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Cybersecurity is the most pressing concern for businesses operating in our modern, digital landscape. This is especially true for the finance and accountancy industry.
Financial data could be compromised due to data breaches, and operational downtime caused by cyber-attacks could be costly for accountancy firms. In fact, IBM estimates that the average cost of a data leak stands is an eye-watering $4.24 million.
Why are accountancy firms such a lucrative target for cybercriminals? What cyber threats should you be aware of? How can accountants protect themselves from threats online?
In this article, we’ll tell you all you’ll need to know about cybersecurity for accountants. Let’s go!
Why are accountancy firms an attractive target for cybercriminals?
Cybercriminals target accountancy businesses for two reasons: money and financial data.
Firstly, accountants and finance officers handle large sums of money - providing many opportunities for criminals to intercept lots of cash. Secondly, criminals want to steal sensitive financial data from your clients, including tax returns, financial statements, and confidential business information.
This information can be used to commit fraud, fuel insider attacks or even blackmail your firm by threatening to release sensitive details.
What cybersecurity threats do accountants face?
Here are some common cyber threats that your accountancy firm should watch out for:
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts a victim's files and demands payment in exchange for the decryption key.
How do these attacks start? There are three main entry points for ransomware attacks:
Once a computer is infected, the ransomware can spread to other systems on your network. Once your system has been infected, the software will encrypt your files. Attackers will then ask for payment - usually by cryptocurrency - in exchange for unlocking your files.
Is it possible to decrypt ransomware files? It depends on the type of encryption algorithm the attacker uses - and it’s extremely difficult to determine the type. Some decryption tools exist for common attacks, but it’s usually much safer to restore your data from a backup.
We strongly advise against paying a ransom. There’s no guarantee that your files will be decrypted once you pay up, and your systems will still be infected with the malware. If you do fall victim to a ransomware attack, get in touch with a security expert as soon as possible.
As mentioned previously, accountants are targeted by cybercriminals as they handle financial data. This information could be used to defraud your clients, steal money and cause reputational damage to your partners.
Data breaches can occur through several means, including:
The increase in remote working has caused more data security issues for accountancy firms. Accountants may be accessing client data from unsecured networks, making it easier for hackers to steal sensitive information.
Another issue is the use of personal devices in the workplace. A study by Yubico found that 43% of employees use their personal devices for work without permission from their employers. Personal devices may not have the same security tools and measures as work devices, and can more easily be lost or stolen.
Phishing attacks are fraudulent attempts to steal sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, by pretending to be someone you trust.
This is typically done through emails or messages that appear to be from a reputable source, but contain links to fake websites or contain attachments that install malware on the recipient's computer.
Accountants can fall victim to these attacks if criminals pretend to be clients, colleagues payment providers or banks.
To reduce the risk of falling for a phishing attack, accountants should be trained to recognise scams, avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources, and verify the authenticity of emails or messages before taking any action.
How to protect your accountancy firm from cyber attacks
To keep your accountancy firm safe, you’ll need to implement a complete cybersecurity strategy that keeps you prepared for any attack.
Here are some great best practices to get you started:
By taking these steps, your firm can reduce the risk of falling victim to a cyber attack and protect its client's sensitive financial information.
Implement your cybersecurity strategy with a trusted expert
Cybersecurity is a long & complicated process, however, the potential ROI in avoided costs is astronomical. Investment in your security infrastructure can help keep your data safe and avoid costly attacks.
We highly recommend working with a trusted security expert when planning out your cybersecurity strategy. Need some help protecting your accountancy firm?
Our security experts can run a full security audit on your network to find vulnerabilities, configure firewalls, antiviruses and other security software and even help you train your staff to be aware of potential threats.