CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Marlyn K. Littman

Committee Member

Maxine S Cohen

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Abstract

Law firms maintain and store voluminous amounts of highly confidential and proprietary data, such as attorney-client privileged information, intellectual properties, financials, trade secrets, personal, and other sensitive information. There is an ethical obligation to protect law firm client data from unauthorized access. Security breaches jeopardize the reputation of the law firm and could have a substantial financial impact if these confidential data are compromised. Information security policies describe the security goals of a law firm and the acceptable actions and uses of law firm information resources.

In this dissertation investigation, the author examined the problem of whether information security policies assist with preventing unauthorized parties from accessing law firm confidential and sensitive information. In 2005, Doherty and Fulford performed an exploratory analysis of security policies and security breach incidents that highlighted the need for research with different target populations. This investigation advanced Doherty and Fulford's research by targeting information security policies and security breach incidents in law firms. The purpose of this dissertation investigation was to determine whether there is a correlation between the timing of security policy development (proactive versus reactive policy development) and the frequency and severity of security breach incidents in law firms of varying sizes.

Outcomes of this investigation correlated with Doherty and Fulford's general findings of no evidence of statistically significant relationships between the existence of a written information security policy and the frequency and severity of security breach incidents within law firms. There was also a weak relationship between infrequency of information security policy updates and increase of theft resources. Results demonstrated that, generally, written information security policies in law firms were not created in response to a security breach incident. These findings suggest that information security policies generally are proactively developed by law firms.

Important contributions to the body of knowledge from this analysis included the effectiveness of information security policies in reducing the number of computer security breach incidents of law firms, an under represented population, in the information assurance field. Also, the analysis showed the necessity for law firms to become more immersed in state security breach notification law requirements.

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