Get The Definitive Cyber Security For Accountants Guide
Accountant Cyber Security Checklist
Accountants are particularly targeted by hackers because of the financial data that they have on file.
A single 1040 has enough identifiable information to commit identity theft.
Not only will your clients lose trust in your practice, but you can face legal penalities up to $100,000 for EACH violation of GLBA.
Downloading and filling out this checklist on each computer in your office will help you ensure:
- Your Client Data Is Protected
- You Have Documentation Of Steps You Take To Prevent Data Breaches
- You Can Showcase To Your Clients The Extra Steps You Take
- You Can Differentiate Yourself From Competition
- Be A Leader In The Accounting Industry
Benefits of Cyber Security for Accountants
It is necessary this day & age to be able to document every measure that has been taken in order to protect your data from cyber criminals.
Accountants are particularly targeted because of the sensitive information that they have access to.
With this checklist you will be able to pinpoint the best ways to secure your accounting firm.
You’ll also be able to see if the software and procedures you have in place are in line with compliance, best practices, and the law.
You can use this checklist alongside your current IT provider, and be able to ask them to help you fill any security gaps. Remember, if your “tech person” isn’t a specialist with accountants, chances are they haven’t spent years studying the laws that apply to accountants specifically. Even though they may be great at making the system run fast, it is your responsibility as an accountant to make sure that everything is secure, even if you have hired an expert to make sure it gets done.
Putting cyber checklists and data security plans together for accountants has been our specialty, hence the name Tech 4 Accountants.
In today’s digital age, accountants face numerous challenges in keeping their data secure and providing top-notch technical support to clients. As cyber threats evolve and become more sophisticated, the need for accounting professionals to stay ahead of the curve has never been greater. This comprehensive guide explores the importance of technical support for accountants, accounting cyber security, and cyber security for tax professionals, providing valuable insights into safeguarding sensitive financial information.
In today’s interconnected world, data is considered to be the most valuable commodity. Yet, it’s also one of the most vulnerable. For professionals in the accounting sector, the importance of cybersecurity is unparalleled. This is the landscape where “Cybersecurity for Accountants” or “Accountant Cyber Security” becomes a central concern. To assist you in navigating this complex field, we present an extended, comprehensive checklist on cybersecurity for accountants. By following these guidelines, you can fortify your digital infrastructure, protect your clients’ sensitive data, and strengthen your professional reputation.
1. Secure your Electronic Systems
Cybersecurity for accountants begins with safeguarding your electronic systems. These systems often hold crucial financial data of your clients, and their security is paramount. Make sure all your devices, including computers, tablets, and mobile phones, are installed with the most recent operating system and software updates. Software developers frequently release updates to patch any potential security holes in their system. Neglecting these updates can leave your systems exposed to cyber threats.
Moreover, ensure that a robust anti-virus software solution is installed and kept up-to-date on all your devices. This software acts as a digital gatekeeper, scrutinizing every file for potential threats and quarantining them before they can inflict harm.
2. Implement Strong Authentication Procedures
The importance of strong, unique passwords in accountant cyber security cannot be overstated. Simple or commonly-used passwords can be easily cracked by cybercriminals using brute force attacks. Utilize a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters to create strong passwords, and update them regularly.
Further enhance your security by implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) procedures. This additional step requires a second form of identification beyond just the password, such as a temporary code sent to a user’s mobile device. By utilizing 2FA, you create an extra layer of security that makes unauthorized access to your systems significantly more challenging.
3. Create and Maintain Secure Backups
Regular data backups are an indispensable component of cybersecurity for accountants. In the event of data loss due to a cyber attack, natural disaster, or even simple human error, secure backups ensure you can recover the data quickly and keep your business running smoothly.
Data should be backed up in multiple secure locations, both onsite and offsite, for optimal protection. Cloud backup solutions are a viable option, offering both security and convenience, as they allow data restoration from anywhere.
4. Use Secure Networks
Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for work-related tasks whenever possible. These networks often lack adequate security measures and are prime targets for cybercriminals to intercept data. When working remotely, use a virtual private network (VPN) to establish a secure, encrypted connection, thereby safeguarding your data from potential prying eyes.
5. Encrypt Sensitive Data
As an accountant, you handle highly sensitive data. Ensuring this data is encrypted – whether in transit or at rest – is crucial for maintaining confidentiality. Encryption converts data into a coded format that is only decipherable with a decryption key. Even if the data is intercepted during transmission, without the decryption key, the information remains unreadable, providing an essential layer of protection.
6. Install and Maintain Firewalls
Firewalls serve as your first line of defense in accountant cyber security. They monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules, acting as a gatekeeper that blocks unauthorized access to your systems. Regular updates and maintenance of firewalls are as crucial as their initial installation to protect against new threats.
7. Employee Training
Your security measures are only as strong as your weakest link. In many cases, this could be your employees. Regular training sessions on cybersecurity for accountants should be conducted to educate your team on best practices.
These may include recognizing and avoiding phishing scams, using secure networks, handling sensitive data responsibly, and reporting any suspicious activity. By fostering a culture of security awareness, you significantly reduce the risk of human-induced breaches.
8. Regular Audits and Updates
The world of cyber threats is fast-paced, with new threats emerging every day. Regular audits of your security system are crucial to identify any potential weaknesses. Once vulnerabilities are identified, immediate updates or fixes should be applied. A reactive approach to accountant cyber security is not enough; being proactive in regularly updating your defenses is key to mitigating threats.
9. Plan for Incident Responses
Despite the most robust cybersecurity measures, breaches can still occur. Therefore, it’s important to have a clear, well-documented incident response plan in place. This plan should outline the steps to take in the event of a breach, including how to isolate affected systems, preserve evidence, communicate with clients and authorities, and restore normal operations as quickly as possible.
10. Follow IRS Guidelines
The Internal Revenue Service has outlined specific recommendations in its IRS Publication 4557 for safeguarding taxpayer data, which are highly relevant for accountants. This document offers a detailed guide to creating and implementing a security plan to protect clients’ data. Incorporating these guidelines into your own practices will not only ensure compliance but also enhance your overall security posture.
We have created a Guide to IRS Publication 4557. The guide was put together by Tech 4 Accountants Chief Dorkestrator, Andrew Lassise, who has been a thought leader in the space.
11. Develop a Written Information Security Plan (WISP)
A WISP is a systematic approach to ensuring the protection of sensitive data. It outlines the procedures and measures your business will take to safeguard both digital and physical data, based on your specific business model and potential risks. Having a WISP in place demonstrates your commitment to cybersecurity, gives your clients confidence in your procedures, and provides a roadmap for how to handle potential security incidents.
You can use our free IRS WISP template here:
12. Hire Cybersecurity Professionals
This is actually a requirement from the FTC Safeguards Rule that all tax professionals, bookkeepers, and accountants must follow.
The realm of cybersecurity for accountants can be complex, and staying ahead of the latest threats can be a challenge. Consider hiring professionals who specialize in this field. They can not only help to maintain the integrity of your digital infrastructure but also ensure the best defenses are in place and stay updated on the latest developments in cybersecurity.
The significance of cybersecurity for accountants cannot be overstated. As an accounting professional, the onus of safeguarding sensitive financial information lies with you. By adhering to this comprehensive checklist for accountant cyber security, you’ll be taking a giant leap towards secure and trustworthy business operations. Always remember, in the world of cyber security for accountants, prevention is better than cure.