The Safe4 secure information delivery and storage service has been in use by law firms since 2010, but hitherto primarily in support of corporate and commercial property transactions. The introduction of the Safe4 Asset Register in May 2017 has brought new levels of functionality to the system, some of which can be applied to the process of secure property conveyancing.
How can law firms offer their clients better protection of their confidential information?
It is estimated that at least 70% of law firms in the UK use open email systems to transfer confidential information between external parties. This covers a very large number of information types in a variety of departmental activities. Residential property conveyancing, however, is one area where the use of insecure methods of information transfer has been exposed as a primary target for criminal activity.
When a lawyer is engaged by a client to handle the legal aspects associated with selling their home, the final act in the process is for the lawyer to transfer the sale proceeds from their firm’s client account to the client’s bank account. In most cases this is a simple process that is carried out without difficulty, but in recent years there has been an alarming increase in the level of criminal interception of email. It is common for the lawyer to request the client to provide the details of their bank account by email, by telephone, or by filling in a paper form and sending it back to the lawyer. All of these methods of delivery are potentially insecure, but there is mounting evidence that interception of emails and fraudulent alteration of the target bank details has become a major problem.
Impact on Professional Indemnity Insurance premiums
The existence of the problem has been recognised by the providers of professional indemnity insurance for law firms. Premiums are starting to increase steeply for those firms who use the traditional insecure means of obtaining clients’ bank account details.
Secure Property Conveyancing
The Safe4 Asset Register allows this risk to be eliminated. By opening a secure vault for each property transaction, and creating data fields into which basic bank account information – account number, sort code – can be entered directly by the client, the lawyer can offer the client a higher level of protection than has hitherto been possible.
After the client has entered their bank details, the conveyancer will receive an email automatically generated by Safe4 confirming that the information is available. After logging in, the information can then be transferred safely into the internal systems used for handling client payments. There is of course the standard Safe4 audit trail facility associated with all activity, providing a strong evidential record of everything that has been done during the transaction.
If the Safe4 Application Programming Interface (API) is used, the bank account details can be transferred completely automatically into the law firm’s practice management or accounting systems, thus improving security and efficiency further.
Because all Safe4 data is hosted in the UK in ISO 27001-accredited data centres, the professional practitioner can also take advantage of Solicitors Regulation Authority compliance. All of the activities of Safe4 are conducted under the law of England and Wales.
Safe4 Information Management have partnered with VaultConnect to offer best-in-class security for the systems that handle the transfer of confidential information between the professional practitioner and the client. This collaboration is now benefiting law firms throughout the United Kingdom, who are able to gain the advantage of the security of the Safe4 platform with the expertise and experience of the VaultConnect team.