A ‘security incident’ that caused a major IT systems outage affecting some of the largest conveyancing firms in the UK is the subject of a criminal investigation, the Gazette has learned.

Premier Property Lawyers, JS Law, DC Law and Advantage Property Lawyers, which are part of the Simplify group, were the subject of a security incident late on 7 November, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, a specialist regulator, said yesterday.

Asked if the incident was a denial of service attack, Simplify told the Gazette: ‘Our initial investigations have confirmed that some IT systems were subject of a security incident. This is now the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, so it would not be appropriate to comment further regarding the type of incident.’

Simplify said it took steps to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office and other relevant authorities at the earliest opportunity.

According to CLC, Simplify is unable to confirm when systems will be restored to a degree that would support a return to business as usual.

Asked if Simplify has hired a specialist contractor to help restore IT systems, Simplify told the Gazette: ‘We are working with a team of specialist and highly experienced team but it would not be appropriate to share their details.’

Simplify said details concerning its IT infrastructure were sensitive and it was unable to share more information for security reasons, ‘but we are using back-ups where we can, to safely restore those IT systems involved’.

An update on Simplify’s website states that Cook Taylor Woodhouse, which is also part of the Simplify group, is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and operates on separate IT systems which were unaffected by the incident.

Simplify told the Gazette that Cook Taylor Woodhouse retains its own separate systems from prior to its acquisition by Simplify, which were completely unaffected.