security measures should CPA firms take against cyber-attacks

What security measures should CPA firms take against cyber-attacks?

Recent security research suggests that most companies have unprotected data and poor cybersecurity practices in place, making them vulnerable to data loss. Cloud-based software offers incredible opportunities starting from seamless communication and collaboration with different teams to unrivaled flexibility. Emerging, novel tools have become a central part of day-to-day life at a CPA firm.

However, with the growing reach of the Internet, the likelihood of a cyber attack is also increasing. With the emergence of cloud-based accounting software and the presence of highly sensitive financial information, there’s always a looming threat of cyber-attacks. Completely staying from digital forms of business operations is not feasible. 

Preventive measures

Worldwide spending on cybersecurity is forecasted to reach $133.7 billion in 2022. Preventive measures that can be taken include:

Securing sensitive data as per the level of risk

Potential threats are always lurking on the internet even if not always apparent. Upon analyzing the risk level, the highest priority should be conferred to the financial data that include bank account and transfer routing information, usernames and password for net banking, debit, and credit card numbers, etc. Data breaches exposed 4.1 billion records in the first half of 2019.

These are highly mission-critical and for this reason alone, it is imperative to securing this information through high-level security measures and storing this data distinctly. Additionally, industry safety standards require names of official users, employer ID numbers, billing addresses, and ID proof such as a social security number for access to financial records. Storing each data-set separately helps in mitigating losses from the data breach.

Evaluating business processes

When the information is properly stored, it’s necessary to evaluate business processes. How is sensitive information transported between your clients and your office?  An optimized secure client portal and encrypted emails reduce the risk of data capture.

Differential access is very important, particularly when handling sensitive financial information. Reviewing each employee’s request for access is essential. Restrict access to sensitive information as security breaches often arise through attackers getting through loopholes by misleading staff members who have valid access.

It is highly essential to actively train employees through social engineering on phishing and the like before granting access to sensitive financial information.

Running due diligence on service providers

Several CPA firms outsource during peak seasons as there’s a severe time-crunch. These third-party vendors usually use the cloud-based software as it is a great tool offering agility and scalability. However, these platforms are also very prone to cyber-attacks.

It is imperative to have a comprehensive understanding of the strength and capability service provider. What are the preventive measures they have in place for safeguarding financial data? Have they been subject to any cyber-attack, if so, how was it resolved? 

Assessing security technologies

The network firewalls have to be extremely robust. An organization is especially vulnerable if connected to a dubious network. Firewalls should be installed, configured, and updated by a network security engineer that reviews the entire network on a regular basis.

Further, it is important to ensure that every PC has an up-to-date anti-virus software capable of automatically notifying about new updates for both virus protection and the operating system.

With mobile phones becoming ubiquitous these days, it is essential to extend these protection services to smart devices and encrypt them. For instance, tablets, smartphones, laptops, and thumb impressions used to access or store crucial financial information are on top of the priority list.

Purchasing Cyber Insurance

Cybercrime damages will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021. Cyber Insurance is becoming increasingly useful in the digital landscape posing a threat to financially sensitive data. Cyber insurance serves as cyber risk insurance or cyber liability insurance coverage. This allows businesses to maintain equilibrium fiscally while recovering from a security threat or breach.

Cyber insurance, however, does not protect an organization entirely from cyber-attacks. But, it can certainly mitigate the risk of a security breach through underwriting recompense overheads such as privacy notifications, lawsuits, data loss recovery,  investigation, crisis management, losses from network interruption and more. 

Cyber insurance is well on the way to becoming a default option for companies that store sensitive information online.

Training employees on data security

Employees need to understand the significance of the datasets on hand before they are made to protect it. It is essential to educate and train your employees on data security measures. If they are able to recognize patterns and traces of hacking or potential vulnerabilities in the network, they can be proactive.

Ensuring employees are aware of standardized protocols and policies such as BYOD and mobile device usage policies, password policies, encryption policies, etc will go a long way in keeping them away from phishing scams and click-bait links that lead to viruses.

The final word

Fortifying your defenses is a good way to safeguard your firm from any phishing activity or security breaches. Implementing the above-mentioned methods will go a long way in making the road ahead smoother.

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