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Why it's time for accounting businesses to prioritize cyber-security

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Just like coming in contact with a person infected with coronavirus increases the possibility of you getting infected, increasing your digital business presence increases the chances of cyber attackers to target your business; accounting firms are no exception.

Accounting firms are the backbone of our nation’s economy. They handle financial data of multiple businesses (small or large) and help them file their taxes. With such a pivotal role in our economy and all this data, accounting firms are the prime targets of cyberattacks, especially during the challenging time.

Hence, it is time that accounting firms enhance their cybersecurity practices.

Why cybersecurity should be a priority

Are you not worried enough seeing the headlines of cyberattacks happening across the nation? Just because they are multi-billion dollar corporations doesn’t mean that your accounting firm is secure. While those corporations may be at higher risk, your accounting firm is also a hot property for attackers.

A CNBC report states that among small companies, accounting firms are the most targeted. Thus, it would be best if you were vigilant at all times.

Digital advancement has helped organizations improve their productivity and increase the probability of new threats and concerns. Thus, accounting firms need to evolve their security parameters with time to tackle the technologically advanced and newer methods of attacks.

How should accounting firms approach cybersecurity?

There is no doubt that accounting firms have realized the necessity of cybersecurity and are now taking it seriously more than ever. But taking the problem seriously won’t solve it, would it? They need to design a strategic approach that addresses cybersecurity as a business issue rather than just a tech issue.

One way to approach this issue is to contact cybersecurity firms to assess your data security level and test the vulnerabilities. Their consultants and ethical hackers will access your data and network and try to break in (with consent) at an application and infrastructure level. They will also generate a final report stating the weak points.

Once the evaluation is complete, they will recommend the next steps based on the results.

Another approach is to hire a cybersecurity professional like a security architect who is an expert in implementing security measures. It is advised to hire professionals with niche experience.

For instance, accounting is an industry that handles sensitive personal and business accounting data; a generic cybersecurity professional would not be the right choice here. A person with a niche financial or accounting experience should be the superior choice.

Why cybersecurity should be on top of your priority list

Every Accounting Business is Vulnerable

Hacking methods are continually evolving as hackers keep on coming with new ways to execute attacks. No matter how secure your accounting firm is, there will always remain a possibility of a data breach as a new method might penetrate your firm’s security system.

Several large firms have also been attacked in the past - this news article was published when Albany’s largest firm BST & Co. was attacked in December 2019. Accounting businesses should keep a constant check on the latest cybersecurity trends and standards and upgrade their defense systems regularly.

Huge Financial Loss

Most cyberattacks are aimed to extract money - such attacks are called ransomware attacks. A data breach is expensive; it can result in substantial financial losses that may lead your firm to bankruptcy or other grave consequences.

In addition to this, your income will be drastically impacted as your clients will lose their trust, and you’ll not get new customers easily. Even if you manage to defend your data, cleaning up the mess can result in huge financial instability as well.

Risk to Clients

Financial loss is just one aspect of compromised security. If accounting firms cannot guarantee the security of information, it could have grave consequences for their clients as well. Small accounting firms could also go bankrupt if their data security is compromised. CPAs and firms have access to sensitive financial data.

It is their duty to understand the value of their role in keeping their clients’ data secure. They should take all the possible measures and implement them to make their clients feel safe.

A Blow To Your Reputation

In today's digital environment where a piece of small news can travel across continents in seconds, your company’s reputation should never be hampered. Customers can share any negative news or that of a data breach in a jiffy (negative news travels faster than positive news).

It will negatively impact your profits and may result in a long-term impact as well. Hence, it is imperative for you to implement the latest cybersecurity standards.

Anyone Can Be A Hacker

Hacking or breaching data is a serious issue that is presumed to be done by professional and experienced hackers. On the contrary, cyberattacks can be executed with limited knowledge without understanding the techniques in detail.

For instance, an amateur can send a malicious email that may download an infected file in your system. The Internet is also filled with information and simple guides to gain access to sensitive data. It needs to be understood that cyberattacks and other such malicious activities can be executed by anyone with basic or limited knowledge of the domain.

Thus, you should always be vigilant in ensuring the safety of the data your firm handles.

What can be done?

To ensure that your accounting business is protected from cyberattacks, every employee needs to play his/her part (not just your IT team). Each employee should be aware of the seriousness of the threat and understand the essential measures to protect such attacks.

You can promote awareness about cybersecurity and best practices among your employees, hire a security architect, strategize a response plan, and leverage the cloud for better data security. PwC’s Global State of Information Security® Survey of 2017 shows that accounting firms with sensitive data have started moving to the cloud.

Sharad Acharya, technical content writer, Ace Cloud Hosting