As an accountant, you may need to travel to meet clients, go to conferences, and attend training seminars. If you work for yourself, you may even bring work along when you go on holiday. While travelling, you want to take precautions to ensure all your confidential information stays safe.
Leave Confidential Files at Home
Don’t travel with confidential paper files. They’re too easy to lose. Instead, leave those files at home. If you have digital files, copy them before you go. Also, make sure you don’t access that information over public Wi-Fi, and if you’ve got sensitive information on your hard drive, take the necessary steps to safeguard your devices.
Be Careful on Public Wi-Fi
Everywhere from hotels to coffee shops tend to offer public Wi-Fi, but those networks aren’t secure. If you sign onto websites with sensitive information about you or your clients, a hacker on that public Wi-Fi can easily see that information and steal your data. Similarly, if you email your clients over public Wi-Fi, you also risk compromising data.
To protect yourself and your clients, consider using a virtual private network (VPN). Basically, when you sign into a VPN, you enter all sites through the VPN, and it encrypts the data you send. Instruct your employees to also follow this rule while travelling. To be on the safe side, you may want to turn off the Wi-Fi on your computer when it’s not in use. Also, before you travel, double check to make sure your computer, tablet, and phone are not set up to automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi networks. You don’t want to accidentally connect to an unsecured system.
Figure Out How to Remotely Wipe Devices
Theft isn’t just digital. Sometimes, people grab your actual devices. To protect your client’s data, make sure you know how to remotely wipe your devices before you start travelling. The process varies based on the type of device you have, but normally, you have to select an option in the security settings or download an app to make it possible. Make sure all your data is backed up on an external hard drive or the cloud. A stolen device should never mean you’ve lost everything.
Meet in Private
Remember there can be lots of big ears at coffee shops, restaurants, or hotel lobbies. If you plan to talk about confidential financial issues with a client, you may want to book a private meeting room at your hotel or a nearby business center. Your client’s office can also work.
Review Generally Accepted Privacy Principles
Periodically, you should review the Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP) to ensure your practices meet those standards. Developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) Canada, these guidelines are designed to help you keep your firm’s and your client’s information as safe as possible.
Travelling can be critical for your accounting business, but you don’t want the experience to compromise your data security. With the right steps, you can travel and access data securely. Just be aware of the risks and take steps to avoid them.