What is cybersecurity best practice for the accounting industry​?

All businesses need to take steps to ensure the security of their data and systems is safe. The accounting profession is no exception. As the rate of cyber-attacks increases, cybercriminals know that vulnerable systems with important financial information are easier targets.

Robust cybersecurity practices ensure sensitive financial data is protected, not only to stay compliant within the industry, but for the safety of clients who have entrusted your organisation with their sensitive personal and financial information.

Cybersecurity concerns for accounting industry

The sensitive and valuable nature of the data stored by accounting companies makes them a prime target for cybercriminals. Cybercriminals can deploy any number of methods to access data, whether through phishing emails, ransomware attacks, or viruses, locking users out and stealing client data or holding it to ransom. This can result in significant legal and reputational damage, as well as high regulatory fines and security recovery costs.

Every accounting business is vulnerable, as cybercriminals continue to come up with new ways to deploy attacks. No matter how secure you believe your system to be, there’s always a possibility of a data breach. It also doesn’t matter how what the size is of a business - larger firms tend to appear to be higher risk but they also have far more investment in security measures than smaller businesses.

Data breaches can lead to credit card fraud or ID theft, such as social security numbers, bank account details, or other accounting data. Having sensitive data breached can cost organisations both financially, and in loss of reputation. The average cost of a data breach is $4.27 million, and can take up to 50% of the company budget more than 12 months after the breach occurred.

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What are cybersecurity best practices for the accounting industry?

Prevention is always better than the cure when it comes to the security of your business. Planning to keep your company secure needs to consider all the components of your technology, including servers, cloud solutions, and your employees.

It’s a good idea to take a look at your security protocols and assess the risk to understand how safe your company really is. A managed security service provider can undertake this exercise and identify the areas of risk and vulnerabilities you may not be aware of. With this information, a roadmap can be created to ensure more robust cybersecurity practices are implemented and upheld by your employees.

Network perimeter security

Your business network keeps your company connected and functioning, and needs to be secure at all times. The network framework or architecture should be organised, set up, and connected in a way that enables security and operability. This might include monitoring which continuously looks at network activity and detects potential threats that can come from both inside and outside the network.

Access controls

Most accounting businesses are familiar with the practice of segregated duties, which form the standard of internal controls when it comes to accounting data.

Staff having access to all data, regardless of their role in the business, increases the security vulnerability of your company. It’s important to have a comprehensive strategy when it comes to access of systems and data, allowing access to information based on their role or job title within the organisation and actively managing access to the different levels of data. Keeping track of access levels, such as setting up permissions, can isolate the potential of security risk.

Passwords and authentication

Passwords are one of the more problematic areas for businesses, particularly those who have staff working remotely. 80% of hacking-related breaches are linked to passwords and human error so it’s critical your business actively manages this vulnerability across all levels. Passwords should be strong and hard to guess, such as passphrases (a string of sentence-like words longer than a traditional password).

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is also vital, as it requires more than one mode of authenticating a user before they can access applications, websites, emails, or systems. MFA requires users to enter known factors, such as a password, and an unknown factor, like a system generated passcode. This makes it more difficult for malicious actors to use stolen passwords on their own to gain access to systems and networks.

Data backup and recovery plans

Data is the lifeblood of any business, and it’s important to secure access to your data if there is a cyber event or natural disaster. This is when a managed service provider is invaluable, in not just organising and regularly scheduling data backups, but creating a recovery plan to ensure if data is compromised, your organisation can continue to function.

Security audits

As accounting firms regularly undertake audits of their clients’ books, so your business should ensure your technology and IT infrastructure is regularly audited to identify any security vulnerabilities. A third party audit can include penetration testing, which assesses where your threat exposures are, recommend mitigation strategies or updates, or undertake the necessary security measures to increase your security posture.

To keep your business and data secure, create a partnership with IT security experts who can design a strategic approach that addresses accounting cybersecurity best practices. Ongoing monitoring, maintenance, data backup and recovery are all part of the tailored IT security consulting services Essential Tech offers, to keep your business safe and thriving.

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