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A Guide to Cybersecurity Best Practices for Accounting Firms

Thumbnail Guide to cybersecurity best practices for accounting firms

As one of the most targeted sectors by cybercriminals, it’s crucial for accounting firms to adhere to cybersecurity best practices to keep their data safe from crippling cyberattacks. Accounting firms hold extremely sensitive data like client information, confidential business plans, and transactional records that no outsider should have any access to.

As cybersecurity threats plague the accounting industry, accounting firms should invest in their cybersecurity infrastructure. Accounting firm owners must protect their clients’ data to establish a good reputation and avoid potential financial and legal repercussions.

With that said, here’s an up-to-date list of the best practices against cybersecurity threats for accounting firms.

Infographics Guide to cybersecurity best practices for accounting firms

1. Password Security Protocols

Password creation is where some accounting firms get complacent. Some passwords like “admin12345” might be easy to remember, but they’re also easy to hack.

When you create your password, make sure to use a mix of characters – letters in different cases, numbers, and symbols – and make it long as well. Don’t use easy-to-guess, personal information like your birthday or your birth year. Create a truly unique, hard to guess combination to make it harder for brute-force attacks to happen.

Here are other useful tips for accounting firm owners and employees when dealing with passwords for their company accounts.

  • Regularly change your personal and work passwords.
  • Never let anyone know about your personal and work accounts.
  • Never share passwords between personal and work accounts.
  • Implement a password manager for safe password storage.
  • Educate your employees through refresher courses and training programs for up-to-date cybersecurity awareness and measures.

2. Multifactor Authentication

Sometimes, complex passwords just won’t suffice. If you want to create the best information security measures that are suited for your firm, then you should include more layers of protection in your current security protocols.

Multifactor authentication involves more than a username and password to authenticate the identity of the account holder. It requires factors or identifiers, like a personal identification number or PIN, your smartphone, or your biometric data.

When using biometrics in lieu of passwords, you firm should consider utilising technologies like facial recognition, fingerprint sensors, and iris or retinal scanners to ensure that the people accessing the data in your accounting firm are truly your trusted employees.

Meanwhile, authenticator apps are helpful as well when you’re adding that extra layer of protection to your sensitive data. Whether your team uses Google or Microsoft, both have their own authenticators to track and identify employee activity accurately.

3. Audit Trails

An audit trail is a documented, one-by-one tracking of transactions, financial data, user activity, and other accounting-related tasks and projects. Audit trails can be used for data protection because you can trace back any possible errors, data security violations, or fraudulent activities committed either by team members or third-party firms or individuals.

Some examples of audit trails include external audits, internal audits, and ATO/IRD audits by the Australian and the New Zealand taxation departments. External audits are mostly done by CPA firms, while internal audits can be performed by people coming from different departments, given that they’ve undergone proper training. Meanwhile, audits performed by the ATO and the IRD are mostly for correct taxpaying.

4. Accounting Cybersecurity Software

Your firm needs cybersecurity software that’s reputable, regulation-compliant, and specifically designed for accounting. Using cybersecurity software means forming extra walls against attackers trying to steal your firm’s most sensitive data, like extortion ransomware. Fortify your data and cloud security with programs like Practice Protect to ensure complete and upgraded data protection for your accounting firm.

One cybersecurity strategy that’s more specific towards defending your firm’s system from cyber threats like malware, spam mails, and phishing attacks is getting good antivirus software. Some of the best business antivirus software in the market include Sophos, Bitdefender, and McAfee.

5. Constantly Updated Software

The most up-to-date version of your software allows you to protect your firm’s devices better. If your software is constantly updated, then your accounting firm’s system is benefitting from the latest developments in your antivirus software. Some benefits include stronger firewalls or more modifications against the newest types of viruses or malware.

6. Backed Up Data

Backed up data is useful especially when your devices get infected with viruses and malware. It’s good to make use of cloud storage, especially as a backup for your accounting firm’s most sensitive data. Some benefits of using cloud storage for accounting firms include real-time data syncing, file versioning for audit trail purposes, and eco-friendliness, among others.

7. Locked Devices

Accounting firms must make it a standard procedure in their production rooms to train their accountants, bookkeepers, executive assistants, and the rest of their employees to habitually lock their devices, especially when they’ll be away from their computers for a while. Accounting firms should avoid too much complacency in the workplace and prioritise data protection at all times.

8. Clean Employee Records

Having trusted employees gives you confidence and a sense of peace as an accounting firm owner that you’re working with reliable, honest, and talented employees to handle your day-to-day operations. Run a thorough background check or verification on your employees to protect your accounting firm from theft, fraud, and most importantly, security breaches.

To ensure that your accounting employees have clean records, here are some common employee background verification types:

Reference Checks

One of the easiest background verification methods, reference checks could be recommendation letters, email exchanges, or short phone calls with your employee’s former employer.

If you’re considering offshoring, one provider you can trust is TOA Global, who does all background checks for you. TOA Global verifies all offshore employees’ records, from accounting certification to education and employment verification.

Education Verification

For accounting firms, it’s crucial to make sure your accountants are certified/licensed to establish public trust. In Australia, there are many databases for CA license verification, like CPA Australia. For New Zealand, you can try Chartered Accountants. Ensure that their submitted identification numbers match the ones from the accounting databases.

Criminal Record Check

Especially since accountants handle sensitive data, your firm should run a thorough check on your employees’ criminal history. If your candidate or employee happens to have any charges or convictions, it’s also good to understand the context and use your best judgment to decide if you will proceed with onboarding them or keeping them as your employee.

Health and Drug Testing

Health testing makes sure that your accounting employees are physically able to work onsite, without any health complications that can hamper workplace productivity, or contagious diseases that will affect other employees in your firm.

Meanwhile, drug testing helps with maintaining workplace safety and minimises substance abuse-related casualties in the office.

Is Outsourced Accounting Safe and Secure?

If your firm is considering outsourced accounting, you might be having concerns about cybersecurity – and understandably so. Especially if you’re doing it for the first time, hiring a third-party team to take on your accounting tasks can have you worried about client information protection and your confidential transactional records.

This is what TOA Global successfully addresses.

TOA Global uses enterprise-grade cybersecurity software to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of our teams. Our high-end infrastructure includes power and internet redundancy for safety and business continuity.

We also implement strict protocols like our ban on the usage of personal electronic devices in our production rooms and offsite access to client data. Our office premises are also monitored by security personnel and equipped with 24/7 CCTV.

Finally, our staff are trained and equipped through our in-house cybersecurity training course, which covers the latest in data, device, access, and end-user security protocols.

Safe and Secure Outsourced Accounting Cybersecurity with TOA Global

TOA Global connects thousands of accounting firms to outsourced accounting experts. We implement strict data protection policies and systems, use enterprise-grade cybersecurity software, and consistently train our outsourced accounting experts to prepare against cybersecurity threats of different types and scales.

TOA Global is committed to meeting international information security standards. Our elite accounting teams are trained to uphold transparency and compliance with your accounting firm. Rest assured that your most sensitive data is safe and secure with us. Start your collaborative strategy session with TOA Global and get in touch with us today.