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Top Data Security Tips for Accountants for Effective Cyber Security

June 13, 2022 | Corientz

Starting out in business is challenging. Up to 20% of new businesses fail in the first year of trading and 60% within the first three years.  Setting up and managing a new venture is tough, so it is important to do everything possible to increase your chances of success.

One way to improve your chances of success is to properly manage your cyber security right from the start.  With all the advances in technology, comes an increased risk of security breaches.  There are various security tools and enhanced privacy systems to safeguard your most valuable asset – your data.  Even with strong policies in place, it pays to be vigilant.  Cyber security is critical to ensure safe data sharing and reduce or eliminate the chances of hacking.

Accountants are privy to large amounts of sensitive data, including full personal details of their clients and all their financial information, both business and personal.  It is important to respect and value the privacy of clients and do everything possible to protect their data.

Top tips:

  1. Keep software up to date with the latest version

Hacking tools are constantly evolving.  Security software will only guarantee protection against hackers only if it is up to date.  It is good to get in the habit of routinely checking for software updates to ensure your security protocols are current.  Keep your data security up to date and secure using strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and encryption, so you can reassure your clients their sensitive information is safe in your hands and there will be no data compromise.

  1. Restrict user access as appropriate

Your server should be protected from database security threats with a firewall, which denies access to traffic by default. The only traffic allowed through should come from specific applications or web servers that need to access the data. The firewall should also protect your database from initiating outbound connections unless there is a specific need to do so.

A data breach involves unauthorized access or disclosure of sensitive and confidential data. The data needs to be restricted by user access to ensure the safety of personal information and financial data. To protect your business data, you should consider how and where it is stored, secured (physically and electronically), and who has access to it.

  1. Remove unnecessary data, only store what’s needed, and ensure compliance with GDPR

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a framework that outlines the rules of data gathering and processing.  There are seven fundamental principles in this framework, that organisations should use to align their policies on data management – lawfulness, fairness, and transparency; purpose limitation; data minimisation; accuracy; storage limitation; integrity and confidentiality; accountability.  Compliance with GDPR principles allows your business to operate in a clear legal environment and it enhances trust and credibility.

  1. Update passwords regularly

Using passwords to protect computer networks is important and strong passwords are a must.  The use of pre-set prompts to update passwords regularly is required for continued data safety.  Strong passwords can include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, and are generally longer than 12 characters.  It is a good idea to implement policies to deal with sharing of passwords amongst co-workers.  Further security around passwords can be implemented by making sure the software you use disables logins after too many attempts.

  1. Keep certifications up to date

Make sure all staff are aware of GDPR rules and cyber security risks so that there are no inadvertent breaches due to lack of training or understanding.  Ensure employees understand how to use company resources, and what penalties are involved for failing to follow security protocols.  It can help to work with an experienced IT consultant or in-house IT staff on a plan for security measures and to plan in the event of a data breach.  Data breaches are common, so it is important to have a backup plan in place, so you can get your business back up and running if there is a data loss.

Conclusion

It can be challenging to know where to begin to protect your business from cyber-crime and cyber-attacks.  There is a lot of information available, so it is important to know what is relevant for you and how you can protect your business.

Putting best practices in place for you and your employees to protect against cyber-threats, will strengthen your security and make the business less vulnerable to attack.  Sharing policies with staff is vital, along with providing regular training and updates for employees, in order to maintain a safe environment for data security.

Data security is an integral part of daily work for bookkeepers and accountants and should be a top priority for all practices.