Cybercrime is increasing for all businesses but it’s essential that tax preparers understand these cybersecurity tips for accountants. As a tax professional you’re handling the most sensitive customer information that any company deals with. These financial records are the exact pieces of information needed to commit identity fraud. God forbid someone gains access to your system and uses your files to ruin a customer’s financial life. The potential liability can be devastating to any small business.
It is for that reason that the IRS is cracking down on the lackadaisical cybersecurity which some tax preparers doing for years. These specific requirements are covered in: IRS Publication 4557, titled Safeguarding Taxpayer Data – A Guide For Your Business.
The IRS has also prepared a video on The Taxes-Security-Together Checklist.
Strong Passwords and Two-Factor Authentication
Having a strong password is important. A strong password is at minimum of 8 characters, includes letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoiding personal information and dates is a must. Avoid reusing old passwords also. Having a secure password is one of the most basic cybersecurity tips for accountants.
However, as it stands the most secure way to login is with two-factor authentication (2FA). The way two-factor authentication works is by using a secondary device in conjunction with a password. Apps like Google Authenticator for example are installed on your phone. Then when signing into an application or website, a code will also appear on the phone which will need to be entered as well as the password. The idea behind it is that it’s much less likely that a hacker will have both your password and also your phone. This eliminates most of the risk that a scammer getting your password presents to your business.
Not all antivirus software is created equal. It’s important that you have a secure and up to date antivirus in place to catch any malware which may find it’s way onto your system. Malware can infect computers which are operated by even the most savvy of users. Malware is oftentimes downloaded with you realizing it or potentially doing anything wrong.
That’s why it’s necessary to have an antivirus software which receives regular updates and can scan for the latest threats without you ever prompting it to. Being retroactive on the computer is sometimes unavoidable but you want an antivirus to stop the threat in its tracks as soon as possible.
Webroot when running in conjunction with RMM software (remote monitoring and management) ensures the best security for your computer. Most of the scans and patch management can be done in the background without interrupting your workflow. This ensures that malware scans are done on a regular basis and you don’t have gigabytes of Windows Updates backlogged on the system. These Windows Updates close most exploits and with your antivirus bouncing the door, you can make sure only those on the list are given access. Staying up to date on windows updates and having a proactive antivirus is one of the biggest cybersecurity tips for accountants.
Maintain A Firewall
Firewalls are designed to protect networks and stop threats from having an opportunity to attack individual computers. An antivirus can stop a threat from entering the computer if it gets through the network. But antivirus is like you calling the cops and them arresting a burglar in your house. Having a firewall is like the FBI arresting the criminals while they’re at their house planning the heist.
A firewall is a piece of hardware that is connected to your router which protects the internet traffic. Then there is a software firewall that exists locally on the computer. It gets involved when an infection actually tries to get onto the system. Having a hardware firewall for your network is one of the best cybersecurity tips for accountants.
Back Up Your Data
You and your client’s information is important. That data represents hours or years worth of work. Why is it then that so many people hinge their entire business on one or two hard drives? Nothing is perfect and like any other mechanical piece, all hard drives will eventually fail. Some sooner than others but it’s not a risk that needs to be taken. It’s crucial you use some type of backup service. The wisest business owners have multiple redundancies. Keeping your data on both a physical backup and having a cloud backup service will ensure you do not lose your data from catastrophe.
Use A VPN (Virtual Private Network)
VPNs are worth the investment for most consumers. However, for businesses it’s even more crucial. A VPN bounces your internet traffic through a secure server and masks the computer’s actual location. It causes additional hoops a potential hacker to jump through. The more hoops to obtain your client’s information, the less likely it’s worth their time. Using a VPN is one of the most important cybersecurity tips for accountants.
Hard Drive Encryption
Hard drive encryption is one of the least talked about cybersecurity tips for accountants. When encrypting data, the original information is passed through an algorithm to scramble each byte. It makes it next to impossible to read unless the right key code is used to reassemble the data in the right order. For most applications, 256-bit encryption is used. That means that 256 different bytes of information are used for the encryption key.
Windows based PCs come equipped with an application called Bitlocker. This is more than enough for most users. For Mac users FileVault is also a good option to secure data.
The IRS is cracking down on tax professionals who play it fast and loose with their customers’ information. Don’t let your company get caught in the crosshairs of one of the biggest bullies of government. We at Rush Tech Support would be happy to evaluate the status of your business and offer suggestions to make sure you’re up to code. Give us a call at 844-880-7874 to schedule your free security assessment!