Conveyancing giant told to improve communication after cyber-attack

Cyber-attack: Systems coming back online

The country’s largest conveyancing group has been told by its regulator to improve communication with clients in the wake of a paralysing cyber-attack this week.

It came as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed that law firms had lost nearly £1m – and probably much more – to cyber-attacks in the first half of this year.

Scores of clients of firms that form part of the Simplify group have taken to social media to complain about the difficulties they have had getting in contact with the firm since the attack, which was first reported on Monday.

People have been left questioning whether upcoming completions would go ahead – with some saying their completions this week have already been missed – and expressed concerns about money with one of Simplify’s firms.

Firms within the group include Premier Property Lawyers, DC Law, JS Law, Cook Taylor Woodhouse and Gordon Brown Law. Some have identical messages on their websites about the problem but few have a social media presence to share the message.

They are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), which tweeted yesterday: “The CLC is requiring frequent updates from the Simplify group… on their progress rectifying the impact of this week’s cyber incident. We have advised them to improve their communications with clients and lenders.”

It is currently believed that no client data has been compromised but a precautionary report has been made to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Purplebricks – which recommends that customers use Premier Property Lawyers – tweeted that it was “working closely” with the firm “to get this resolved as quickly as possible” and contacting all customers who have been affected.

When the attack was first detected, Simplify took down its other systems to protect them.

In its most recent update on Wednesday, the company said it had restored its systems sufficiently to enable clients to move.

“The good news is that almost all contracted transactions with a fixed completion date are up to date.

“We have been working through the night and will continue to proactively contact clients who are scheduled to complete…

“We would assure you that we have been working round the clock to restore our operations. This includes carefully bringing systems online as part of a secure phased approach and finding workarounds to complete transactions safely.

“At all times we have been acting in the best interests of our clients and understand how challenging this situation has been for them.”

The CLC said the group “responded immediately upon discovery of the incident by engaging a number of third-party cyber specialists to fully restore systems, find ways to support clients’ property transactions and undertake a thorough investigation to gain a fuller understanding of the incident”.

Meanwhile, a regulatory manager at the SRA revealed yesterday that just under £1m has been stolen from law firms as a result of cyber-attacks in the first six months of 2021.

Rachel Clements told the LegalEx show that the regulator believed the relatively low figure reflected under-reporting.

She said around 40% of reports to the SRA involved attacks starting with an email, leading either to phishing – the email in one recent attack supposedly came from one of the SRA’s own executive directors – email modification or ransomware.

Another recent report came from a firm that noticed that all of its emails were arriving out of time order and with a slight delay.

It transpired that criminals had penetrated the system and diverting any email that mentioned the word ‘purchase’.

Ms Clements also told a horrifying story of a firm that suffered a vishing attack – where criminals convinced it over the phone that they were from its bank – and on their advice made the same payment 25 times over the course of an hour, believing each one had failed, paying out £1.2m before getting suspicious.

However, she said the SRA took no regulatory action as the firm had done the right things, including phoning the bank back on what appeared to be the right number.

    Readers Comments

  • David Rouse says:

    I am a client of JS Law @ Market Harborough and have been waiting patiently for someone to contact me . I have heard nothing from them since the systems were closed down. I noted from their website that extra staff have been brought in to work into the weekend to contact all clients but still we have heard nothing after completing the contact form 5 times. The customer service is absolutely shocking.

  • john rowe says:

    There is more going on here than meets the eye! We are customers of PPL and there response to the current situation this week is disgusting. Ostriches burying their heads in the sand hoping that customers will simply go away. Went down a week past Friday. Website simply disappeared and phones remained unanswered. Communication has been one statement that we working hard to restore systems. Back end of last week a two minute scripted phone call from their ‘call centre’ with absolutely no update on our case file. Anyone thinking of using this firm stay well clear unless you want a nervous breakdown. House moving is the most stressful thing but working with these monkeys is a step too far. Totally unprofessional, don’t want to talk to clients even before this fiasco. And on a final note….. I am paying a large sum of money the same as all other clients and do not like to be told that others are taking priority. Waste of space

  • Dave says:

    I am a customer of DC LAw trying to purchase a house. What can I do about this? I think we need compensation!

  • ryan west says:

    No response from JS law at all. They were already slow in processing simple queries. the last week has been awful, the buyer about to pull out because of a simple response that I can give but it has to go through the solicitor.

  • Bryony Glover says:

    I’m a client of PPL. They’ve been excellent right up until this awful Cyber Breach. No update, no contact apart from acknowledgement of my pleas for help. I’m due to complete Wed. Lender has already released funds. My mortgage offer runs out at the end of the week. Absolute radio silence. The updates they are posting are untrue. So many of us out there with scheduled exchange/completion dates have had absolutely no responses whatsoever. They seem to spend more time just randomly ringing to acknowledge your pleas, rather than deal with them. I have elderly vendors who are besides themselves with worry as well. Not knowing what is going on and they’re living out of boxes, thinking they were due to move out Wed.

  • Bryony says:

    Absolutely agree. Its been awful. One look at Twitter and Trust pilot tell you all you need to know.

  • Katie Boateng says:

    DC LAW have been awful and haven’t updated us at all. Completion due any day. Absolutely shambolic!!! No correspondence and poor customer service and communication..

  • Dominic Pilgrim says:

    I’ve been chasing DC Law non stop for an update! I can’t believe they don’t have a back up system to continue transacting with our buyers solicitor! Where’s the plan B? They have no access to our files since they are all online! We keep debating whether to switch solicitor, but we have to start from scratch and the estimated exchange date is only 4 weeks away! Additionally, we have an obligation with Purple Bricks to use DC Law and still incur a fee even though this is causing such stress and delay! 8 days lost.

  • Gillian Cooper says:

    My buyers solicitor uses DC LAW, that makes me a victim too, I would like to know about compensation

  • Lisa ANTHONY-RIGSBY says:

    DC Law?!? I now refer to them as DC Outlaw. If they’d done their job, we’d have been moved and settled by now (Sept/Oct).

  • russ banner says:

    Still in the dark . DC Law not providing sufficient updates . Am now dealing with buyer direct to get stuff done and forward emails to DC Law but have they done anything with it?

  • Simon K says:

    We were due to move today but our move got called off last week after we had paid our deposit due to this. Still no news. Our solicitors are unable to get through on the phone and their emails are met with canned responses with no indication of where we are in the queue.

  • Elizabeth Francis says:

    Customer service?…………not a term that DC Law have heard or understand! Absolutely shocking, no response to calls, emails or the online contact form. We just don’t know what to do or where to go for help! I’ve been in tears this morning with the worry and stress of it all.

  • tayla swann says:

    i am a first time buyer and the seller is using PPL and is holding up the whole situation, me and my family wanted to be in for Christmas however doesn’t look like this is going to happen as no one can tell me when this error will be fixed.

  • Joanna Mellor says:

    Absolutely disgusting customer service! We sold with Strike and to be honest that side was good.However our buyer went with Strike conveyancing (premier) and it has been a nightmare! Even our solicitor was losing his temper with the repeated questions and delays.We are all ready to exchange but nothing ! May get our buyer to start again as none of us have faith in the company or the solicitor! Useless ! We sold our house in July!!! It’s now November!!

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