8 Ways to Keep Your Accounting Firm Safe from Cyberattacks

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

10 Best Apps to Help Accountants Stay Organized

Accounting involves a lot of meticulous labor. While immersed in the details of decimal points and debt to equity ratios, it can be easy to let slip the larger picture of staying organized and keeping your practice running. However, thanks to quickly advancing technology, accountants can find succor in many web and mobile apps designed specifically with their needs in mind. In this article, we highlight some apps that will help accountants organize their work (and themselves!) better so that they can maximize productivity.

Best Accounting Apps for Ease and Organization

There are a number of apps on the market today that’ll make you forget about that trusty spreadsheet you’ve always been using. You can move on to a specialized app built purposely for accounting. Moreover, you can download these apps to your favorite mobile device and get your work done from anywhere.

Here are the 10 best apps for accountants to stay organized:

  1. Xero

Xero is an all-around accounting app that is clean and simple. Its user-friendly interface allows you to get a full and comprehensive picture of all your transactions.

You can easily sort out all of your invoices, expense claims, receipts, and income reports. Then use cloud storage to put all of these together in a useful database. You can even customize the app’s functionality according to the functions that you need.

Check out: https://www.xero.com/

  1. QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks is an all-in-one app that lets you take care of all your accounting tasks while on-the-go. You will be able to oversee all of your finances and transactions from a single screen. It has a comprehensive set of features that allow you to take care of expense tracking, cash flow management, and accounting reports.

QuickBooks also has an online banking integration feature that connects with your online bank to allow for easier financial transactions.

Check out: https://quickbooks.intuit.com/

  1. Nutcache

Nutcache focuses on project planning and time management. It provides financial capabilities to help track, measure, and control your progress. This app is an agile, business-oriented solution that will help you keep a close eye on the lifecycle of your project.

With Nutcache, you have the option of organizing your workflow in the way that best suits how you want to work. You can use different kinds of boards or one of various other available methods. Also included are customizable financial tools that will help you manage your expenses, reporting, and online payments.

Check out: http://www.nutcache.com/

  1. Freshbooks

Freshbooks is a cloud-based software that allows you to take care of all your accounting needs with ease, speed, and security. It has powerful invoice features that automate tasks like invoicing, organizing expenses, tracking your time, and following up with clients. You may also organize all your files and transactions in a cloud and securely access it from any device.

Another great feature is that you can keep all your conversations and feedback in one place. Seamlessly collaborate on your projects while keeping your team in sync and your projects on schedule.

Check out: https://www.freshbooks.com/

  1. TurboTax

TurboTax is an easy-to-use tax preparation and filing software. While perhaps best known for its simple, consumer-friendly interface, TurboTax has many features that can aid professional accountants come tax season—especially if filing taxes is not your specialty. In a world of ever-changing, increasingly complex laws, TurboTax will instruct and guide you in going about the business of taxes.

With TurboTax, you will be able to import all of your data into the app and easily sort out all of your relevant files. It also includes audit alerts to warn you of possible audit triggers.

Check out: https://turbotax.intuit.com/

  1. FreeAgent

FreeAgent brings all your accounting needs together into one convenient app. It automatically sends recurring invoices and reminders; it also imports transactions straight into your accounts. You may also customize your own comprehensive list of expense categories. FreeAgent then backs up all of your data so you can be sure that everything is secure.

Check out: https://www.freeagent.com/

  1. Arithmo

Arithmo is accounting software that does all your computing and bookkeeping for you. The simple and user-friendly interface is very intuitive, and it features powerful accounting and bookkeeping capabilities. Just sit back and let the app do all the heavy lifting. Be sure and look frazzled when you leave your office at the end of the day so that people never suspect just how hard you didn’t work!

