In the modern age of legal technology, cybersecurity and ediscovery are unquestionably intertwined. As cybersecurity threats escalate and bad actors find success with new methods and sophisticated tools to gain access to the ever-growing volumes and types of confidential electronic data, legal departments and law firms are getting hit daily by cybersecurity incidents and breaches, with many not even knowing when the incidents have occurred. The legal world, and ediscovery in particular, are enticing targets, as matters typically involve huge volumes of sensitive information and data often resides across multiple providers who play a part in the collection, processing, hosting, review, and production of data.
From a security perspective, corporations are constantly dealing with the data their employees create, and thus they typically maintain a solid system focused on maintenance, protection, back-ups, and defense of that data. This internal process is implemented using governance, risk, and compliance standards that run pretty well from the inside. But security gaps arise when that data becomes subject to a legal hold for litigation and that once well-protected data gets sent out to law firms and/or outside providers.
So how can organizations feel confident they’re effectively evaluating the cybersecurity stability of their law firms, third parties, cloud providers, etc.? Do your providers have relevant security controls in place to ensure your data resides in a reasonably similar method as you would store the data yourself? Here are the top three tips for structuring an effective and comprehensive ediscovery security evaluation and creating a strong relationship with your providers:
- Leverage industry-standard certifications – At the security evaluation stage, it’s critical to get to know your providers well and develop trusted relationships. The best way to first evaluate their overall security is to leverage industry-standard certifications. If the provider has access to and holds your data, they should be able to demonstrate that they’re ISO 27001 and SOC 2 certified as those have become the standard security environment protocol in the ediscovery industry. Industry-standard questionnaires such as the SIG can also be used to validate a provider’s security structure. If a provider already has a completed and updated the SIG, this can be immediately accepted without needing to recreate the wheel and require another type of basic security assessment. This should serve as your baseline and will aid your risk assessments overall.
It’s also important for organizations to audit, on an annual basis, those fundamental controls your providers have in place as the industry continues to focus deeper into all areas of each certification. The days of checking the standard audits off your list and being considered compliant are quickly becoming a thing of the past. With the increase in breaches, we are also seeing deeper and more thorough inspections beyond your own company and a shift to the provider space. So make sure you’re getting involved and staying involved with your suppliers. They are critical elements of your success and you need to treat them as such.
- Devise security questions that go beyond the basics – In addition to the standard certifications and questions the SIG and other general security audits give you, it’s also important to go beyond the basics and devise questions for your ediscovery vendors that will uncover any existing gaps. Outside of questionnaires that simply ask for “yes” or “no” answers, consider doing regular audits with specific and focused questions. For example, ask your providers to discuss what different technologies they’re considering in the next 12 months or what new security certifications they’re planning to pursue. This ensures that you’re acting in a forward-thinking manner and developing better insight into your partners’ future development. To combat the growing cybersecurity threat, organizations need to remain one step ahead and devise questions to find forward-thinking suppliers rather than ones that just check the boxes.
It’s also crucial to apply focused energy to the evolution of the organization and its suppliers. Take the time to have open dialogue and explore different solutions with the goal of prevention of threats. In today’s market, most organizations are still operating in a reactive state, meaning solutions are in place to detect malicious behaviors already inside your boundaries. Remember the clock always wins and prevention is the preferred way to stay ahead of attacks. Ask your technology providers the tough questions around ransomware and look to see what kinds of SLAs or guarantees they can offer. This is a great place to start to separate products and services by the maturity of their offering.
- Consider a managed services environment – In the most ideal of situations, a corporation would know in advance their list of trusted providers for investigations and litigation, and they would have a regular flow of communication with those providers that includes updates on standard certifications as well as regular audits including questions that go beyond the basics. Many times, this secure workflow can be best served by establishing a dedicated managed services environment that can support a more seamless and secure flow of data when a matter transitions to ediscovery.
Taking advantage of the dedicated services that come with a managed services environment, the corporation gets a technically skilled and more diverse talent base to draw from – one that becomes an extension of your team and treats the security of your data as if it were their own. Within that environment, law firms and document review lawyers all log into the same database and a partnership develops between all parties, creating a more secure environment. In addition, you’ll see cost savings by not having to invest in your own security infrastructure and separate cybersecurity personnel.
Overall, vendor security is an integral part of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy. It’s imperative for corporations who transfer sensitive data out of their control to third parties to make sure that each and every supplier who handles the data meets all of the organization’s internal security requirements, as well as established regulatory requirements. This can be achieved by choosing providers who maintain industry-standard security certifications, performing regular audits outside of standard security questionnaires, and at the most secure level, by creating a managed services environment with your suppliers. If you have any questions or want to share your most effective cybersecurity advice and tips, please feel free to reach out to me at PHiteshew@lighthouseglobal.com.