Cyberattacks have become more frequent and more dangerous in recent years. Many different institutions and organizations of all sizes and maturity have fallen victim, and it has become obvious that nobody can be completely safe from these kinds of attacks.
What Are Cyberattacks?
Cyberattacks are the targeting of information systems and computer networks with the intent of doing something malicious. As technology progresses, hackers use tactics that are increasingly more advanced and sophisticated. Criminals that want to steal, alter, or destroy information often pose as trustworthy sources in order to gain access to data. Any data or information that could be used to cause damage to other people’s professional or personal lives is up for grabs. In fact, the data does not even have to be valuable in and of itself, as criminals know that even the revelation that a data breach occurred can have a huge negative impact on a business. Thus, simply holding the data for ransom from the responsible party has become a very profitable way for hackers to make a living.
Cyberattacks on Accountants
The information that accountants and other professionals in the world of finance hold about their clients is very sensitive in nature. Files on financial transactions, tax filings, and other bookkeeping data contain extremely privileged information that underpin the integrity of those businesses and individuals. This information often consists of precise figures and delicate data that may lose integrity and authenticity once tampered with.
Harming an accounting firm’s system may cause a loss of income not just for the organization, but for the clients as well. This, of course, would cause the departure of the affected clients, and is also likely to cause other clients to lose trust in the firm and begin looking elsewhere for financial services.
How to Stay Protected from Cyberattacks
Cyberattacks do not occur solely in big corporations. Small accounting firms in out-of-the-way towns are often viewed as easier, more vulnerable targets. This is why it is vital to take action to avoid and defend against cyberattacks no matter what size of organization you belong to.
Here are some strategies that can be used to strengthen cybersecurity, and protect both your firm’s and your clients’ data.
- Hire people who know what they’re doing.
When it comes to protecting yourself from cyber-attacks, merely downloading some anti-virus program you found on the internet just won’t cut it. It is best to hire professionals who really know their stuff for these kinds of things. For instance, have I.T. experts set up systems that make sure all of your files and data are protected. It is their job to help ensure the safety of this information, just as it is your responsibility to take care of your clients.
- Secure all files and information.
Secure and keep track of all your important files and information at all times. Make sure this data is centralized, and may only be immediately accessed by those with a strict need-to-know. This is especially important if these files contain any sensitive material.
In addition, make sure to get rid of weak spots in your workflow where outgoing and incoming activity may lead to potential information leaks. This way, you can ensure that any cyberattacks will not be facilitated by careless lapses on your part.
- Keep a close eye on your software.
Regularly update your software to make sure all security features are in place and upgraded. You may also install anti-virus protection along with other programs so that you can keep an eye on everything.
Again, it is ideal to have I.T. professionals doing full sweeps for you, but you should also run your own malware scans from time to time.
- Protect your accounts.
One simple way to protect your accounts is to make sure your passwords are strong and difficult to guess. You should also avoid using the same password for different accounts. Otherwise, once one account has been breached, all your other accounts will be easy pickings. As a final step, you should make a habit of changing your passwords from time to time.
You may also want to pursue the option to install multi-factor authentication. This is where users have to input more information than one password to verify that it is in fact, an authorized user accessing the account.
Don’t neglect to encrypt all of your devices as well. There are multiple paths into your system, be sure and protect them all from intruders.
- Evaluate where you publish information.
Make sure the site or cloud you are accessing is secure. You should be wary of sending critical information via email, for example, because there may be a risk of the communication being intercepted.
- Be careful of external drives.
Contrary to the belief that most bad code comes from the web, a lot of malware is installed on computers via flash drives or other portable devices. If you are not sure where those devices are from and if they can be trusted, do not stick it in your computer. You never know what may be waiting on those things to cause damage to your system.
- Backup your files.
In the event that you do get hacked, it is important that you still have copies of your files backed up and waiting in a different source. Then, if any type of data loss should occur, you can easily reload your system from the backup.
- Prepare a risk management plan.
If worse comes to worst, you should be ready with a risk management plan to save the day. Even in the wake of a cyberattack, good firms must be able to maintain their composure and have a plan in place. Have guidelines on what steps need to be taken, and be prepared to comply with laws with regards to informing clients of a breach of their information.
Get Technology Support from the Experts at JMARK
Nowadays, the wrong people getting ahold of the right information can bring entire systems and institutions down. However, proactive planning and preparation can help keep your data protected.
Here at JMARK, we specialize in cybersecurity for accountants and other financial service providers. Regardless of whether you simply need enhancements to your established security, backup services and recovery planning, or a rebuilt network designed with stability and security in mind, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about how you can keep your data—and your firm—safe.