Now, more than ever, with Canada falling behind on cybersecurity, it’s critically important to have a cybersecurity plan in place at your accounting firm. Cyber attackers are constantly evolving the methods they use to electronically break into businesses and steal important client information, so it’s vital that you regularly improve your firm’s cyber defenses.
Effectively Implement a Cybersecurity Plan With PREPARE
If your accounting firm doesn’t have a plan in place, you can create one using a method known as PREPARE. If your firm already has a plan in place, it can almost certainly be improved by using this method. PREPARE is an acronym that stands for pinpoint, recognize, evaluate, prioritize, assess, resources, and execute.
Pinpointing gaps in your firm’s cybersecurity is the first step. While this can be difficult to do without a deep knowledge of the subject, you can find vulnerabilities with an online quiz from the Department of Pubic Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Once that step is complete, focus on recognizing what business assets and data are at stake. Then, evaluate and prioritize cybersecurity threats with the help of employees or outside consultants. You should focus on assessing what steps are needed to use the resources available to you, and then execute the plan in a reasonable timeframe.
Upgrading Hardware to Improve Cybersecurity
If you have the budget, you may want to consider upgrading your hardware. This includes computers, smartphones, office phones, printers, scanners, and more. While this step alone does not guarantee protection, it’s true that as vulnerabilities in old hardware are found, manufacturers update the technology to eliminate security flaws. Companies also update their firmware, which is read-only permanent software programmed into the device, to patch cybersecurity problems as they are found. Once a device is shipped, it’s firmware can’t be updated remotely over the internet. For these reasons, it’s probably a good idea to upgrade hardware on a somewhat regular basis.
Improving Your Cybersecurity With Software and Operating System Updates
The operating system is the foundational software that runs your computers, smartphones, and tablets. Because of this, operating systems are a popular target for cyber attackers. Loopholes and vulnerabilities in operating systems are regularly found by cyber criminals and used to attack businesses and steal information. This is why it’s so important to update the operating systems on all of your computers and devices as soon as a new update becomes available. This simple step is often overlooked or put off. Data shows that people don’t update their operating systems regularly because it takes too much time. But it’s one of the most important steps you can take to protect your accounting firm.
You can also vastly improve your firm’s cybersecurity plan by including a review of its anti-virus software. This type of software scans all of a computer’s files for malicious lines of code and attempts to destroy the threat. Anti-virus software also fights more than just viruses. Adware, spyware, trojans, ransomware, keyloggers and other threats can be detected and eliminated. Your plan should include a thorough review of each computer to ensure the latest anti-virus updates are downloaded and installed. These updates include definitions of the latest threats as hackers are constantly upping their game. Also, many anti-virus products should be analyzed to see which is best for your business.
Best Practices With Employees
The human element is also important to cybersecurity. It may be best to work with a cybersecurity consultant to devise and implement security protocols that all employees should follow. But as a start, you should review each computer and device to make sure a strong password is required to log in to the system. This is a simple step to help prevent unauthorized people from using certain computers. Next, you should have policies detailing when and how often sensitive data should be backed up and on what type of backup system. The policy should also detail what type of information needs to be encrypted and when. For the most part, any emails that contain private client information should be encrypted as an extra layer of protection.
Keep an Eye on Blockchain Technology
Blockchain technology is something that accountants also need to understand. It’s essentially a decentralized digital ledger that eliminates the need for third-party trust verification. While there are many uses for it in accounting, the technology will help on the cybersecurity front in a big way. With the blockchain, information is extremely secure and incorruptible. While the technology is relatively new and beginning to spread to many industries, it’s something to keep an eye on. Your cybersecurity plan should include a regular review of the blockchain technology currently available. Utilizing blockchain will almost certainly increase the level of defense your firm has against cyber attacks.
Putting a cybersecurity plan into place and regularly improving it is a great step toward ensuring your clients’ sensitive information and data is safe. While many firms brush off the need to have thorough cybersecurity plans, having one at your firm, and actually implementing it, is critical in the fast-moving and quickly evolving world of cyber attacks.