Protecting Client Data During Tax Season
Tax season is upon us, which means the volume of sensitive data being sent and received by accounting departments, tax practitioners, CPAs, banks, and other financial institutions goes up drastically. It should come as no surprise then, that it’s also the time of year that the rates of cyberattack and identity theft also rise. With the public’s growing awareness of the risk of cyberattacks, how you safeguard and transmit client data will have a significant impact on you and/or your institution’s reputation.
Compliance regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act have provided organizations with a solid framework for quarterly and annual financial submissions and require that companies have strong internal controls in place for handling all accounting data. The challenge is that these regulations are typically vague in their wording, and don’t go into detail on how companies of all sizes can strengthen their security protocols for day-to-day sensitive data transmissions. Check out our whitepaper for an in-depth look at SOX compliance including practical tips for IT professionals.
If tax season has you worried in light of all the stories of cyberattacks and identity thefts that have been circulating over the past year, having a few security measures in place will help you rest assured that your client data is safe.
Physical Security: Keeping Accounting Systems on Lockdown
Your accounting system is the infrastructure that contains client’s confidential information and should be protected at all times. If it’s been a while since physical security of your systems has been reexamined, tax season is the perfect time to do a thorough analysis. Physical security should be your first priority; whether your system consists of a personal laptop or multiple servers and computers. In the event of an audit, proper physical security of your accounting systems will also help you avoid any regulatory compliance issues or penalties.
It’s usually advised to keep accounting equipment in a room or area that can be locked to prevent unauthorized access. If you work for an organization with multiple exposed workstations, make sure that there are processes in place that limit who gets into the server room where sensitive data is stored. If you’re on a wireless internet connection, be sure to follow security protocols since most wireless networks are relatively easy for experienced hackers to breach.
The workforce continues to evolve towards increased mobility. While this provides flexibility and accessibility, misplaced devices are also a top cause of data breaches throughout the world. It’s crucial to consider software that tracks the whereabouts of laptops and mobile devices. Kensignton, a leading desktop and mobile device accessories provider, recently reported that a laptop gets stolen every 53 seconds and 70 million smartphones are lost each year (and only 7 percent are recovered). 52 percent of devices are stolen from the workplace, and Kensignton states that a well-implemented security policy that includes investing in physical security can reduce these incidents by up to 85 percent.
The ABV’s of System Security Best Practices
You probably know your ABC’s, and if you’re interested in learning more about keeping client data safe during tax season, it’s important to learn your ABV’s. We are, of course, referring to authentication, backup, and virus protection; 3 pillars of security that when practiced in tandem can go a long way towards keeping sensitive information secure.
- Authentication: Make sure that all systems are not only password protected, but that you maintain a password policy. This should include using lengthy passwords and a system that requests password changes roughly every 90 days. For multiple users, set up various access levels to sensitive data to limit the risk of data misuse.
- Backup: It’s standard practice to backup data on an accounting system, usually on an on-premises server, or in smaller practices, an external hard drive. While these typically function well as backup options, there’s a huge risk of data loss when something happens, such as a fire or flood. Reputable cloud storage companies are a viable option that’s grown in popularity since they still allow you to perform overnight backups and restore backups while keeping your data safe from harm.
- Virus Protection: Most computers come with limited default antivirus or antimalware subscriptions that expire after a short time. Consider beefing-up your digital protection by upgrading to a stronger full-scope anitivirus software or at the very least, ensure that your current subscriptions are up-to-date. Most users usually consider antivirus software a given, but its easy to overlook subscription renewals with the long list of other work-related tasks on their plates. Some viruses can disrupt a system so severely that it may need to be replace, so consider this step a must.
IP Solutions: Your Key to Secure File Transmissions
Another major opportunity for data loss or data breach occurs during the sending and receiving of client data. Consider the risks associated with popular methods of file transmission: fax leaves a lot of room for human error and unless you’re using a highly encrypted email server, there are plenty of gaps that hackers can penetrate during email transmissions.
If you’re receiving a higher volume of client data during tax season and are looking for a way to guarantee that files are secure both in transit and at rest, a secure file exchange solution could be the perfect fit.
XM SendSecure offers robust security features with an incredibly user-friendly interface. It doesn’t require clients to have an account, and you can choose how clients authenticate themselves (via phone, email, or SMS) when sending them files, which ensures that all data is received by the right recipient. What’s more is that SendSecure integrates seamlessly with Outlook so that users can send and receive files directly from the platform they’re comfortable with, and with next-level security. Its easy-to-use interface requires minimal training and virtually no downtime, so you can incorporate it into your security plan without missing a beat during tax season.
Considering an IP solution that takes care of added security features so that you don’t have to? Speak with an expert today about how XM SendSecure can work for your business.