Check out: https://marketplace.appdirect.com/apps/27245

  1. Wave

Wave is one of the best small business accounting websites. Here, you can create and send professional invoices, estimates, and receipts—all in a matter of seconds. With this app, you can effortlessly track all of your cash inflow and expenses. You can also keep a close eye on the status of your invoices and payments. It also comes with a receipt scanning tool. No need for manual data entry and stressing about missing any transactions.

Check out: https://www.waveapps.com/

  1. Zoho Books

Zoho Books allow you to manually enter journal entries for easier inventory tracking and managing of goods. You will be able to review all of your purchases and sales orders, convert quotes to invoices, and reconcile all your accounts, even from your mobile device.

Check out: https://www.zoho.com/books/

  1. Invoice by Wave

Invoice by Wave allows you to create and send invoices to your clients easily. Customize your own format and attach your logos and business signatures using this app. You may also add credit card processing to allow for easier, faster payments.

Check out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/invoice-by-wave/id881629660?mt=8

Check out any of these amazingly convenient and functional apps, and put technology to work in your accounting practice. Take full advantage of the mobile software revolution to be more organized and effective than ever.

In addition to these apps that can help you in your day-to-day work, managed I.T. services can make operations at your accounting firm more efficient and less stressful, while also securing your data and saving you money. To learn more, visit JMARK.com, or call 844-44-JMARK.

5 Reasons Every Accountant Should be at #JBITS18

There are more than five reasons accountants should attend JMARK’s Business Innovation and Technology Summit but here are some great takeaways for anyone in the accounting field.

Register today: www.bizinnovationtechsummit.com

6 Practical Data Security Tips for Accounting Firms

Accounting firms are exposed to significant data security threats. Here are 6 practical tips to keep such threats at bay.

In an age where data is often called the “new oil,” there are key security challenges unique to every industry. Accounting firms have a difficult challenge. Not only do they have to ensure the complete sanctity of their client data and their internal processes, but they must also adhere to regulatory rules and oversight that are more complex and strictly enforced than those of other industries. Add to that a varied workforce and, in some cases, different underlying systems depending on the industry of the specific client, and the job of a security administrator becomes all the more difficult.

Top Accountancy firm Deloitte, which incidentally even boasts of its own CyberIntelligence center was breached by hackers in a sophisticated attack in 2017” – Source: The Guardian

If you have an accounting firm and would like to know what you can do to keep your data safe, here are six practical security tips that can help you set your house in order and avoid data security risks.

  1. Have Clear Policies for All Existing Data Security and Data Protection Measures in Use

First things first— if you operate out of more than one location, you need to get a handle on what protocols are in place and who is in charge. It does not work for two different offices to have two different agencies responsible for data security. This creates confusion, and you risk communication failure and increased downtime when trouble occurs. You need clear lines of responsibility and authority for all security policies and processes.

It is very critical to evaluate the protocols you have in place, looking at apparent areas where there are no guidelines available. If you find this task overwhelming, look into seeking help from a specialized managed I.T. services firm like JMARK. An experienced I.T. service provider will have procedures to help you appraise your security measures in light of the unique makeup of your company as well as your markets and goals.

Next, create a checklist of the measures you have in place and benchmark them based on industry standards. It would also be prudent of you to note the kind of security threats prevalent in your industry and discuss them with peers. Based on your study, create a Standard Operating Procedure for I.T. security—or update the existing one.

  1. Ensure Physical Security

While it may seem obvious, many accounting firms often overlook physical security. To keep the user data safe, you not only need to worry about information security, but also the physical security of your facility, and access control. Even the best firewalls are useless if a malicious individual can walk away with a laptop containing critical data. Apart from making use of options like key cards and visitor logs, you should also have provisions for desk locks where employees can keep their workstations secured for safety. In addition to all this, you should also train your staff to never put any confidential or sensitive information like passwords onto sticky notes. (This may seem like a silly reminder to be making nearly two decades into the new millennium, but sadly, this is still a common sight in many offices.) Access control should be strictly enforced, and data repositories should be off limits for non-essential personnel.

