In this era of digitalization, businesses from every sector are exposed to a variety of targeted security attacks. However, accounting firms are more susceptible to security threats than firms from other industries as they deal with the client’s valuable monetary information and classified data.
Cybercriminals are in an endless quest to develop innovative malware to access the bank accounts and financial transactions of accounting clients. Hence, it becomes imperative for accounting firms to look for security threats to prevent revenue loss and maintain a healthy reputation.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your organization? The first thing is to understand the problem. To help with that, here are the top five cybersecurity risks CPAs and their organizations face.
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 may lack the security features and updates required to keep the data safe. It may lead to data breaches involving insiders.
While implementing the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) 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.
Malware is installed through a phishing email attachment or link to an infected web page. The scary thing about malware is that it can stay dormant for weeks or even months before it’s used to steal information or take over systems. There are even ways to purchase malware online through the dark web. In other words, cybercriminals no longer need to be tech-savvy to deploy malware. They can be anyone.
Since Malware is installed through social engineering, the solutions are the same. Accounting firms should have protocols in place to alert IT personnel when a request comes in through email. Managed Service providers, like Nerds Support, have an alert system that notifies systems engineers of potentially fraudulent emails.
Cryptojacking is relatively new and unlike malware attacks, its goal is to mine cryptocurrencies on behalf of the hacker by using the victim’s devices. They gain access to the devices by using phishing techniques. They imbed crypto mining malware in popular websites in the form of free browser extensions.
Cryptocurrencies are valuable to hackers because they’re untraceable and can be used for purchase and exchange on the dark web. Furthermore, the attractive thing about cryptojacking is that it runs secretly and can go undetected for a long time. And since nothing gets stolen or encrypted, there’s little incentive to do anything about it.
Other than training firms should implement endpoint protection/antivirus software that detects crypto miners. IT support should create a continuity strategy in case of an attack. Another thing you can do is keep track of and maintain browser extensions.
The reality is accountants, like many other people, tend to use the same password for all three. As a result, they make a hacker’s job much easier.
Passwords are a lot like keys. Imagine if you had one key for your house, your car and your business. All anyone has to do to ruin your life is get hold of that key. Now, let’s push this analogy even further. Imagine that same universal key. Not only does it provide access to all these valuable things but every night before you go to bed you leave it under a flowerpot outside for safekeeping.
That is exactly what accountants do online. They create passwords that are easy for them to remember. As the key in the flowerpot, a thief might not know exactly where it’s hidden, but after some snooping around and persistence, they’d find it.
To avoid this, firms should consider simple security methods like having users change their passwords monthly or at least quarterly and limit access through mobile devices. Also using multi-factor authentication software when accessing accounts can prevent breaches.
Phishing emails are used to manipulate the reader to click on a link or attachment infected with malware or a virus. They are a form of social engineering. Whether you’re a large firm or small you’re vulnerable because statistics are on the hacker’s side. All it takes is one successful attempt to access the firm’s data. In other words, they only need to trick one employee to access the firm’s data.
Phishing attacks are varied and wide-ranged. They can come in the form of a credit card alert, a notice from a non-profit, a package shipment delay and others. However, now that there’s more awareness of phishing scams, scammers adapted to make attacks even more believable by hyper-focusing on a specific target. A target phishing email is known as spear phishing. Cybercriminals use everything they can find on the target to legitimize the email. They’ll make references to people in your life, places you’ve lived in, things that you’ve done to give you a false sense of security.
Avoiding spear-phishing attacks means having the proper securities in place and training personnel to create a security-first culture. Businesses can use phishing simulations to train accountants to recognize them also.
Ultimately, we need to stay vigilant of the potential cyber threats to our business and the training, technology and best-in-class processes that are available to heighten our ability to safeguard information and our business operations. Whether we own a company or work within an organization, we, like finance and accounting professionals, are in a strong position to question the practices and systems used by our internal and external security experts to protect our business.
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