Why do law firm websites need an SSL certificate?

By: Megan Thornton

Date: 24 June 2019

Company lawyers meet to discuss a data breach We all cheer lawyers when they fight cybercriminals in the courtroom. But cybercriminals can strike back. Their surgical strikes at your website can be nothing short of a catastrophe. It can lead to humongous amounts of client data being compromised - harming your company reputation and in turn causing irreversible damage to your clients.

Protect your client's data

Your law firm may be handling critical client-related documents through your website. Some of the critical information could be details of client's:

  • demographics
  • case strategies
  • intellectual property
  • court proceedings
  • payment information and invoices sent

All of this is sensitive information. If cybercriminals did hack into your website, they could gain access to critical information. At the same time, confidentiality is the hallmark of the profession. Your website needs to be protected from external attacks. With cybercrime on the rise, no business can assume themselves to be safe against hacking. With nearly three cyber-attacks every minute, your website is under serious risk.

Your data protection obligations

The legal profession is governed by various guidelines, statutory regulations and ethical responsibilities that require them to safeguard the data of their clients. For example, law firms that operate in both the UK and US and who store healthcare related data would be subject to the HIPAA Data Security Regulations and HIPAA Privacy Regulations in the US and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.

The initial response from law firms

While the number of cyber attacks against industry behemoths has made the CIOs shore up their cybersecurity measures, the same cannot be said about lawyers. The legal profession has historically found it challenging to adopt technology. According to the American Bar Association, one in four law firms has been on the receiving end of a data breach.

Google is an advocate of safe websites

Web browsers like Google advocate secure websites. Google has been requesting the internet to move towards reliable websites and adopt HTTPS encryption (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) which secures communication between the browser and the web server.

After an algorithm update in 2018, Google now informs website visitors whether a website is safe or not. With the release of Chrome 68, Google Chrome has been marking websites with HTTP as not secure. Even Mozilla Firefox gives a warning message of “Not Secure” on the URL bar.

While technology may not be at your fingertips, you need to stay updated with the latest website trends to prevent hacking. One of the simplest ways is to implement an SSL certificate on your website.

What is an SSL certificate?

Secure Socket Layer (or, SSL) is a security protocol that encrypts information sent between a website and a user. SSL is an accepted best practice and has been the security standard for websites which have logins or handle credit card transactions. There is another reason to use this on your website - Google wants you to have a secure website.

How do you know whether a website is secure or not? There is a “Secure” notification in the address bar. If you click on the padlock and security label, it provides you reassurance that the website is secure and has a valid certificate.

Understand the different types of SSL certificates

There are several different forms of SSL certificate:

  • Domain Validated (DV): This form of SSL has basic encryption and has a primary level of assurance. The validation process is also quite straightforward. Website owners need to prove ownership via email or phone.
  • Organization Validated (OV): This ensures that the user's sensitive information is encrypted. It has high assurance and validates a business' credibility. Your data, like the company name, domain name, etc, are reviewed against government records.
  • Wildcard SSL: Wildcard SSL certificates are useful when you need to secure a base domain and unlimited subdomains.
  • Extended Validation (EV): It is the highest level of SSL. You need to adhere to the strictest of standards. When this type of SSL certificate is installed, it displays the padlock, HTTPS, name of the business and the country in the browser address bar. The website owner must go through a standardised identity verification process and confirm ownership of the exclusive rights to that domain. It involves third party database for business authenticity.

Why do websites need an SSL certificate?

  • An SSL certificate encrypts all communication being undertaken between the end user and the server. Encryption translates the underlying data into a 'secret code' that can be unlocked only by authorised personnel. This way, you are protected from unexpected snoopers and hackers.
  • Your identity is confirmed. In the process of procuring an SSL Certificate, the Certificate Authority will require the details of your organisation. Based on this information, the Certificate Authority goes ahead and provides the SSL Certificate to that entity. It ensures your website is trusted once you have the SSL Certificate.
  • You satisfy PCI/ DSS requirements. Do you take payments online? If yes, you need to know about the compliance of your website with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI/ DSS). It is an accepted set of policies and procedures to optimise the security of credit, debit and cash card transactions. It protects cardholders against misuse of their personal information. To comply with PCI/ DSS requirements, you need to have an SSL Certificate. It is a primary requirement.
  • You SEO ranking will suffer without an SSL certificate. Search engines need to ensure a safe internet for website users. Google informs website visitors whether your website is secure or not and your site will almost certainly be adversely affected in search rankings if your website does not have an SSL Certificate.

What do you need to do?

Now you understand why an SSL certificate is important, you should implement the right security for your business. If ensuring data security and protecting your firm's reputation is essential to your firm, then an Extended Validation SSL certificate is the ideal choice. EV SSL certification requires a thorough validation process which includes domain validation, business validation and third-party business database verification. Only when all is verified will the certification authority issue a certificate.

Hence, EV SSL certificates can be a bit pricy but if you search the internet you will find many resellers who provide SSL certificates such as SSL2BUY, an established SSL industry provider. An EV SSL from SSL2BUY will secure not only your transmitting data but also establish your company identity to customers or visitors.

Copyright 2019. Featured post made possible by Megan Thornton

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