  1. Maintain Proper Security Across all Devices and Solutions

To ensure complete protection, you will have to make sure that proper security is implemented for all user devices and solutions. Take the time to do each of the following things to audit security throughout all your operations:

  • Ensure that the cloud services you are making use of are PCI compliant.
  • Secure your entire infrastructure with business grade firewall, and make sure it is updated on a regular basis.
  • Maintain strong passwords across networks, along with using strong anti-virus solutions.
  • Create clear distinctions between guest networks and internal networks.
  • Put in place standardized email defense software to make sure all email accounts are well protected.
  1. Make Plans for Data Backup and Recovery for Business Continuity

Even if you have implemented all the suggestions given above, you are still vulnerable. There are chances that a breach may occur at any moment. To make sure that you are well prepared to handle such a situation and do not end up losing all your data to a ransomware attack, you should have proper backup and recovery options in place. Once you have these implemented, do not forget to test them regularly to ensure that they are working effectively. Hackers are always working to find new ways to access your network. Since criminals do not rest, neither can your security. If you have implemented a versatile backup and recovery solution, you might just be able to save yourself a lot of trouble.

  1. Keep in Mind How a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy Can Affect Data Security

With the proliferation of smartphones, most accounting firms have implemented BYOD policies for mobile devices. There are many advantages to allowing your employees to use their own devices for business purposes; however, you must keep in mind the security implications that come along with mobile access to your network. Do not forget that access to your network means access to sensitive client data. A comprehensive mobile device management (MDM) policy, and accompanying software, can help maintain the integrity of your network. Be sure to:

  • Create a policy that details the circumstances under which employees are allowed to use their own device. Along with this, you should also provide them with clear guidelines to help them understand the risks attached to mobile access.
  • Make use of a thoroughly vetted MDM solution for managing your company data on all personal devices. Enrolling the devices of new hires—and newly acquired devices of everyone—should be a priority from the first day they begin work.
  • Enforce a secure VPN for accessing office servers while working from home networks. This is especially true for teams who collaborate across geographies and time zones with the need to access official data through public networks.
  1. Use Data Encryption

No longer solely the province of spies and special agents, encryption makes your data indecipherable to those who do not have access to it. There are often encryption features built into the core applications you use daily, and you should be making use of them, as this will prevent hackers from making sense of the data even if they get access to it. Data encryption can be helpful for protecting backup disk drives as well, helping to keep all your confidential data safe. Of course, when you are ready to go beyond out-of-the-box solutions, an I.T. service provider can help you take advantage of advanced encryption solutions for your network.

While the tips listed above can serve as a starting point for ensuring data security, they are just that: the starting point. Protecting your data is a continuous endeavor, and you need to dedicate the time and resources to make sure that your accounting firm is secure.

JMARK has an enviable record in securing I.T. systems and networks and has specialized teams with expertise in working in the financial and accounting sectors. We offer a comprehensive set of security solutions ranging from data security to backup and business continuity services. To learn more about how our managed I.T. services can keep your firm safe, contact JMARK today.

5 Ways Technology Has Changed the Accounting Industry in the Last 5 years

Over the last decade, technology has been developing at an exponential rate. It has had a big impact on the way we live our personal lives, and the effect on the ways we work has been even greater. Over the last five years, technology has changed how we manage many different aspects of business operations. Accounting is no exception.

Access to faster software that can perform more complex functions, as well as interconnected technology has made accounting both easier and more efficient. Indeed, organizing financial information, analyzing data, and measuring economic activity has never been simpler.

Five of the Biggest Impacts of Technology in the Accounting Industry

The age of technology in accounting has truly arrived, leaving a permanent mark on one of man’s oldest industries. Here are five ways in which technology has changed the accounting industry in the last five years:

  1. Specialized Accounting Software

One by one, accountants are doing away with the traditional pen, ledger, and desk calculator. There now exist more efficient processing tools and specialized accounting software that allow quicker input and computation of data. In fact, even the act of manually entering information into software is declining as scanning technology makes it possible to simply photograph a page and let the software complete the relevant fields itself.

