Published Date: August 19, 2019 . Last Updated April 27, 2021
Online bookkeeping firms and CPAs bear a lot of responsibility when it comes to taking care of the confidential financial information of their clients. Many accounting and bookkeeping experts consider cyber threats as a seasonal issue that arises during tax filing season. It’s true that accounting and tax preparation firms experience a noticeable spike in cyber attacks near the filing deadlines. Nevertheless, cybersecurity is an ongoing issue for clients and firms all year round.
If you are an online bookkeeping firm that works small-scale and doesn’t have resources to have IT experts working on its cybersecurity, then read on because we are going to share some valuable tips here. They can help you in beefing up your cybersecurity without spending big.
1) CPAs Must Always Use Firewalls and Antivirus
While these software applications don’t offer absolute security, you can certainly form the first line of defense for your accounting firm against any cyber malevolence through them without spending any money.
2) Educate Your Accounting Staff About Cybersecurity
Social engineering (phishing emails) has become the most effective penetration tool for cybercriminals. By drawing out a human error, they succeed in materializing their devious plans. The majority of refund frauds with W2 forms often happen through phishing emails.
So, educate your staff to not open any unsolicited mail on their workstations that are used for, say, online payroll management or tax preparation of clients.
3) Use Encrypted Means of Communication
If you have to extensively go back and forth with clients on confidential financial data, then try to use encrypted means of communication. There are accounting firm portals that offer secure cloud storage and encrypted file sharing. By using these portals as part of your service, you can protect the sensitive financial information of your clients.
4) CPAs Should Implement a Double-Check Method for Cybersecurity
While taking big financial decisions on behalf of your clients, make sure you are not getting conned by an impersonator. One way to practice this due diligence is to get e-signatures from the client to authorize any business transaction. You can also get this feature on some accounting portals.
5) Accounting Businesses Should Have A “No Cell Phone Use” Policy
In general, cell phones and smart phones are not secure like a desktop workstation. So, adopt a policy of ‘no mobile use’ for accessing the accounting portal and financial data. And even if you are giving this access, vet the mobile devices beforehand and restrict it through MAC addresses.
Through My CPA Dashboard, you can get all the security features of an accounting firm portal that we have discussed here. Keep in mind that an online bookkeeping firm can only remain in business if it develops a good cybersecurity track record.