It is a well-known fact that hackers love accountants and bookkeepers. Why? Because few other entities are privy to so much personal information of clients. As a CPA, accountant, or bookkeeper, you collect intimate knowledge of all your clients, such as their social security number, address, phone, and date of birth, the name of spouses, place of employment, and most especially, their personal financial information. This is the kind of information that commands some of the highest premiums on the dark web of stolen data. That makes accountants and bookkeepers prime targets for all manner of cyber thieves.
Fortunately, the vast majority of attacks can be prevented with a few simple measures such as using strong passwords, encrypting files, guarding account access and being cautious with email. However, as you probably well know, there are other steps that need to be taken to ensure that your clients’ information does not land in the hands of cybercriminals.
The Rules of Thumb blog from MoneyThumb would like to share today this great free guide presented by Accounting Web and Smart Vault. This invaluable guide doesn’t just tell you what the threats are but lays out a three-step plan for any practice to defeat the hackers and cyber thieves.
Inside the free guide you will find the following helpful information:
- How to spot new kinds of cyber threats (what is an SQL Injection or a Man-in-the-Middle attack?)
- Actionable strategies based on real-life incidents of hacks
- A practical walkthrough for handling phishing attempts
- Essential (and simple) steps you can implement quickly
In addition, MoneyThumb would like to offer you the following steps you can take as an accountant to prevent cyber attacks and protect client information:
Tips For Safeguarding Client Information
While it’s impossible to completely prevent data breaches, the following proactive steps can help protect your accounting firm – and your clients – from hackers:
- Create a security plan. Your plan should establish security requirements for accessing and using client data, including computer systems and paper records. Establish a process for regular review of your plan to make sure it addresses the latest risks. Hackers are continually updating their methods and becoming more sophisticated, so your security plan from last year is probably already outdated.
- Ensure your systems are secure. All sensitive data should be stored on secure servers and backed-up regularly. Access to this data should only be granted on a need to know basis. In addition, all data sent via email or transmitted over your network should be encrypted. Simple steps like installing software updates and keeping your virus protection up-to-date can also go a long way towards protecting your data.
- Have – and enforce – a password policy. Passwords remain an essential way to protect your organization. Mandate strong passwords, require that they are updated periodically, and prohibit the sharing of passwords. While many companies have these kinds of policies, they fail to enforce them. Don’t make that mistake.
- Train your employees. Human error is at the root of almost half of cyber-attacks. Regularly train your staff, so they understand the risks, the tactics hackers user (such as sending infected attachments and links via email), and any changes to your security policies. This will help ensure compliance and mitigate the risk of staff mistakes.
- Have a data breach response plan. Your plan should detail the steps you will take should a breach occur, including contacting law enforcement, notifying your clients, and any other notifications required by state and federal law.
- Ask for help. IT consultants and security consulting firms specialize in cybersecurity, so you don’t have to. As hackers become more adept, it’s harder and harder for businesses to keep up. Working with professionals to protect yourself is worth the investment if it saves you the hit your resources – and your reputation – will take should a breach occur.
MoneyThumb is confident that by downloading the free guide we have shared above and following the steps we have laid out here, you can protect client information and avoiding cyber attacks.