Cybercriminals steal £3m in three months from law firms
The solicitors watchdog has added to evidence that law firms are sitting ducks for cybercriminals with figures showing that more than £3 million was stolen from them in the first three months of the year – three times the amount for the same period last year.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority reported that legal practices in England and Wales registered a record number of thefts in the first quarter of this year. The authority received more than double the number of reports of cyber theft in that time compared with the same period last year.
About half of cases involve money being used for house moves, the authority said. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has also reported increased risks around residential conveyancing transactions, with an 85 per cent increase in theft of property deposits in 2016. Other targets for cybercriminals include inheritance money and law firms’ own money, said the SRA.
In a recent Law Society survey more than a quarter of law firms said they had been targeted in the last year by fraudsters, with most attempted scams taking place online.
Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, said: “Our Risk Outlook is designed to help firms manage the big issues in the marketplace. Challenges such as keeping information safe, cybercrime and compliance with anti-money-laundering regulations need constant attention.
“The threat of criminals using IT to steal client’s funds is an increasing problem. It is important that law firms develop a culture where cyber security is treated as a serious priority, and take sensible steps to warn their clients about the risks.”