Data privacy continues to be a significant concern for businesses, employees, customers, and stakeholders alike. Privacy breaches can expose problems with document management and digital document security practices. They can also pose significant risks and costs to companies and stakeholders. The importance of ensuring the secure sharing of confidential documents can’t be stressed enough.
When developing an application with SDKs or APIs or integrating new features into a workflow, developers must be aware of the security risks. Project managers, security engineers, and architects must work in tandem to identify and address all potential security breaches. This holds especially true for commercially-confidential, highly-sensitive, or private documents while in transit.
The Risks of Document Sharing
Document sharing, in general, can present opportunities for malicious actors to attempt to gain access to a competitor’s documents. It could also pave the way for uploading data containing malware accidentally. Protecting the enterprise as a whole should be a priority to prevent loss or compromise of customer-sensitive information. This is vital because even minor damage to a company’s reputation can have a devastating impact.
When building applications with document sharing capabilities, developers need to think about the inherent risks that come along with allowing users access to upload and edit documents. Fortunately, there are a number of practical steps that developers can take to share sensitive documents securely without putting confidential information or mission-critical data at risk.
5 Ways to Ensure Confidential Documents Are Shared Securely
1. Strengthen Application Security
Any conversation about document security needs to start with a focus on the application’s cybersecurity architecture. If document management software contains multiple vulnerabilities or doesn’t provide the necessary controls to safeguard data, it will be difficult to share sensitive documents securely. Here are a few best practices developers should have in place to create a secure application ecosystem:
Perform threat-modeling any time there is a major design change in the application or ecosystem to identify potential new threats.
Encrypt customer sensitive documents both in transit and in storage. Ideally, the keys will be held by clients with an emergency access vault backup system, so that even the software developer cannot access any sensitive customer data. This way, even if an application or data centers are breached, customer documents will still be protected.
Spend more time testing releases for weaknesses and allow security engineers and architects to weigh in on the product feature roadmap. Security patches and improvements should be given the same value as other new product features.
Conduct periodic audits or external penetration testing to ensure that applications and customer data cannot be compromised.
2. Design Applications with Segregated Access
Secure documents and sensitive information should only be available to the people authorized to view or edit it. Access to one document should not allow someone to access other documents stored in the same application. By segregating access to data and assigning specific user permissions, developers can provide the tools customers need to manage their assets and share sensitive documents securely.
3. Eliminate External Viewing Dependencies
Although many organizations use secure applications to manage their document workflows, they frequently open themselves up to risk by relying on external software for document viewing. Without some way of sharing and viewing documents within the application itself, files will inevitably be shared over email and opened on local devices that may not have the latest security updates in place. Developers can avoid this problem by integrating HTML5 viewing capabilities into their application. This ensures that documents never have to leave a secure environment, even when they’re being shared with people outside an organization.
4. Create Unique Viewing Sessions
One of the challenges with many cloud-based document management systems is that once someone is granted access to a file, they typically retain that access until it is manually changed at a later date. In most instances, those privileges are also associated with the source file itself. This can create a number of security gaps if an organization doesn’t closely monitor access privileges. By implementing an HTML5 viewer that can generate unique viewing sessions for individual users, developers can provide more control over how to share confidential documents. Viewing sessions can be set to expire after use, and since the session is viewing a rendered version of the document instead of the source document itself, system administrators have more control over what aspects of it are shared. They may decide, for instance, to share only certain pages rather than the entire document.
5. Implement Redaction Capabilities
Redaction has long been used to protect private or confidential information in documents. Although organizations still frequently make embarrassing mistakes when it comes to redaction, it remains one of the most effective tools for anyone who needs to share sensitive documents securely. By integrating true redaction capabilities that not only obscure, but also completely remove sensitive information, developers provide applications that have the ability to screen documents for privacy risks before they’re shared with anyone. Performing redactions within the application environment also has the benefit of further limiting external dependencies that could threaten security.
Protect Confidential Documents with Accusoft Integrations
Accusoft’s collection of processing integrations give developers with a variety of document management tools for controlling privacy within their applications. The HTML5 capabilities of PrizmDoc Viewer offer powerful redaction tools and make it easier for administrators to control viewing access.
