So you succeeded in creating and launching your law firm website —it’s polished, professional, and providing your firm with that online presence we all understand these days is of such importance…and is growing more and more crucial. What many attorneys don’t understand, however, can be truly detrimental to their website and in the long run detrimental to their legal practice–not just financially but also to the attorney’s professional reputation.
Think of the website you so carefully built as a home or perhaps more appropriately for attorneys, your office space. Your clients and welcomed visitors should feel safe as they browse helpful information from your site and learn more about you and your legal services. They expect a level of professional responsibility while visiting your website and surely a secure environment while communicating with you through your site. Undoubtedly there is a level of trust clients expect from their attorney and it’s not unreasonable to expect that trust to extend to the attorney’s website. Given this fact, would you ever consider just walking away and leaving the front door to your office wide open exposing important folders and files to anyone who wanders by? In effect that’s what happens if you don’t secure and maintain your website after it’s been constructed. Unfortunately, many attorneys do just this, unknowingly putting their potential clients and their own professional reputation at risk.
What happens when attorneys don’t secure and maintain their website?
The first thing that’s essential to understand is that no website is safe from being hacked. This is because most attacks are made by automated bots that are malicious and do not discriminate—sometimes using your website to simply cull email addresses from your unsuspecting clients for spamming purposes, sometimes manipulating the websites’ content to promote unsavory products and adult services, and sometimes, more seriously, using your vulnerable website to infiltrate and infect your visitors’ computers. In other words, these bots don’t care a thing about you, your clients, or your firm, only that you have a presence and resources on the web. They are automated attackers. Crazy to contemplate, but half of all website visitors can be bots, and of those bots about a quarter are there for malicious intent. So it’s never a question of will my website ever be attacked, but always a question of when will my website and visitors be affected by an attack?
Malware, short for malicious software, is a real threat to your website—viruses, spyware, worms and Trojan horses are a few unappealing examples. The intent of malware is to steal, hijack, and even monitor your website’s activity… or worse, hijack your computer or your website visitors’ computers. Viruses on a website spread as they do in our bodies…but what gets infected are your files and programs. Worms are capable of self-replication, Trojan horses are just what you’d think—they are designed to appear like legitimate programs but are actually out to cause damage, and spyware collects data unbeknownst to you and your trusting clients. Some of this malware can even sneak in through the “backdoor”, never mind leaving your front door open.
There are ways to protect your website from bots and malware, just like locking your doors, or keeping your home alarm turned on. Just as a burglar can break into a house in minutes, so can a hacker or bot invade your website. Let’s discuss what can be done to protect your website and ultimately your law practice and professional reputation. In a word…maintenance.
Regular maintenance for your website:
- Hosting Server: host your website on a reputable and updated server; a reputable service provider ensures your website hosting platform is up to date and secure (not to be confused with securing your actual website). There are many reputable hosting providers to choose from like—GoDaddy, Network Solutions, and Host Gator.
- Domain Management: ensure your domain is safe and hosted with a reputable company. Preferably your domain will be hosted with the same company that hosts your website but that may not be the case for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, be sure you know how to access your domain account and renew your domain.
- Regular Backups: backup your website minimally on a weekly basis and make sure the backups are safely stored and easily retrieved should you ever have to restore from a previous version. Sometimes your website may become so corrupt and beyond repair that your only option is to restore a backup copy.
- Website Software: regularly update website software and plugins to the latest version; these updates will keep your site current with our ever-changing technology and often address known vulnerabilities susceptible to hackers.
- SSL Certificates; or Secure Sockets Layer: —this provides safe and encrypted communication between your firm’s website and the Internet browser. The SSL certificates are installed to protect your clients and let them know your site can be trusted–especially if they share sensitive information. In addition, these certificates help with Google marketing which can in turn help grow your legal business.
- Malware scans: run regular scans for malware on your website. Identifying and removing malware from your website quickly will save you and your visitors a lot of trouble.
These guidelines for maintenance are a small chore compared to the work involved if your website has been hacked or infects the computers of your visitors. Rebuilding and protecting your website can certainly be done with proper assistance; 90% of malware can be detected and removed. But it goes without saying that rebuilding your firm’s reputation with your clients and potential clients would not be quite as simple. With ongoing maintenance you can ensure your website is protected, and achieve peace of mind that both your firm and your clients are being cared for simultaneously. Above all, remember a static website is a vulnerable website that can harm your business and the clients who have placed their trust in you.