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What Security Measures CPA Firms Should Take Against Cyber-Attacks?

Last updated: 15 Nov, 2019 By | 6 Minutes Read

CPA firms and other businesses are happy with the emergence of cloud-based software as it offers immense opportunities right from seamless communication with clients and collaboration with the 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 a myriad of challenges on CPA firms. And the most threatening and scary obstacle is- Cyber-attacks!

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, and 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.

Worldwide IT spending is projected 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 elicited 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.

If you don’t want to become a victim of such hackers and viruses, then below outlined preventive measures are highly recommended:

1. Monitor Financial Statements Thoroughly-

Sharing paper financial statement has been completely abolished 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 advised 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.

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 secured client portal and encrypt emails to reduce data risk of being captured.

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 is connected to a skeptical network. Firewalls in your firm should be installed and configured by a network security engineer that updates and review network annually.

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
  • Lawsuits
  • Data loss recover
  • Investigation
  • 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 security 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.

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, it is significant to educate and train your employees on data security measures. 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 if you work hard to ensure the employees understand standard protocols and policies such as BYOD and mobile device usage policies, password policies, encryption policies, etc. This will help your employees to avoid clicking on unauthorized links or web pages that involve the virus.

Bottom line

To safeguard your firm from any phishing activity or the breach, taking into account the methods mentioned above may prove to be of great help.

If you need security regarding the cyber breach or any phishing activity, contact Cogneesol! We provide services ensuring 100% data security.

Read Also: Challenges Today’s CPA Firms Face and How to Overcome Them?

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