Technology trends are moving quickly in the legal industry as firms scramble to adapt to a shifting business landscape. Although many firms and organizations were already taking steps to break away from old fashioned processes and embrace the potential of LegalTech solutions, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated change initiatives and forced legal professionals to reassess their foundational business models. To get a better sense of the technology impact on law firms, developers would be wise to review recent tech surveys of the industry that assess how LegalTech software is being utilized.
LegalTech Technology Survey: A Closer Look
According to a 2020 technology survey conducted by Bloomberg Law, legal firms are seeing tremendous benefits from the implementation of LegalTech tools. Four out of five firms and 73 percent of corporate legal departments have seen an increase in work volume, with both reporting that technology has also improved the quality of their work. On balance, high-value tasks are getting more attention, with 56 percent of respondents indicating that they spend at least somewhat more time on higher-level tasks. Low-value task loads have been reduced by an even larger rate, with 73% of respondents spending at least somewhat less time on less skilled, lower-level tasks.
Critically, these improvements seem to have come without also introducing a new set of challenges. One of the frequently cited concerns about implementing new LegalTech solutions is that it will create workflow disruptions or cause other difficulties with legal processes. In reality, such critiques appear to be largely unwarranted. Bloomberg Law’s 2020 tech survey found that large majorities of respondents did not believe LegalTech added to the number (78 percent) or difficulty (86 percent) of workflow impediments.
LegalTech Automation Needs
Despite the positive technology impact on firms, there are still many tasks being done manually that could be automated with software tools. In 2020, Accusoft conducted a technology survey of legal professionals about how they’re managing productivity and utilizing LegalTech applications. We discovered that while 54 percent of respondents were utilizing digital solutions to view and collaborate on documents, automation tools had yet to eradicate time-consuming manual tasks.
Given the enduring prevalence of manual processes, it’s hardly a surprise that 52 percent of respondents had difficulty locating the right document assets when they needed them. That figure, in particular, is unfortunate considering that a 2020 Clio report on legal trends found that 69 percent of consumers would prefer to work with legal firms capable of sharing documents electronically.
The Technology Impact on Law Firms in Business Terms
Failing to implement effective LegalTech tools, then, could very well be costing many firms business. Longstanding legal business models that focus on profit per partner (PEP) metrics and emphasize short-term priorities are already giving way to technology-driven models that deliver faster, more efficient services at more competitive price points for customers. While boutique “big law” firms may continue to resist automation trends due to the specialized and strategic nature of their business, smaller firms and legal departments will need to reorient their operations to deliver the routine, day-to-day services that most customers are seeking.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made many legal organizations more open to adopting technology solutions. Bloomberg Law’s report found that prior to 2020, only 40 percent of legal leaders described themselves as being “very open” to implementing new tech. Following the pandemic, that number has increased to 54 percent, perhaps acknowledging a new reality for the legal industry as existing business models are reconsidered.
Building the Future of LegalTech
LegalTech developers face several challenges as they work on designing the next generation of technology solutions for the industry. The first question almost always comes down to whether it makes sense to build application features from scratch or to buy and integrate proven solutions. Many legal organizations are looking for powerful software tools that incorporate the latest in process automation technology, which often demands substantial development resources to build and implement. For many software developers, it can be difficult to get products to market quickly without cutting some corners here and there in terms of features when they have to build everything from the ground up.
By incorporating ready-made functionality in the form of specialized integrations, developers can dedicate more of their resources to the innovative technology that powers their LegalTech solution. From HTML5 viewing that makes it easy to securely view a variety of file types to collaboration tools that allow for markup and redaction, software integrations can rapidly expand the capabilities of an application to make it more attractive to legal organizations.
Accusoft’s PrizmDoc Viewer allows developers to integrate versatile viewing and conversion functionality into their LegalTech solutions. It also features powerful annotation and redaction tools that can significantly streamline the eDiscovery process. Learn more about these and other solutions in our LegalTech Fact Sheet.