Secure File Transfer for Legal: Protecting Clients’ Sensitive Content
Secure file transfer is a critical part of the legal profession, as lawyers and their clients increasingly rely on the transmission of sensitive content over the internet. With the risk of data breaches and other unauthorized access to confidential information, a secure file transfer solution is essential to not just protect the privacy of legal documents but, more broadly, attorney-client privilege.
Why Is Secure File Transfer Important for the Legal Industry?
Lawyers, legal professionals, and law firms are entrusted with a wide range of confidential information. This includes trade secrets, mergers and acquisitions contracts, depositions, financial projections, salary and bonus details, and other confidential information. Given the sensitivity of this information, the need for secure file transfer is paramount.
Secure file transfer solutions ensure that confidential information is protected from unauthorized access. With the proper secure file transfer system in place, lawyers and law firms can ensure that confidential information is properly safeguarded from unauthorized access.
What Are the Potential Risks of Unsecured File Transfer?
Without a secure file transfer solution, confidential legal content can be intercepted by hackers. This sensitive information can in turn be held for ransom, sold on the dark web, or released publicly. Any of these outcomes can cost a law firm millions of dollars in penalties, fines, and lost revenue. A data breach can also create a public relations nightmare for the law firm and the impacted client.
Types of Secure File Transfer
Secure file transfer capabilities are necessary for law firms to securely share files. Different types of secure file transfer protocols provide different levels of security, depending on the level of protection needed. The five most common secure file transfer protocols include Managed File Transfer (MFT), Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS), Cloud-based File Transfer Services, and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). Let’s take a closer look at each.
Managed File Transfer (MFT)
Managed File Transfer is an advanced secure file transfer protocol. It is designed to protect large files or bulk files from unauthorized access and manipulation. MFT provides an end-to-end secure connection between systems, between users, or between systems and users, as well as full visibility and control over the files exchanged . Furthermore, MFT offers a variety of features such as audit logs, encryption, digital signatures, and more. This makes it ideal for law firms that need to transfer sensitive content securely.
Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)
Secure File Transfer Protocol is based on Secure Shell (SSH). It encrypts data while transferring files between two computers, making it difficult for attackers to access and manipulate. Furthermore, SFTP has its own user authentication system, making it more secure than File Transfer Protocol (FTP). While SFTP is reliable, it does require an SSH server to be installed on the computers involved in the transfer.
File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS)
File Transfer Protocol Secure is an extension of the FTP protocol that adds support for secure file transfers. It uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt content while being transferred. It is a reliable secure file transfer method and can be used in most environments.
Cloud-based File Transfer Services
Cloud-based File Transfer Services offer a secure way to share files across multiple devices. They provide secure access to files stored online and allow users to transfer files without having to install any software. These services also have built-in encryption and authentication, making them a secure file transfer option for law firms, lawyers, and their clients.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is an encrypted version of HTTP that provides secure communication over the internet. It is used for websites and other web-based applications, including file transfer services. HTTPS encrypts data during the transfer process, making it difficult for attackers to access and manipulate it. HTTPS is a reliable Secure File Transfer Protocol and is often used by law firms.
Legal Secure File Transfer Best Practices
Secure file transfer is essential for law firms to remain compliant with industry regulations. Law firms must adopt industry best practices for secure file transfer to ensure client data remains confidential. Let’s take a closer look at the secure file transfer basics:
Passwords are an essential layer of security and content protection that must be implemented when using a secure file transfer solution. Law firms should enforce secure passwords for all users and require a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols. Lastly, passwords should be changed periodically.
Encryption is a basic but critical form of file security that scrambles content to make it unreadable in the event of unauthorized access. When transferring files, law firms should use encryption to ensure confidentiality and avoid a data breach.
Law firms should utilize access control to restrict access to confidential content. Not every partner, associate, or paralegal in the firm should have access to every file. Instead, access to client files should be limited to the staff working with the client. Access control ensures only authorized users have access to sensitive documents.
