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Best Remote-Work Security Practices for Accounting Firms

Last updated: 14 Dec, 2021 By | 6 Minutes Read

In the past couple of years, most industries have rushed to adopt alternate work arrangements to support business continuity and lessen the chances of loss. But, amidst all that, cyber threats have also increased, targeting some susceptible sectors like finance and accounting.

Accounting firms typically store their clients’ highly confidential information that has been under the target of data thieves and scammers even before the ‘remote working’ era.

In fact, today, a large number of firms are forced to allow employees to work from home, with probably less secure networks, tools, and computer systems.

And then adding to the challenges are employees with less than the required remote-working experience or those who are less aware of cybersecurity guidelines.

Therefore, it would be a great practice to review your security processes and improve where necessary to ensure you protect your accounting firm against all threats and cyberattacks. But how would you do that? Let’s find the answer in this article.

First things first, you and your staff must become aware of some significant cybersecurity risks emerging across the globe, which are as follows:

  • Data thieves are selling stolen databases on the dark web
  • Firms are noticing unauthorized/unwanted access to their systems
  • Data is getting locked that can only be accessed by passing a ransomware paywall
  • Scammers are sending phishing emails pretending to be genuine and from a trusted source
  • Cybercriminals are delivering malicious data to users by adding long-life bugs into users’ systems

Remote-Work Security

Since cyber threats and attempts are increasing rapidly, it is vital to ensure the utmost level of security while allowing your employees to work remotely, and anything that compromises security needs immediate addressal. Here are some top practices you can adopt for the same.

Best Practices to Ensure Secure Remote Work Environment

1. Limit access to mobile devices

Although mobile devices support employee communication while they work from anywhere other than the office, they can be a medium for cyber scammers and attackers. For example, suppose an employee has their phone’s Bluetooth or hotspot on; hackers can access the device and steal any data. Therefore, it would be better to either implement some security measures on personal mobiles or implement a policy that restricts the usage of the same for work.

2. Use VPN and encryption

Employees’ home network might not be as secure as you have in your office; hence, consider establishing a VPN that can connect employee PCs to the secured network connection of the office. But sometimes, employees also need to travel for work, for which they might be using a hotel’s or café’s less-secure network. So, while they can connect the company VPN, they are still at risk if they leave connections (Bluetooth, hotspot, RFID – Radio-frequency identification) turned on.

Here, the best you can do is encrypt the device in the first place, making it much more difficult for criminals to attempt their practices. Moreover, in case a device gets stolen and is encrypted, you can rest assured about the safety of the data. That means you might lose data, but you need to worry about someone using it for their benefit.

Also Read: Data Security Concerns When Outsourcing Accounting Services

3. Back up your data regularly

Losing crucial company or client data brings way more than just sorrow; for example, higher chances for losing clients’ trust, market reputation, leading to other significant losses. Therefore, having a back of your data is the best practice for data management in a remote work environment. However, you should instruct employees to only backup the data on the company’s cloud storage space, encrypted physical data storage devices, and on-premises servers.

Talk to your firm’s IT staff today and set up a centralized, secure location for data storage with features like automatic data backups. This will help you strengthen protection against data breaches and thefts while your employees work remotely.

4. Utilize secure communication tools

An accounting company with less secure communication mediums in place might be at a higher risk of cyberattacks. Do not let go of these minor concerns without paying much attention. Make sure to discuss with your staff and clients what all the company can do to ensure secure communication.

Today, a majority of meetings are conducted virtually, and staff is collaborating using some of the latest video calling, virtual meeting tools. However, many firms are doing this without being aware of considerable security concerns.

Hence, define clear instructions on using such tools, for instance, not sharing meeting name/id with unauthorized personnel or not using the same in unprotected, personal devices. In addition to that, educate your staff about installing updates, which should only be done using the vendor websites considering some hackers (with intentions to breach) are sending fake links for software updates.

5. Set highly-secure passwords

24% of people in the US have used ‘123456,’ ‘Qwerty,’ or ‘password’ as their password.

43% have shared their password with another person.

66% use the same password for multiple accounts on the web.

Source

With today’s advanced hacking tools, hackers can break passwords, even those that include a combination of alphanumeric and special characters. Hence, your firm should increase the difficulty level for cyber attackers by setting up web login passwords with more than 12 characters. What’s more, you can include phrases that will be impossible for anyone to guess or break.

Besides, try to opt for a multi-factor authentication system for more secure logins. Educate your employees about setting up strong passwords, not using one password for multiple online accounts, and utilizing a password manager application to keep them secure.

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

6. Reassess your security policies

You need to go through the current security policies you have in place in order to improve that one or build a new one that clearly outlines all security measures required to set up a secure remote working environment.

Address all lags or issues you have been facing in recent times while managing your accounting firm with employees working remotely. Remember, these improvements will help you secure client confidentiality, configure equipment properly, safeguard network accessibility, ensure safe client communication and team collaboration, etc.

    The bottom line

    There’s a lot you can do to ensure safety against cyber threats during remote operations, for instance, using secure, advanced digital signature solutions, protected document and data management tools, encrypted email portals, and highly-secured network connections/VPNs.

    While you adopt the best practices, know that financial accounting firms are more vulnerable to cyberattacks than any other business. Therefore, it is usually advised to regularly develop or upgrade the security strategies you implement for your firm. This will help ensure that you detect and prevent threats and breaches promptly without negatively affecting your reputation, revenue, or growth.

    Where can Cogneesol help your accounting firm?

    At Cogneesol, we have been managing a wide array of bookkeeping and accounting functions remotely for accounting firms since 2008 and are experts at it. When it comes to project onboarding, our client accounting firms allow us access to their accounting systems or we connect with their systems via highly-secure remote desktop applications

    We are an ISO-certified company (ISO/IEC 27001:2013, ISO 9001:2008) and take all physical, technical, and administrative security measures when it comes to protecting client information. Our Information Security Management Team conducts information security audits frequently and IT Security team regularly conducts vulnerability assessments and an annual penetration testing exercise on the Cogneesol public-facing network/components.

    With our qualified, skilled, and experienced accounting experts, we can help you manage your accounting business operations more efficiently. Improve your firm’s capacity all while optimizing processes and reducing accounting costs with our reliable and cost-effective accounting services. To learn more about us, our services, and pricing plans, dial +1 646-688-2821 or send an email to info@cogneesol.com

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