It is important to be precise in your computations when doing accounting work, and having all your information calculated by a computer has drastically improved accuracy and reduced the margin of error. Even the slightest of errors can mean trouble, including tax penalties, board discipline, and a hit to your professional reputation. Accounting software has turned the most traditional of white-collar industries into a fast-paced and dynamic profession.

  1. Cloud-based Systems

The internet is something all businesses should learn to utilize fully. Too often, we think of the internet as nothing more than the place our company website and social media accounts reside. However, there is a momentous change that is currently sweeping across the corporate world: the cloud.

Many accounting firms are now using cloud-based systems to streamline all of their information. Wherever you are, whatever time of the day, all you have to do is log on, and you will be able to immediately access your data.

Having records in the digital format, and on one comprehensive system, means that you will be able to more easily manage and retrieve files when needed. Distributing accounting information to different branches within your company will also become a breeze. Moreover, using simple and ready-to-go cloud-based systems will significantly reduce Information Technology and file-keeping expenses. Security, backup, and data retrieval have also benefitted greatly from cloud technology.

  1. More Efficient Client Transactions

Digitizing data and operations is beneficial not only for those working within the ranks or your company but also for your clients.

For one, there will no longer be a need for on-site consultations. Accountants and clients alike will be able to access real-time data remotely. Both parties will be able to simultaneously view, edit, and comment on their statements. They will then be able to convene and discuss in whatever manner is most convenient—including web-hosted video conference.

In addition, software and applications with consumer functionality have allowed non-accounting professionals to understand what is going on with their finances more easily.

  1. Mobile Accounting

It might be stating the obvious to say that we have become increasingly dependent on our mobile devices. Yet despite their ubiquity, there are many advantages to mobile devices that small businesses have yet to take advantage of.

There are now mobile applications dedicated to accounting functions. These allow you to send invoices, add receipts, and create expense claims, among other tasks. You can accomplish all this with just a couple of swipes on a screen, and your data will be seamlessly backed up to the cloud. Moreover, having increased connectivity via mobile devices also allows for better relationships between accountants and clients. When an issue arises that needs an immediate answer, you will have access to the files and data you need, no matter where you are.

With a smartphone or tablet and a Mobile Device Management plan from your I.T. support provider, you can take your office with you wherever you go.

  1. More Diverse Roles for the Accountant

If there’s one aspect of accounting that professionals dread the most, it’s the very tedious and tiresome task of compiling and computing data. However, with the advancement of technology, all that can now be done with just a click of a button.

Developments in accounting software and application have now given accountants more time on their hands for more diverse tasks. They are able to veer away from time-consuming number crunching and are increasingly able to expand into more specialized and strategic roles. More specific and value-adding roles are now up for grabs, and skilled accountants can provide more high-level specialty services. These may include data analysis and interpretation, providing financial planning advice and business consulting services, and more involvement in your company’s ongoing operations.

Accountants in the Age of Advanced Information Technology

As an accountant in today’s world, it is necessary to stay up-to-date with the most recent advances in technologies in order to be competitive and increase your productivity. Take the challenge and look further into all the intriguing ways technology has changed the accounting industry. Embracing these changes will prove to be greatly beneficial to both you and your firm.

To learn more about how embracing I.T. can make your operations more efficient, save you money, and lead to increased revenue, contact JMARK at 844-44-JMARK or email jmarkit@jmark.com.

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accounting

https://www.topaccountingdegrees.org/faq/how-has-technology-changed-the-accounting-industry/

http://www.cjeffersoncpa.com/qb/how-modern-technology-has-changed-accounting/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2016/08/03/how-technology-is-changing-the-accounting-and-bookkeeping-industry/2/#62f04ba8757e

http://www.accounting-degree.org/technology/