How CPAs Protect Clients from Cyber Attacks

Nowadays, it’s hard to read daily news stories without learning about yet another major cyber attack. In fact, cyber crimes are becoming so tech-savvy and ubiquitous that it seems that no one is invulnerable anymore. Not even the United States government.

In May 2016 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that 18 out of the 24 federal agencies surveyed indicated that even with highly secure systems, cyber attacks from foreign nations remained the most dangerous and reoccurring threat to security.

If our own government can’t protect its most sensitive information, how can CPAs expect to help safeguard their clients’ financial records?

While CPAs certainly aren’t equipped to prevent sophisticated cyber security breaches, there are ways to encourage clients to heighten security measures. By doing so, CPAs can help protect clients’ information while simultaneously building trust, averting future accounting nightmares, and creating a progressive reputation.

Of course, before a CPA can dish out advise about cyber security, they must first learn the three biggest cybercrimes likely to affect their job:

  • Corporate Account Takeover (CAT): happens when a client’s banking authorization is hijacked remotely and money is seized from banking accounts
  • Sensitive Data Theft: occurs when a hacker illegally gains access to a client’s customer information or unencrypted business data
  • Intellectual Property Theft: arises when copyrighted material such as trade secrets are misappropriated

Now, what cyber security measures should CPAs recommend to clients?

According to Accounting Today, CPAs should gently suggest implementing the following:

  • Firewall protection
  • Cutting-edge antivirus software
  • Upgraded operating systems
  • Encrypting delicate data
  • Data backup systems
  • Disaster recovery system

Before proposing these recommendations, keep in mind that clients may react defensively during your initial cyber security discussion. However, with a little coaxing, they will likely realize your best intentions. It is often the difficult conversations that make lasting changes and forge stronger professional bonds.