What are some examples of cyber security measures for professional services?

Data encryption, access controls, employee screenings, least privilege access... the list of cyber security measures goes on. But as a professional services company, do you really need to implement all of them? 

Because time and resources are limited, you can’t focus on everything. Whether you're an IT manager in telecommunications, legal services or a business consultancy, build your cyber security strategy on what matters most for professional services: the trust of your clients. 

In this article, Emrick Etheridge, Information Security Expert and Product Content Owner at DataGuard, shares his insights on the cyber security measures that really matter for professional services businesses, and how you can best protect your company's confidentiality from cyber threats. 

In this article, we’ll cover:


Why confidentiality is often the most important goal in the professional services industry 

Trust is the currency of professional services. Clients entrust you with sensitive data and confidential information, from financial records and legal documents to strategic business plans and personal details. A breach of this confidentiality can lead to legal consequences and loss of trust. 

Imagine a law firm that experiences a data breach. Sensitive client communications, contract details, and litigation strategies could be exposed, destroying the trust that is the foundation of the attorney-client relationship. The reputational damage could be enough to put the firm out of business, not to mention the potential legal consequences and regulatory fines. 

An accounting firm that fails to protect its clients' financial data faces a similar fate. Clients who perceive a lack of confidentiality will take their business elsewhere—and with that trust, your revenue. 

What are the biggest threats to professional services companies? 

As we can see, trust is the lifeblood of the professional services industry. Clients expect their data to be kept confidential. So, what are the biggest cyber threats facing professional services companies? 

Phishing and social engineering attacks 

Phishing attacks attempt to trick users into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers, by pretending to be a trusted source. A successful phishing attack can lead to data breaches, reputational damage, and disruptive malware infections that can cripple a business. 

Professional services are a prime target for phishing attacks. For example, in 2020, hackers compromised 130 Twitter accounts in a Bitcoin scam that targeted high-profile users, including Joe Biden, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos. The scam netted over $100,000 and highlighted the vulnerability of social media platforms to cyber manipulation. 


Insider threats 

According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 2022, insider threats are responsible for 18% of all security incidents. Whether it's through carelessness or malicious intent, the disclosure of confidential information by insiders is another vulnerability for professional services companies. 

Rejected promotions, salary increases, or layoffs... The business world is full of tough decisions. Sometimes, this can lead to employees feeling resentful, and wanting to cause harm intentionally.  

You might also be interested: Cyber security measures for tech companies.

The professional services industry aims to keep client information confidential. However, this goal makes these businesses especially at risk for threats like extortion and competitors using stolen data to disrupt their operations. 

Which cyber security measures are the most important for professional services companies? 

Professional services companies vary widely in size, focus, and type of service delivery, so their cyber security needs are just as unique. Now the question arises: With limited resources, what cyber security measures can you use to protect your professional services company optimally? 

1. Patching and updating your systems 

Patching is your first line of defence. The law firm Proskauer Rose accidentally exposed over 184,000 documents, contracts, and confidentiality agreements because they were stored unsecured on a third-party server.  

Keeping software and systems up to date and patched is a simple way to avoid vulnerabilities. Vulnerability scans, pen tests, and vendor patching are the first and most basic cyber security measures to prevent such data breaches. 

Are you using outdated systems? For example, if your organisation uses old Android mobile phones or old Windows laptops, you should check the devices and their manufacturers:  

A: Are there updates that can be performed on this device? 

 B: Does the device still receive security updates? If the laptop no longer receives updates because it has fallen out of the manufacturer's patching cycle, it is vulnerable. 

Application and penetration testing from an attacker's perspective also allows organisations to identify and patch vulnerabilities before they develop into security breaches. No technology will ever be completely secure, and ongoing application testing helps to identify new vulnerabilities.

2. Implement robust access controls 

More security, less stress: "Least Privilege Access" is the keyword for secure access controls. Do all your employees always need access to all customer data? You can be sure the answer is no. 

Therefore, access to sensitive data should only be granted to people who really need it for their work. All other people are denied access to such data. This prevents unauthorised access to sensitive data. 

Top 3 cyber security measures for access control: 

  • Multi-factor authentication: Add an extra layer of security and have users verify their identity beyond a password. 
  • Role-based access control: Give each employee only the permissions they really need. 
  • Secure file permissions and logging: Track who can access which data. 

Important: Implement changes carefully to avoid disrupting processes: . People don't like change. If employees feel like they have to jump through 60 hoops to get access to files, they will procrastinate, and processes will slow down. 

First, implement access controls in the areas with the highest risk. Inform your staff and make sure that the data protection officer, CFO, IT managers and CEO have access to all important systems and remain able to act so that business operations are not disrupted. 

