The Internet is evolving with time. With this advancement, the way CPA firms store their data has been transformed. They have moved from the traditional methods of information to online storage.
However, this transformation has also opened the gates for hackers to access online data without permission. A report from RiskBased Security reveals that 7.9 billion records had been leaked because of data breaches in the first three quarters of 2019.
Thus, CPA firms need to ensure that their data is protected by top-notch cybersecurity technologies and protocols. Firms need to understand the importance of security – desktops, networks, applications, and their protection from unauthorized access.
This post aims to give complete information to CPA firms on cybersecurity. You’ll know what cybersecurity is, why it is important, and how to secure your data.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is a continuous process of defending data, networks, computers, or any other software or hardware from malicious attackers. It is a vast field and can be divided into a few common categories, such as:
- Operational Security – This field emphasizes securing processes, operations, and data assets.
- Network Security – As the name suggests, this field focuses on securing the networks from hackers.
- Application Security – This area of cybersecurity is about protecting applications, OS, and devices from threats.
Types of Cyber Threats
Common types of cyber threats are:
Malware is any malicious software intentionally designed and created to disrupt the functioning of any computer or computer application. Some common types of malware are:
b) Denial of Service Attack
A Denial of Service (DoS) attack is a cyberattack in which a cybercriminal bombards your network with unwanted requests with the aim to overload it.
In phishing, cybercriminals act as a legitimate body or source and send emails seeking sensitive information.
d) SQL Injection
SQL injection, also known as Structured Query Language injection, is an attacking technique in which hackers aim to damage your database.
Check out this free ebook for more information on the different types of cyber attacks.
Why CPA Firms Should Care About Cybersecurity
Data breaches at top companies make it to the headlines, but attackers prefer SMBs as they are easier to target. Thus, small and medium businesses (SMBs), especially CPA and accounting firms, are at great risk of being attacked.
Why? CPA firms have access to valuable information and have lesser security than large companies – exactly what attackers are looking for.
Cyberattacks are frustrating and scary for CPA firms as well as their customers. Experts say that small businesses find it hard to recover from such attacks, and some fail to get back in the business. They also lose the trust and faith of their customers and have to work very hard to achieve the same level.
How to Build a Cybersecurity Strategy for Your CPA Firm
With all the information above, it is clear that cybersecurity is a must for CPA and accounting firms. You need to start developing a cybersecurity strategy to keep cybercriminals away from your data. Below are some points to help you keep your information safe.
1. Understand Your Vulnerabilities
First things first, to create a cybersecurity strategy for your CPA firm, you need to be aware of your vulnerabilities. If you do not know your weak points, you cannot fix them. Start by identifying the most sensitive information your company stores.
These could be anything from your customers’ tax details to the details of their assets and revenue gains. How tight is the security of such information? Where is this data stored? Once you get answers to these questions, you can analyze the risk level your data is exposed to.
Understand and map the sequence in which your data moves – its collection, storage, and release points. Think about the points from where a data breach is most likely. Also, consider the consequences for you and your clients of a cyberattack.
2. Protect Your Passwords
The most common way to authorize any access is via a password. Passwords are so popular because they are free to use. However, passwords are not as secure as fingerprints or iris scans, and thus, are open to attacks.
Attackers can easily detect weak passwords in a few minutes with the help of automated tools. They also have cracked open multiple other methods to lure people into sharing their passwords (like a phishing attack). Also, people do not protect documents with sensitive information or use weak passwords that are easy to remember. All these scenarios are open invitations to attackers.
These are the steps below to create and protect your password:
- Create a strong password that no one can guess.
- Create different passwords for different services.
- Change your password frequently.
- Choose multi-factor authentication.
- Use a password manager.
- Do not share your password with anyone.
3. Educate Your Employees About Cybersecurity
You might have set up the most secure IT infrastructure, but attackers try to find their way into your network by targeting the most vulnerable point – your employees. For instance, if your employees are not aware of the best cybersecurity practices, they can easily click on a phishing email and let attackers access your network.
Thus, educating your staff about the basics of cybersecurity and best practices is as important as helping them develop their skills. Practicing good cyber-hygiene is the responsibility of every employee of your CPA firm.
You must educate them about phishing emails. For instance, you can create an exercise where they can differentiate between a fake and genuine email. Another step is to conduct regular training sessions as the methods of cyberattacks keep on evolving with time.
4. Protect Data Created By Remote Workers
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most CPA firms have allowed their employees to work from their homes. The remote employees perform all their tasks via the Internet. This means that they are dealing with sensitive information without the secure IT infrastructure of their office, increasing the risk of a data breach.
Also, most of the methods mentioned above won’t be effective if your workforce is working remotely, especially if they are using an unsecured network.
You must ensure that all your remote employees are using a secured network to access company data. It is also advised to create an endpoint management strategy to manage your employees. Another wise step is to use a VPN. This way, they will first access your office network and then access the company data securely.
5. Host Your Applications On The Cloud
Most CPA firms use locally installed accounting solutions. Their employees have become comfortable and habitual with the use of these desktop solutions that they do not realize that their data is at risk of being attacked.
However, by hosting these accounting applications on the cloud, you ensure that your employees get the same application with enterprise-level security of the cloud. Your hosting provider will ensure that your transition to the cloud is seamless and done in a safe and secure manner.
Cloud hosting offers several benefits, like the use of the latest antivirus and firewalls. Most hosting providers have a team of IT professionals who work day and night to safeguard your data. Also, you have full power over your data and can control who can access which data.
As the Internet and other technologies keep on evolving, so do the hacking techniques. Thus, accounting firms need to make it a habit to keep updating their security policies. They need to remain updated with the latest cybersecurity news and trends. Also, it is good to use technologies like cloud hosting as they boost cybersecurity.
Wish to know how cloud hosting can help your CPA firm with cybersecurity? Get in touch with our Solutions Consultant at 855-980-2150.
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