Secure File Transfer for Compliance
Law firms must be aware of their clients’ compliance regulations and standards when transferring confidential data. Different industries have different regulations, and noncompliance can be costly.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare organizations and their business associates, which can include their legal counsel, to implement security measures when sharing protected health information (PHI). HIPAA requires covered entities and supporting organizations to implement encryption and access control measures to protect patient privacy.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a set of strict data privacy regulations that organizations must follow when transferring data containing the personally identifiable information (PII) of European Union citizens and residents. Information processors and handlers, including law firms, must obtain consent from EU citizens and residents prior to collecting their data, as well as implement access control and encryption measures to protect their PII.
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards that e-commerce and hospitality businesses—and their legal counsel—must follow when transferring payment information. PCI DSS requires organizations to implement strong authentication, access control, and encryption measures to protect individuals’ PII, including their credit card information.
File Transfer Policy Development
Law firms should develop a secure file transfer policy to ensure data is shared securely. The policy should define file transfer procedures, identify authorized users, and set up, enforce, monitor, and revisit access controls.
Defining File Transfer Procedures
Law firms should define procedures for transferring files, including mandatory authentication and encryption measures. Procedures should address the various types of files being transferred, as well as when and how the file transfer should occur.
Identifying Authorized Users
Law firms should develop a list of authorized users who have access to confidential client content. The list should include the employee’s name, job title, access permissions, and contact information.
Setting Up Access Controls
Law firms should implement access control measures to restrict access to confidential data. Access control can be implemented through encryption, passwords, and other forms of authentication.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Secure File Transfer Solution
In order to ensure that sensitive data is sent securely over the internet, law firms must carefully choose a secure file transfer solution. There are several important factors to consider when selecting a secure file transfer solution. We listed some best practices, like encryption and access control, earlier. Let’s take a look at some additional considerations:
A secure file transfer solution’s security features and capabilities should be the most important factor to consider for law firms selecting a secure file transfer solution. It is essential for law firms to look for a secure file transfer solution that offers advanced security features, such as encrypted file transfers, secure authentication, and secure data storage. And, once again, it is important to make sure that a law firm’s chosen secure file transfer solution meets its clients’ security and compliance requirements.
Ease of Use
A secure file transfer solution should also be easy to use so that non-technical users can easily transfer files securely. Additionally, the secure file transfer solution should have clear and simple instructions for users, as well as user-friendly graphical user interfaces to make it easy to access, use, manage, and update.
Compatibility With Existing Systems
It is important that the law firm’s chosen secure file transfer solution be compatible with its existing systems, such as email, customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise content management (ECM), and other third-party applications. This ensures that content can securely and easily be transferred between existing systems and the secure file transfer solution.
When choosing a secure file transfer solution, it is also important to consider how easy it is to adopt the system and how quickly users can become familiar with its features and functions. The secure file transfer solution should be designed with user experience in mind, and should be easy to use and understand. Additionally, the system should provide users with extensive training materials, tutorials, and support to ensure that users can quickly become comfortable with the system.
Customer Support and Training
When choosing a secure file transfer solution, it is important for law firms to consider the type of customer support and training that is available. The chosen secure file transfer solution should offer law firms and their staff access to knowledgeable and experienced customer support, who can answer any questions or provide assistance when needed. Additionally, the secure file transfer solution should provide customers with extensive training materials, tutorials, and support to ensure that users can quickly become comfortable with the system.
Kiteworks and Secure File Transfer for Legal
Law firms need to be especially vigilant when it comes to content communications security and protecting their clients’ privacy. The Kiteworks private content network (PCN) provides law firms and corporate legal departments a compliant and secure file transfer solution, with the following capabilities and features:
- End-to-end email encryption
- Integration with your existing security infrastructure
- Hardened virtual appliance
- Compliance with data privacy regulations and standards like GDPR, FedRAMP, IRAP, CMMC, ISO 27001, NIS 2, ITAR, HIPAA, and more
- Secure deployment options
- Visibility into all content entering and leaving the firm
To learn more about secure file transfer for legal, schedule a custom demo of Kiteworks today.
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