The Accountant’s Ultimate Guide to Cybersecurity

Accounting and finance professionals face high risks of cyberattacks. This is because you handle a tremendous amount of sensitive data that cybercriminals are eager to access. You must take cybersecurity seriously and implement best practices to keep your data safe and your business successful. But it’s not just about following best practices – tax and accounting professionals are legally obligated to safeguard data. 

Continue reading to learn about cybersecurity for accounting firms and how to build a cybersecurity program that will protect your firm’s data and meet compliance.

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How can you meet the high demands of cybersecurity?

Your accounting tech stack should include a secure document management system and client portal.

Scams Specific to Tax and Accounting Professionals

Here are 3 common ways criminals scam tax firms and their clients:

  1. Sending texts and emails claiming to be from the government and demanding immediate action. 
  2. Stealing taxpayers’ identities and applying for fraudulent unemployment benefits (called “Claim Hijacking” or “Claim Account Takeover”). 
  3. Stealing identities and tax refunds. 

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Protect Your Data: Complete a Risk Assessment

So, how can you keep your firm safe from these threats? Start by completing a risk assessment to identify, evaluate, and prioritize areas where your cybersecurity measures leave you vulnerable.

First, make a list of all the data you handle and how. That means looking at the software and hardware you use and evaluating your current operations. Think about your teams, both in-house and virtual, and the contractors or vendors who have access. Review the flow of information you receive about and from your clients. Document as much as possible about how it is cared for, stored, and accessed. Is it online, offline, locally, or in the cloud?

Identify all potential points of failure in your workflow, systems, and personnel. For example, if your business stores all vital information in only one place, what would happen if the method you use to access it failed or was destroyed?

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How You're Putting Data at Risk

Here are four common ways firms (unknowingly) put their data at risk of attack:

Avoiding System Updates
Too many people increase their vulnerability by ignoring or postponing software updates.
Not Training Staff
Patrick Schreiner, a business cybersecurity risk advisor, says untrained staff are a big source of mistakes and warns that cyberattacks frequently start when someone clicks a malicious link in an email or downloads an attachment.
Not Following Simple Best Practices
Make good security hygiene a regular part of your routine, like using complex passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and antivirus software.

Hear real-life examples and learn actionable tips to secure your data in this on-demand webinar with experts Randy Johnston and Luke Kiely.

Using Email to Share Sensitive Data
Email is one of the riskiest tools used in businesses today because anyone with know-how can intercept and read your emails. If a hacker gains access to a Form W-2, for example, in your email, they’ll receive the victim’s name, Social Security number, address, income, and more. This gives criminals exactly what they need to steal identities.

SmartVault is the easiest and most secure way to optimize how you, your staff, and your clients gather, store, share, and eSign documents in the cloud. Learn more today.

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