Article written by Marketing Team
Cybersecurity, an essential investment
It is increasingly common to hear the names of service companies in the press in the context of a data theft or hacking incident. Cyberattacks have become a reality, highlighting the ever-changing challenges that all service companies face. Including accounting firms…
In 2023, the issue of cybersecurity will be central for accounting firms. The Winbiz situation, which handicapped more than 50,000 clients at the beginning of December, have certainly put the finger on a flaw. But it reminds us all of the extent of the potential damage, and the need for an entire industry to better educate itself, better equip itself and take the measure of the technological shortcomings of a profession that has historically been static in its functioning.
Some players have taken the lead and made technology one of their strengths, as we have done with IODD for example. However, the dematerialized world in which we live makes us more vulnerable to potential attacks.
The risks of not proactively addressing these cybersecurity vulnerabilities are significant. Without strong protections, accounting firms and their clients face colossal losses of revenue, customers and reputation, some of which may not get back on their feet. For companies, a cyberattack can result in significant loss of time while systems are “held hostage” for ransom, as well as significant expenses related to notifying clients, analyzing the attack, fixing errors, manual entry and paying for expensive services to restore or exfiltrate data and system functionality.
Without becoming an IT specialist, we should at least be aware of the main elements to consider in order to put the odds in our favor and ensure (as much as possible) sound data and IT security management.
Your company’s networks are a lifeline, connecting systems, people and data. Your network architecture must be configured, organized and connected in a way that ensures both security and operability. Some call this “zero trust architecture,” setting up a system that requires validations for every digital interaction. Next-generation firewalls that continuously monitor activity and quickly detect intrusions also help reduce the risk and impact of a cyberattack.
It is important to have a backup plan in place, not only in case of a cyber-attack, but also if a natural disaster were to cut off access to the office or damage the servers. Virtualization, if well thought out and deployed, allows backups to be accessible within minutes in the event of a “cyber incident.” At all times, an accounting firm needs a regularly tested and adjusted backup and recovery plan in case data is compromised. The frequency of backups will also be an important element in this consideration.
Beware of phishing
Naturally, a large part of administrative work is done via email communications. However, email is also the main source of phishing attacks. The greatest vigilance is therefore required. Phishing is not exclusive to email. Fraudsters can try to deceive their victims by phone, by sms or even on social networks (including professional ones).
There has been an increase in such attempts for some time. Moreover, Revolut had the excellent idea of creating an “anti-fraud hub”, available to its community in order to help them protect themselves.
Encryption is used to protect data from outside intrusion. Typically, service companies focus on encrypting data in transit, for example by using encrypted messaging systems. However, there are also solutions for encrypting data while it is at static. It is advisable to seek the assistance of a specialized company to explore such options, even if this is not a legal requirement for all sectors.
Updates, patches and fixes
Whether you use in-house IT teams or a third party, make sure your software and hardware are regularly patched and updated, preferably automatically. Updates are often released to address security issues and failure to apply patches can leave your business vulnerable.
Accounting audits are performed by external experts, and so should IT audits! Audits help identify vulnerabilities, especially when new technologies are integrated into the company’s operations. Penetration tests also help assess the permeability of the system. These tests can be quite expensive, so it is a constant trade-off between risk and investment, knowing that nothing and no one will ever be 100% protected from cyber attacks.
Finally, employees are the very first line of defense against cyber attacks. Regular information sessions, training or even fake attacks to train them to remain vigilant at all times are ways to make them a strong ally in this perpetual cat and mouse game.
Hackers are often brilliant and imaginative computer experts who evolve with technology. So don’t take them lightly and hope to slip through the cracks. As we say in English, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”.