Tax season 2024…am I right?
From deadline pressures to managing workflows and keeping clients happy, accounting professionals are—yet again—in for it.
And you’d think that would be enough to focus on. But no! Because every year, right around now, more hackers awaken from their seasonal slumber, trudge toward their keyboards and begin spinning up new ways to break into your practice.
It’s a fact: Cybercrime spikes every tax season.
“The enormous amounts of valuable personal and financial information shared online during this time of year make it a haven for thieves—and they are doing everything they can to take full advantage of the opportunity tax season brings them.” North Carolina Department of Information Technology
In this post, we’ll teach you how to keep the bandits at bay with seven of our best tips.
Ready? Let’s begin.
How to secure your firm this tax season
No. 1: Train employees
Training employees is number one for a reason. You are your practice’s greatest asset…and you’re also its biggest threat. With social engineering tactics getting scary good, it’s important to stay trained on identifying the most advanced cyberscams.
And taking one cybersecurity awareness class is a good first step, but it’s not enough.
Comprehensive security training is:
- Ongoing: Once a year…is probably not enough. The frequency of your training is paramount, as hackers are always finding new avenues into your data, and you need to know what those are in order to avoid them.
- Interactive: Staring at a video and clicking “next” after the speaker stops talking? Also, probably not enough. Ensure whatever training you get includes quizzes, buttons, toggles and baubles aplenty. Interaction keeps people focused, awake and more likely to comprehend what they’ve learned.
- Competitive: I know from personal experience that the moment I see my colleagues are ahead in their training…it’s game time. Competition adds that extra layer of oomph to ensure everyone—everyone—is staying educated.
Learn how to make cybersecurity awareness training a success at your organization.
No. 2: Simulate phishing attacks
Number two—while tangentially related to number one—requires its own number to highlight its importance.
Your comprehensive security awareness training program must include simulated phishing exercises. If my education hadn’t taught me to be on the lookout for:
- Abnormal (but passable) email addresses
- Unexpected action items
- A sense of urgency
…would I know how to identify a scam? Maybe, maybe not. One thing I know for certain: It’s not worth the risk.
No. 3: Implement strict access controls
Limit your employees to only the data they need to get their job done. If it’s not their client, if it’s not their project, they shouldn’t have access to it.
Additionally, use multifactor authentication (MFA) to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to critical information.
No. 4: Encrypt data
Data encryption is a method of converting information into an unreadable format using algorithms, making it accessible only to authorized individuals who possess the decryption key to convert it back to its original form.
It ensures that sensitive data remains secure during transmission or storage by scrambling it in a way that unauthorized parties cannot decipher.
If you’re wondering (like me), “Huh…?” I get it. One cannot simply spin up an encryption algorithm. That’s why solutions like Rightworks OneSpace exist. Any data stored in this intelligent cloud platform is automatically encrypted and unreadable to those without access.
No. 5: Keep software updated
This tip is short and sweet: Keep your software, apps and operating systems up to date.
Updates often contain the latest security patches, protecting you from identified vulnerabilities. (Vulnerabilities that bad actors are already, or could become, privy to.)
No. 6: Implement a backup and recovery plan
Have any of these happened to you?
- You accidentally deleted a file.
- A hacker infiltrated your system and held your data for ransom.
- A hacker deleted your data just to be, like, the worst.
Personally, I go through bouts of number one anytime I’m rushing.
(Like yesterday, when I was trying to upload a replacement file and instead deleted the file that I needed. It would have been really nice if I had a number to call to restore that file—but I didn’t, because the pharmacy I was using to print my Christmas cards isn’t as helpful as Rightworks.)
Regularly back up your files! (And your photos!) Establish a comprehensive recovery plan in case of a security breach or (ahem) accidental deletion.
No. 7: Establish secure client communication channels
Your firm could have the best security out there—but with one external communication misstep, you’re toast.
To mitigate an external communication disaster:
- Establish secure channels for sharing sensitive information. Consider using a cloud platform to work from and require clients to upload their information there (vs. over email or snail mail).
- Use a secure file-sharing platform with end-to-end encryption to exchange documents with clients. Learn more about safe document sharing apps.
The easiest way to stay secure this tax season
By combining these seven of our best, most effective security measures, you’ll significantly reduce your data breach risk and ensure your sensitive information stays safe.
- An easy-to-use, secure platform to work from and exchange information in.
- 24/7/365 continuous monitoring and intrusion detection.
- 24/7 US-based support.
- Ongoing security awareness training with simulated phishing attacks.
- Backup and recovery options.
- And so, so much more.
Stay ahead of evolving cybersecurity threats this tax season—and in all future seasons, too. Get in touch with Rightworks today.