As an accounting professional, it is your responsibility to make sure that every client's data remains confidential and secure. Unfortunately, because of the sensitive data they collect and manage, CPAs and tax accountants are desirable targets for scammers and hackers. To protect yourself and your clients, you need to do everything you can to keep your network secure.
Understanding the Threat
The threat to accounting and tax professionals has become so serious that the IRS has released several memos pertaining to the issue. One such memo was released in mid-April of 2016. In this memo, the IRS warned accounting and tax professionals of a new scam cybercriminals were using to take remote control of accountants' computers, file tax returns on behalf of the accountants' clients and redirect the refund to their own accounts.
In another memo from the IRS dated July 2016, tax and accounting professionals were made aware of a new campaign the IRS was launching to combat scammers. The purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness of security threats among tax professionals so that they can prepare accordingly.
Recently, a Nevada CPA firm was sent a resume from someone looking to be “mentored”. The email included a .exe file, that when downloaded launched a ransom ware application that hijacked the computer. Needless to say, you must be careful when it comes to security.
Tips for Protecting Your Network
To protect your business and your clients from security breaches, follow these tips:
- Do not open email attachments from unknown senders. If you don't recognize the sender of an email, don't download any files attached to the email. These files could contain viruses or other malware.
- Do not download unexpected attachments sent from friends or acquaintances. In some cases, you may receive a dangerous file from someone you know and trust. This typically occurs because your friend's email account has been compromised. If you receive an email from a friend that contains an attachment you weren't expecting, make sure the attachment is legitimate before you open or download it.
- Protect your network with high-quality antivirus software. Make sure that you have a high-quality anti-virus software program to protect your network from security risks. Update this software often to ensure that your network is safe from all of the newest threats.
- Utilize a firewall. Having a firewall provides you with additional protection from external threats. Use a firewall to reduce the risk of breaches.
- Be selective when downloading. Before downloading any file from the internet, ask yourself whether the download is absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, proceed only if you believe the source to be safe and legitimate.
- Back up all files regularly. If your computer's files become infected with malware, you can typically resolve the problem by replacing them with a backed-up version. To ensure that you have up-to-date files to use for this purpose, back up all of your data regularly.
When attempting to keep your network safe from security breaches, vigilance is key. Keep an eye out for signs of suspicious activity at all times. If you suspect a breach, act quickly to resolve it.