7 Security Tips to Keep Your Accounting Firm Secure

Accounting firms must put in place effective cybersecurity measures to ensure their firms are secure. And staying up to date with cybersecurity technology is key to preventing data breaches.

Once every 39 seconds, a successful cyberattack occurs, involving financial information used for nefarious purposes. Hacking is responsible for 45% of sensitive data breaches, and according to a study conducted by Verizon, 44% of data leaks are due to malicious employees.

Accounting firms must safeguard enterprise-wide data from internal and external threats. There are several ways to ensure they effectively protect their company’s data assets and, ultimately, the firm’s reputation.

7 Security Tips for Accounting Firm Security

Attacks on financial firms make up 23% of all cybercrimes. In 2020, the financial industry dealt with the most cyberattacks of any other industry. Experts agree that the rise of digital transformation is the cause for the increase in cybercrime. 

As financial experts, accountants store their clients’ sensitive personal (and business) information. Clients need to know they can trust their accounting data will remain secure. Here are seven ways accounting firms can ensure data security.

1. Secure Mobile Devices

According to a Symantec report, Internet of Things (IoT) devices experience 5,200 cyberattacks each month on average. This includes data breaches from smartphones and other mobile devices. Mobile device usage will only become more common, meaning securing mobile devices is even more essential. 

Application-specific cyberattacks account for 42% of mobile device data breaches, and 31% are from web application attacks. These app-specific attacks make up nearly three-fourths (73%) of all attacks on finance. This is due to an increase in a firm’s dependence on cloud technologies, web extensions, mobile apps, and client portals. 

Ways to secure mobile devices include:

  • Using 2-Factor Authentication (with biometrics and strong passwords)
  • Encrypting devices
  • Installing antivirus applications
  • Updating software whenever available
  • Avoiding public or free Wi-Fi

2. Enforce Cybersecurity Training (Social Engineering)  

Training is the first defense against cyberattacks. It doesn’t do any good to have top-of-the-line security systems and protocols in place if an employee opens a phishing email or downloads malware from an attachment. 

Managers must ensure the entire team can identify phishing attacks. They must also be educated about other threats that occur, such as:

  • Ransomware
  • Malware and viruses
  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS)
  • Insider threats
  • Brute force attacks
  • Social engineering

The rise of social engineering – manipulating someone to divulge confidential or sensitive information with malicious intent – will continue to climb if more people are not made aware of this growing trend. Authentication methods must be in place to prevent others from disclosing secure data. 

3. Invest in a VPN

virtual private network, or VPN, allows users to send and retrieve data sets using a public network as if they were connected directly to the firm’s private network. Benefits of a VPN include:

  • Increased security
  • Enhanced network management
  • Functionality and convenience

It also provides access to other resources that would otherwise be inaccessible on a public network. It’s essential to consider that, while encryption is common, not all VPN service providers offer an encrypted connection.

4. Keep All of Your Software Up to Date

Users must update software to get the latest security features available. That doesn’t mean only the antivirus software should be updated. Microsoft, Apple, and other major hardware and software developers include the highest security measures available.

Computer operating systems, programs, and applications should always have the latest version available downloaded to the accounting firm’s tech stack, office equipment, and staff members’ individual computing devices.

5. Use Password Management Software

Password managers allow users to securely store usernames and passwords across an entire team of associates. They are inexpensive and easy to use, whether a firm has one or 1,000 employees. 

These programs enable the administration to set password strength rules and whitelist the firm’s IP addresses and the IP addresses of its associates. Lock passwords using IP restrictions or geo-locking – those outside the geographical area cannot access passwords. The two most well-known and highly secure password management software programs are:

Pro Tip: Enforce strong passwords and keep your password secure by turning off the “save password” feature on all work devices. It is the most commonly used method insider threats use to obtain data for nefarious purposes. 

6. Backup All of Your Data to the Cloud

Cloud migration is essential for securing an accounting firm’s data and enhancing overall security. Often, hackers aren’t looking to steal data to use or sell to other bad actors. 

They encrypt data and force victims to pay a ransom to release the information. Backing up data in the cloud means the firm always has access to the data without paying the ransom. Experts recommend the following two cloud-based data platforms:

7. Hire a Team of Experts

Accountants are finance experts, not IT specialists. Hackers know the tricks to get around some of the most advanced security systems.

Meanwhile, firm employees struggle to understand the basic security features of their tech stack. IT strategists help firms monitor their security infrastructure from internal and external threats.

IT strategists specialize in cybersecurity and know what to look for when it comes to cybercrimes. They can educate and train staff on the most effective processes, protocols, and security best practices.

Improving Cybersecurity Requires IT Strategies

By developing security strategies, organizations can reduce the financial consequences of cyberattacks. According to Accenture, improving an accounting firm’s security can reduce the risk of losses of $5.2 trillion globally in the next five years. 

When firms improve cybersecurity protection, they help reduce the cost of cybercrimes. Yet, they also open new revenue opportunities. Improved security leads to higher levels of trust by clients, resulting in more business.

Firms that believe they may be a target of malicious characters or vulnerable to cyberattacks must take these first three steps:

  • Prioritize preventing people-based cyberattacks
  • Integrate technologies that reduce risks and rising costs
  • Utilize IT strategists to limit data loss and business disruption

At Tech Guru, our IT strategists can assess a firm’s tech stack to ensure its data is secure. We help firms develop security strategies that protect their most precious business asset: their clients’ financial information. Do your IT tech stack and data security policies keep your firm’s data protected? Take the Tech Guru Security Self-Assessment to find out.