The internet and related technologies have made business accounting easier than ever, and most accountants make payments, keep records, or communicate with clients digitally. Unfortunately, this also means that businesses are more susceptible to cyber crimes such as ransomware. During a ransomware attack, a hacker enters a company’s computer system and encrypts important files, preventing the owners of the files from accessing them. The hacker then demands a sum of money — a ransom — for the return of the files.
To improve the digital security of your accounting firm, you first need to identify the weak spots. A cyber risk assessment is an estimate of your network’s overall level of security, based on a series of tests.
Cyber security experts recommend having a vulnerability assessment done before taking other steps. This type of test discovers and categorizes potential flaws in your computer systems that hackers could use to get in and take control of your files.
Another important test is a penetration test. In this test, a certified professional attempts to hack into your computer systems using existing flaws, some of which may have been discovered during the vulnerability assessment. Together, these tests give you a good idea of how secure your digital files actually are. Then, you can start thinking about how to better protect your network.
Create Secure Backups
One of the simplest ways to protect your data from ransomware attacks is to back up your files regularly. Most companies perform backups, but many companies also keep those backups on other computers or drives that are still hooked up to the main network. Any files that are still on the network can be hacked, leaving you with little choice but to pay the ransom. To create a truly secure backup, store copies of your files on an external hard drive that can easily be unplugged and disconnected from your main network.
Educate Your Staff
Even small accounting firms can stay secure against cyber crime with regular security checks and good employee practices. Ransomware attacks can come from phishing emails and untrustworthy downloads. Check emails and links for mismatched URLs, and suspicious or unknown return addresses. Never click on unverified links in emails. Avoid downloading files from websites you are unsure about.
Install reputable anti-virus software on your computer network, and educate your employees on the importance of regularly updating anti-virus software and firewalls. It’s also a good idea to make sure your company email account has an active and effective spam filter — many email hosts have these built in. If you notice suspicious emails coming from a particular source, block that address, or add it to a spam list to avoid any accidental clicks or interactions. Create another level of security within your office hierarchy by restricting access to data like client accounts and certain email addresses.
Proactive security practices can help ensure that your accounting records and files stay safe and private. Plus, maintaining consistent cyber security can help you foster trust with your clients and stay in business for a long time to come.