How Legal SOCs Are Challenged By The Well-Meaning Government “Cyber Shields” Strategy (And What To Do About It)

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Recently, the Australian government announced a plan to create six “cyber shields” for layered protection in Australia against the ever-escalating cyber threat that government, organisations and individuals alike face. It is a well-meaning and earnest response from the government, but it also poses several significant logistical challenges for any legal firm that handles sensitive data and requires a SOC (Security Operations Centre).

As it stands, one in two legal firms already lack confidence in their ability to detect and respond to threats. This is a statistic that does need addressing, however, while the six cyber shields will, in theory, provide some assistance, it will also make it even more difficult to run an effective SOC unit. Based on that, we actually see that statistic sliding further backwards.

How The Cyber Shields Concept Will Impact A Law Firms’ SOC

  1. Increased Regulatory Complexity: The introduction of these cyber shields is likely to come with a slew of new regulations and compliance requirements. For those firms that were already struggling to stay “up to date” with their compliance requirements, these additional measures are likely to be expensive and even cause confusion as the SOC works to catch up.
  2. Resource And Skills Allocation: It is likely that firms will need to invest more deeply in their SOCs to adjust to meet the new cybersecurity obligations. This will be complicated by… Australia facing a shortfall of nearly 17,000 cyber security professionals by 2026. The government’s emphasis on developing a pipeline of cybersecurity skills could lead to increased competition for cybersecurity talent. In addition, the government itself is going to hoover up cybersecurity talent for its own internal projects in delivering its shields, meaning that fewer will be available for the private sector.
  3. Threat Intelligence Sharing: While the idea of real-time threat sharing between government and businesses is appealing, it can also raise concerns about the privacy and security of sensitive data. SOC teams are going to be sorely pressed to resolve the conflict between the ideology of data sharing and the need to control and protect the data should it become available to outside partners.
  4. Impact on Innovation: Finally, the stricter cybersecurity regulations can stifle innovation and create conflict between the interests of the firm and the obligations of the security team. Much of this tension will play out through the SOC, which is ground zero for all cyber security matters, and could result it being seen as an inhibitor within the organisation.

None of this is to suggest that the cyber shields concept is a poor one. Developed in consultation with the IT industry, the Australian government is moving rapidly to address flaws in our national cyber response that have been left unattended for too long. 

However, after years of being pushed through rapid transformation in IT, for many law firms, the ongoing scramble is starting to impact. As law firms work to rise to the challenge presented by the government’s new and deep enthusiasm for cyber security, the question is how they will be able to resource and support the critical SOC that will allow them to keep up with the national effort.

The answer is that more than ever, law firms will need to find security partners that do have the resources to provide a full and robust SOC on a managed services basis. This will allow them to get “up to speed” and participate in the six shields strategy far more efficiently and rapidly than trying to scale up an internal SOC – especially for those mid-tier firms that might not have the resources to quickly hire a large team of IT security experts.

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