3. Encrypt your data 

For professional services companies handling sensitive data, encryption is a fundamental part of a strong cybersecurity strategy. 

Encrypt everything sensitive, in all stages 

First, ensure that all your data is encrypted, both at rest and in transit. This means protecting customer files, financial records, and any other confidential information, regardless of whether it's stored on your servers or shared with your team. By keeping your data encrypted and unreadable to unauthorised parties, you can significantly reduce the risk of a damaging data breach. 

Test, test, test 

However, encryption is only as effective as its implementation. Therefore, regularly test your encryption methods to ensure that they remain stable and reliable - and that you can also decrypt your data. Try sending encrypted data back and forth between your systems and see if you can intercept and decrypt it. 

4. Create an incident response plan 

Let's be honest: even the best cyber security measures don't offer absolute security. For professional services companies, the availability of systems and data is existential, alongside confidentiality. 

What happens if a ransomware attack cripples your business or a data breach compromises sensitive data? 

You might also be interested: Focus on what could kill you first

Speed is crucial: In the event of an incident, you should be able to restore your availability as quickly as possible. Because without access to the data and systems, your company can’t provide its services. 

Be proactive. Develop an incident response plan and document roles, responsibilities, processes, communication protocols, and public relations strategies. 

But don't just let the emergency plan gather dust on the shelf. Make sure it is regularly tested through simulations (often called tabletop exercises) so that your team is well-prepared when the real thing happens. 

5. Educate your employees 

Knowledge is power - especially in IT security. Although the importance of employee training is undisputed, it is often neglected. Yet the human factor is always there. 

Data thieves don't just lurk online. Human error can also endanger the confidentiality of customer information. In the dynamic everyday life of professional services companies, there are underestimated dangers. 

Employees come and go, cyber threats evolve, and knowledge fades. This is how sensitive data can quickly fall into the wrong hands. The solution - regular training and reminders. 


  • Regular training: Raise awareness among your employees about the importance of information security. 
  • Simulated attacks: Phishing tests reveal vulnerabilities and raise awareness. 
  • Visual reminders: Posters and infographics on topics such as password security and data destruction keep the topic top of mind. 
  • Checklists: Posting security rules and checklists in the workplace ensures routine handling of cyber security. 

One training course completed once a year and then everything is fine? Unfortunately, that’s not the case in cyber security. Regular refreshers are essential. This way, you promote a culture of security in your company and underline the importance of confidentiality in your consulting business in daily work life. 



How to find the right cyber security measures for your professional services business?

Not all cyber security measures are necessary for your business. How do you pick the right ones?

Assess your risks 

Carry out a risk assessment and determine which is the most important risk with the highest vulnerability for your organisation. What should you secure first? Where would a cyber attack do the most damage?   

DataGuard can help you determine which cybersecurity measures you should implement. Find out more about our Information-as-a-Service solution or contact us for a no-obligation chat.   

Get the board on board  

In addition to the systematic assessment of risks, it is just as important for efficient cyber security that all relevant managers are on board. If you want your cybersecurity strategy to run smoothly, you also address the concerns of management. Above all, the financial decision-makers need to be convinced of your strategy, because you need a budget to implement your measures. So be diplomatic when listing your most important risks.  


Frequently Asked Questions

What is cyber security?  

Cybersecurity is the protection of systems, networks and applications from digital attacks. It includes all measures taken to prevent unauthorised access, misuse, destruction or modification of digital data and information.    

What are cybersecurity measures?   

Cyber security measures are technical and organisational measures that protect computer systems and networks from cyber-attacks, unauthorised access, and other threats. Examples include firewalls, encryption, security policies and contingency plans.    

What is a service company?  

A service company is an organisation that provides services, such as consulting, advertising, legal services or communications companies.  

 Why is cyber security important?  

Cybersecurity is important for businesses because it protects sensitive data from theft and misuse, protects businesses from financial and reputational damage, and ensures business confidentiality and competitiveness. 

About the author

Emrick Etheridge Emrick Etheridge
Emrick Etheridge

Emrick Etheridge is an associate Information Security Consultant and a certified ISO 27001 Lead Auditor. Prior to DataGuard, Emrick studied Computer Science at Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge) before entering a world of Digital Forensics and Information Security for a Cambridge based company. In these roles, he consulted merchants who required either a digital forensic investigation or re-certification. Emrick was also a certified Cyber Essentials assessor at the heart of the pandemic which proved to be an interesting time in industry. In his current role, he helps SMEs create an Information Security Management System (ISMS) to strengthen their security posture as well as consulting them on their path to obtaining ISO 27001 certification.

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