In May this year, we witnessed a worldwide cyberattack by the WannaCry ransomware. This computer virus targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows OS by encrypting ransom payments in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
Although the situation is now under control, a new strain of malware called Petya or GoldenEye started making the rounds in June. This time, large businesses, government agencies and electricity supplies took a hit. This ransomware affects computers and lock down their hard drives.
The main aim of GoldenEye hackers was not just money but also to catch hold of all the data and destroy it. The situation has been curtailed but in the grand scheme of things, it highlights a scary scenario. Coming back to the accounting industry, cybercriminals across the globe are actively targeting tax professionals to steal taxpayer information that would enable them to commit tax frauds.
All accounting firms have some amount of sensitive client data on their systems. While there is no assurance that your company will not fall prey to data theft, there are practices you can put in place to control and minimize the risk. Here are some tips for accounting firms to prevent data from being compromised:
Ensure your company has a properly configured firewall system with anti-virus software on all computer systems. You should also ensure that only people with authorized access are allowed entry to the system and client data.
You should change your passwords regularly, and use strong passwords for sites that contain the most critical data. Come up with passwords that use a combination of both numbers and letters which will be difficult to crack. One weak password can put the entire company at risk.
American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) supplies GAPP guidelines to help accounting firms build and put into practice effective privacy instructions.
Please make sure you encrypt all your data; it is a great security tool to have in place in case your information gets stolen. The hackers will find it much harder if not impossible to read the data if it is encrypted.
Make it a practice to do regular risk assessment of your IT system to spot any vulnerability. It is advisable for accounting firms to make it a habit to monitor their system at least once a year and every time there is a significant change in the network.
Putting these simple measures to practice can protect your client information whilst you continue to focus on driving innovation and growth.