitive information held by Australia’s law firms is a prime target for cyber attacks, and small law firms and barristers need great protection, according to the Law Council of Australia.

The council is today launching its new information campaign, Cyber Precedent, alongside the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan.

Law Council president Stuart Clark said a number of Australian firms have been attacked, and a key concern is the growing use of ransomware.

“That is cases where a law firm is infected or a computer is infected by a piece of ransomware, and then the lawyer or other business gets a message from the cybercriminal asking them to pay a ransom to unlock their data,” he said.

“We know that the large Australian law firms are doing a lot of work to protect themselves.

“Our real concerns are for the smaller and mid-sized firms, for barristers and sole practitioners.”

The breadth of sensitive data held by law firms and vulnerable to cyber attacks is significant.

“They hold information about clients, personal information,” Mr Clark said.

“Commercial lawyers hold information in relation to mergers, acquisition, takeovers, all of which would be very market-sensitive.

“Commercial lawyers working on big resource projects or international transactions hold information which we know is from time to time the subject of attempts by foreign state actors to access.”

The Federal Government has been forced to confront the realities of cybersecurity after a number of high profile attacks hit government assets in recent months, with a report calling on ministers and public servants to attend a “cyber bootcamp”.

The 2016 online census was shut down for 40 hours after repeated attacks blocked access to the website, which led to a multi-million-dollar confidential settlement with software provider IBM.

Last year, the Bureau of Meteorology was targeted by a foreign power, which managed to install malicious software to steal sensitive documents and compromise other government networks.

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