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What Security Measures CPA Firms Should Take Against Cyber-Attacks?
CPA firms and other businesses are happy with the emergence of cloud-based software. The reason is it offers immense opportunities right from seamless communication with clients and team to great flexibility. New tools have become a crucial part of day-to-day life. However, someone rightly said “Everything that glitters is not gold”, even new technologies are posing challenges. And the most threatening and scary obstacle is- Cyber-attacks! That’s why CPA firms are shifting towards cybersecurity strategies.
Cyber-attack in CPA firms can be devastating as client share their sensitive financial information with them. Whether you have a large firm or a small organization, anyone can become the victim of cybercrime.
Yes, you read it right! According to researchers, 55% of small businesses have already been the victim of a cyber-attack. On the other hand, around 8% of all cyber claims are about professional firms.
According to a Marsh & McLennan report, globally and in America, it takes on average 99 days for the team to detect when a security breach does happen.
Globally, IT spending is may reach to total $3.8 trillion in 2019, an increase of 2.7 percent from 2018, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc.
Do you know the nature of cyber risks? It keeps on varying!
- Many cyber-attacks disrupt the accounting practices of the firm that means loss of data, which directly results in business losses.
- Other risk includes data breach when the CPA plays the game of fraudster. These risks are increases when CPA disclose the client’s financial data for the sake of money.
- The data breach also occurs when a virus enters the client’s network resulting in data exploitation.
In the end, regulatory actions by state and federal agencies do major reputational damage to firms on such data breaches, which cost them millions.
What Cybersecurity Measures Does a CPA Need?
If you don’t want to become a victim of such hackers and viruses, then below preventive measures are for you:
1. Monitor Financial Statements Thoroughly
Abolish sharing paper financial statement from the office environment as all are accepting the “go paperless” concept. That’s the reason CPA firms typically receive emails or make use of collaborative cloud-software to review statements.
The sharing process through technologies gives cyber-attackers an opportunity to capture all the financial information in seconds as they eagerly wait for this moment to happen. Thus, it is advisable to vigilantly observe any creepy behavior the moment you send or receive the financial statement from your client. You need to observe the behavior for 30 days to ensure that you are safe from cyber-attackers. With the right security measures for your accounting firm, you can prevent these attacks.
The foremost step you can take to defend your organization from attackers is working prudently and keenly observing weird behavior in your system. Don’t merely keep hustling just because you are overburdened.
2. Secure all the sensitive data as per the level of risk
Attackers are always online, waiting for the right minute to destroy your business in every aspect. And if you analyze risk level, there’s nothing important than financial data that include bank account and transfer routing information, usernames and password for net banking, debit, and credit card numbers, etc.
For that reason, securing these key data by taking a high level of security measures and storing this data distinctly is indispensable.
This is a matter of sobering! Because industry safety measures usually require names of official users, employer ID number, billing addresses, and social security numbers to gain access to financial records. Therefore, by storing each aspect separately help you mitigate losses from the data breach.
3. Evaluate Your Business Processes Meticulously
Once you’ve categorized and stored your information, it’s time to analyze your business processes. What methods do you use to transmit sensitive information with your clients and in your office? You must optimize a secure client portal and encrypt emails to reduce data risk.
Before giving access to your employees, find the reason why it is necessary. Ensure to restrict the access to sensitive information because attackers sidestep security measures by misleading staff members who have valid access.
Therefore, train your employees through social engineering on such cyber-attacks before giving them access to financial data of clients.
4. Run Due Diligence on Service Providers
Many CPA firms opt for CPA firm accounting to manage their workload during peak seasons as CPAs don’t have enough time to vigilantly go through each statement and enter everything in accounting software. And third-party vendors usually use the cloud-based software as it is an excellent resource for becoming more flexible, secure and practice efficiently. However, these platforms are also susceptible to attacks.
Interrogate your service provider, what preventive measures they take to secure the financial data? Have they been a victim to any cyber-attack, if so, how they resolved it? This will help you to understand the strength and ability of your service provider.
5. Assess Your Security Technologies
Begin with your network firewalls. You know your organization can be vulnerable to attack if any person or your system has a connection with skeptical network. Your firm’s firewall should be installed and configured by a network security engineer that updates and reviews the network annually. This is the best cybersecurity for CPAs like you.
Ensure that every PC in your company has been installed with virus protection software and can automatically alert you about new updates for both virus protection and the operating system.
Right from portable device like tablets, smartphones, laptops, and thumb impressions used to access or store crucial financial information must be encrypted.
6. Purchase Cyber Insurance
Cyber Insurance has become a useful tool in the business world against changing technology landscape that involves a digital threat to your entire client’s data. Cyber insurance is also acknowledged as cyber risk insurance or cyber liability insurance coverage that helps businesses equipoise their costs while reviving from a cyber-attack or security breach.
However, cyber insurance does not preclude you from cyber-attacks entirely, but it can considerably mitigate the risk of the data breach by underwriting recompense overheads like:
- Privacy notifications
- Data loss recover
- Crises management
- Losses from network interruption
According to researchers, around 33% of the companies in the US procure in various cyber insurance policies. And prophetically, cyber insurance is going to become a default option in the coming years for companies that store any information online.
7. Malware Defense
CPA firms must address the cybersecurity policies of their company for every business processes that are exposed to malware. What is included in the malware? Personally owned devices, web browsing, emails, and removable tools. This cybersecurity should be in your list for all the employees in your CPA firm.
Running scans for malware frequently and using anti-virus to defend all your client and host technologies can help you to a greater extent. Also vigilantly scan all the information that is transferred to or from your organization for malware.
8. Train and Educate Employees on Data Security
If your employees don’t understand the value of data, how would they give their 100% to protect it? Therefore, educating and training your employees on data security measures is significant. They can be able to recognize the method of hackers, and in case if they find any vulnerability in the network, they can take actions.
What will happen? Ultimately, your business is protected from losses and reputational damages.
It would be best to work hard to ensure the employees understand standard protocols and policies such as BYOD and mobile device usage, password, encryption, etc. This will help your employees to avoid clicking on unauthorized links or web pages that involve the virus.
To safeguard your CPA firm from any phishing activity or breach, cybersecurity methods mentioned above may prove to be of great help.
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