Cybersecurity for CPA Firms

Cyber-attacks are among the greatest threats facing businesses of all sizes. Organizations with multi-million dollar security budgets have suffered major data breaches in recent years, and even the federal government has been hit, exposing the data of over 22 million federal workers. CPA firms in particular are at risk, because cyber-criminals perceive them to be easy targets with a wealth of financial data that can be stolen. In addition, the move in the industry toward mobile and cloud computing has only heightened this risk. Business Cyber Protection

Clearly, cloud computing offers numerous benefits to accounting firms; the ability to collaborate on shared data from anywhere in the world is a major plus, and the ability for clients to log in to a cloud-based system and view their data in real time is a big benefit for those you do business with.

Cloud computing in the accounting world is definitely not going away, but there are measures firms can take to decrease the risk of security breaches.

Require Lock Codes for All Mobile Devices: If you or your employees use any laptops, tablets or smartphones to access your data in the cloud, be sure these devices are secured by lock codes only known to the user, with a backup of the code kept in a secure paper file on-site. In addition, if any of these mobile devices are lost or stolen, you should have the capability to immediately wipe all the data from the device remotely. Taking these measures helps ensure the sensitive data on these devices will not fall into the wrong hands.

Encrypt all Work-Related Data on Mobile Devices: There may be instances when employees will use their own mobile devices to access work-related files, and vice versa. This is clearly not an optimal arrangement from a security standpoint. However, if you choose to allow this, do not allow any sensitive data to be stored on a mobile device unless it is encrypted.

Prohibit the Use of Public Wi-Fi: In general, you and your employees should never use public Wi-Fi networks (such as those in airports and coffee shops) to access work-related data. These places are hotbeds for cyber-thieves looking to steal sensitive financial information. If your staff must use public Wi-Fi, route the connection through a virtual private network (VPN). This way, the connection between the device and the Internet is fully encrypted. Another option is to connect your mobile device to the Internet through a 4G connection from your wireless provider. Just be sure you have a strong password for this connection, so it is virtually impossible for those nearby to hack into it.

Partner with a Trusted Cloud-Based Provider: Keeping the financial data of your clients in the cloud is a risk that is largely out of your control. The best you can do is to thoroughly vet your provider to ensure they are taking all necessary measures to keep your data safe. Have your IT person learn the specifics of the data storage methods for each potential provider. It is also a good idea to research their reputation to find out if they have ever had past security breaches. Finally, be sure you have the proper insurance coverage to fully protect your firm in case any of your client data is ever exposed.

Protecting the sensitive data of your firm and clients not only keeps your business strong; it is also helps enhance its value when it comes time to sell. Any business broker will tell you that those looking to buy accounting practices always want to know that there are minimal risks going in to the transaction, thus putting them in a better position to succeed.

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