Update: This article was last updated on 25th September 2019 to reflect the accuracy and up-to-date information on the page.

In this age of digitalization, businesses from all sectors are vulnerable to a variety of targeted security attacks. According to the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report 2019, about 4800 websites are compromised every month by Formjacking attacks.

Security Threats Accounting Firms Should Watch in 2019

However, the accounting firms are more susceptible to security threats than businesses from other industries as they deal with the client’s valuable financial information and confidential data.

Earlier this year, the renowned tax accounting software company Wolters Kluwer was the victim of a ransomware attack.

Cybercriminals are in a continuous quest to develop innovative malware to access the bank accounts and financial transactions of accounting clients. Hence, it becomes essential for accounting firms to look for security threats in 2020 to prevent revenue loss and maintain a good reputation.

1. Outdated Software

There are many instances where large tech companies failed to protect sensitive customer data despite investing in sophisticated security tools. The accounting firms are more vulnerable to malware and ransomware attacks as they have data, which can be of great value.

These attacks are more likely when the OS and applications are not updated.

Hence, it is always critical for the accounting firms to keep their software (OS, business software, browsers, and others) up to date.

Also, they must choose the right software and applications to store sensitive financial information. They even need to communicate and share data over secured networks and install trusted anti-malware software at each endpoint.

2. Data Breaches Caused by Employees

Many accounting firms these days switch to cloud accounting to enable employees to access accounting software on varying devices and from various locations. They even allow employees to bring and use their devices for business purposes. These devices mat lack the security features and updates required to keep the data safe.

Considering Gartner’s prediction that 95% of the cloud security failures will be the results of the customer’s fault through 2020, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy can be a tricky situation. It may lead to data breaches involving insiders.

While implementing the BYOD strategy, the accounting firms must compel employees to access and share sensitive client data using specific apps and solutions. The employees further need to erase the client data from their devices regularly and install robust antivirus software.

3. Not Assessing Security Risk

Unlike large accounting businesses, small and medium accounting firms often do not implement robust security strategies. However, they are all vulnerable to a variety of targeted security attacks, regardless of the size and location.

Many cybercriminals these days execute malware attacks by targeting small and medium accounting firms by taking advantage of inadequate data security.

No accounting firm can combat and prevent emerging security threats without assessing security risk on a regular basis. The security risk assessment in the accounting firms will help the firm to check the nature of client data being accessed by each employee and assess the effectiveness of the employee’s device to prevent targeted security attacks.

Also, the risk assessment will help the firm to evaluate and improve its security strategy according to the security vulnerabilities.

4. Data in Transit

While implementing a security strategy, accounting firms must focus on protecting both data at rest and data in transit. Nowadays, accounting firms communicate externally and internally through multiple channels.

However, a large percentage of accounting firms still communicate with clients over emails. They even send bank statements, tax documents, and similar sensitive financial data as email attachments.

Many cybercriminals execute malware attacks such as ransomware to steal sensitive financial data of business in transit. The accounting firm must leverage email encryption mechanism to share and transfer confidential financial information securely. It must configure the email encryption solution to encrypt the emails and attachments automatically.

Most of the leading cloud hosting service providers offer end-to-end encryption as well, which ensures that data is readable only to the authorized users even if it is breached during the transmission.

5. Remote Data Access

Many accounting firms leverage cloud-based computing to enable employees to access accounting software and client data remotely over the internet. The cloud-based services and solutions even help accounting businesses to operate in distributed environments.

However, remote data access makes it easier for hackers to steal and misuse sensitive financial data of clients.

The firms must require employees to access the computers and business solutions over a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). The secure VPN will help the businesses to protect data by preventing security risks.

Along with that, it is recommended to use genuine and trusted software solutions, like Microsoft Remote Desktop, remote access. Also, the firm must implement multi-factor authentication to ensure that any unauthorized user does not access the data stored in the cloud.

6. Cryptojacking

Unlike conventional malware attacks, cryptojacking aims to mine cryptocurrencies on behalf of the hackers through unauthorized use of computing devices. The cybercriminals execute cryptocurrency mining attacks using phishing-like attacks. They even distribute cryptomining malware through popular websites and as browser extensions.

With businesses from various sectors using cryptocurrencies for selling and purchasing goods, it becomes essential for accounting firms to keep in place a robust strategy to detect and prevent cryptojacking.

The accountants need to ensure that cryptocurrency cannot be mined through unauthorized use of employee computers. Also, the firm must implement a plan to recover from cryptojacking wholly and early.

7. Weak Passwords

A common mistake that accounting professionals make is setting up weak passwords for their accounts. The accountants need to setup separate passwords for their email, system, or applications. However, they tend to use the same password for all the accounts. Consequently, if the hackers get hold of one password, they can access all the accounts.

Moreover, it is essential to the accountants to set strong passwords for all their accounts. A strong password is a combination of alphabets, special characters, and numerals. They should refrain from using common information like names, date of births as their password.

Wrapping Up

The accounting firms are more vulnerable to targeted cyberattacks than other businesses. No accounting firm can sustain growth, maintain a good reputation, and prevent revenue loss without detecting and preventing emerging security threats on time.

Also, the accounting firms must implement elaborate strategies to minimize the impact of security attacks and recover from these targeted malware attacks.

Need more assistance? Contact a cloud solutions consultant to get a free security consultation for your accounting firm or download this free EBook to know more.

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