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How would you feel if, once a year, we took five percent of your paycheck and handed that money to a criminal?
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the typical organization loses that much every year to fraud. And on average, it takes about 280 days before a breach is even detected—-that’s the majority of a year!
Financial institutions hold highly confidential client information, like social security and bank account numbers. Cyberattacks cost these companies more than just revenue—they rob companies of their clients and reputations and steal valuable time.
Cybercriminals are opportunists looking for an easy target. The internet gives them quite a bit of anonymity to commit crimes, but you don’t have to provide them with easy access. Tightening business controls, increasing security investment and keeping up with cybercrime education can effectively prevent many business-related and personal cyberattacks.
Setting up proper safeguards is the first step in preventing or minimizing data breaches. Threats can come from external sources (as is the case with many cyberattacks) or from within an organization. Employees can knowingly or accidentally leak sensitive information to criminals, so protect yourself from internal attacks, too. Try these steps with significant impacts:
Ensure you are working with the newest systems and software versions, including web browsers. New versions often include fixes to loopholes where hackers could gain access. Install all updates and patches to your tech because one outdated computer is all it takes for a criminal to get to sensitive info.
Next-gen firewalls offer continuous monitoring and quick detection when an unauthorized source attempts to access your systems. They automatically prevent such users from gaining entry by only approving requests from those on your “allowed” list. A secure firewall is a potent and reliable way to keep attackers out while allowing your employees to keep working.
Just when it seems like you couldn’t possibly have another tech thing to add to your protection, there’s more. Install protective software to prevent and destroy viruses and spyware. They should filter content for phishing scams so they never reach your employees’ inboxes. Look for protective software that updates automatically.
Hire well-vetted workers. Conduct background checks on prospective employees. Adhere to state hiring laws while mitigating the risk of hiring a poor-intentioned employee. Check out court and legal documents and prior employment records for evidence of misconduct.
Give your personnel a sense of ownership over information security. Train them on what to watch for. Establish clear guidelines as to what’s expected of them for compliance and best practices in their online and offline behavior (handling data, conducting themselves around clients and co-workers). Teach them how to avoid phishing emails, which can lead to ransomware attacks and financial data leaks.
Control who has access to what according to job duty, title or grouping. Appoint your most reliable and knowledgeable managers and admin to create and oversee an approval and validation system. Authorize a select few to add programs to computers. This will prevent employees from accidentally installing something with malware on it and compromising your data.
Prompt employees to change their passwords regularly (like every three months) and require complex passwords for better hacking protection. Complex passwords are typically at least eight characters long and contain at least one number and an upper- and lower-case letter. A second authenticator, such as a Captcha or third-party identifier, will further protect your systems from criminals and their bots. Finally, plan what to do when an individual leaves your organization.
Keep a record of employee consent to your policies. This can look like anything from a document they read and sign at the beginning of employment to a quick ‘Yes’ button they click when logging on daily.
Knowing where your data is susceptible to attacks is essential for effective data management. Establish security criteria and identify risk concerns with your team. Examine your processes and know where your data lives. Consider internal controls, too. Having an independent security auditor assess your systems can help you uncover vulnerabilities you might not be able to find on your own.
Federal and business regulations sometimes cover security threats. Not only must you comply with those regulations, but you must also document the standards and how you comply.
The ideal accounting system should be versatile, with strong encryption and automated internal security features. A separate security tool or service can bolster your accounting system, data storage, cloud services and institutional web pages.
Criminals continuously change their tactics for stealing data and money. It’s up to us to learn as much as we can as often as we can to protect our organizations and ourselves. CPA continuing education courses, the kind The Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA) offers, connect you to timely information and tools to defend against criminals. Stay current on your accounting continuing education to learn more about managing your institution’s data and building accountability into your processes.