There has been a predominant rise in the number of cyber attacks affecting businesses across all sectors and industries, however, one sector which has seen a significant increase in the number of attacks is the accountancy sector. Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, cyber attacks on accounting firms have increased by 300%.
Accounting and cyber security are two things which, should, go hand in hand, but there are a number of firms becoming victims of cyber attacks and having to deal with the aftermath of an attack. Accountancy firms with a more traditional structure are less likely to have proper cyber security defences to enable them to defend against and lessen the impact of a cyber attack. But, why exactly are accountancy firms being increasingly targeted by cyber crime, more so than other sectors?
Why Cyber Security Is Important For Accountancy Firms
Accountancy firms are becoming prime targets for cyber crime due to the sheer volume of personal, private and sensitive financial data they hold. Information such as passwords, bank details and accounts, financial records, tax numbers and payroll information are all seen as highly valuable commodities to cyber criminals. A lot of accounting firms all use similar computer software and programs, so if they can find vulnerabilities within your devices or networks, then they will exploit these and can replicate this across a number of other firms.
Typically, accountancy firms won’t have enough investment for cyber security defences, meaning that typically the right procedures and policies won’t be in place. This then leaves firms open and vulnerable to a number of different cyber attacks. This is why cyber security in accountancy is important.
If your firm doesn’t have an incident response in place, then this means that your firm will be more likely to pay out in the event of an attack. Many firms will pay out to cyber criminals in the event of an attack due to the fact that they fear they may not be able to recover from a cyber attack, will suffer from financial loss or take a hit on their reputation.
What Are The Most Common Cyber Security Threats For Accountancy Firms?
Ransomware is a type of malware which encrypts files on computers and devices which then prevents them from being accessed or used until the ransom is paid. The attacker behind the malware will also likely threaten to publish or make public sensitive information and files held on the device. There is, sadly, no guarantee that paying a ransom will result in the devices or files being returned to your control and this can often only result in additional costs. A ransomware attack can be hugely damaging to accountancy firms, especially if the cyber attack prevents them from being able to access data or systems in which they need to operate.
Phishing is a type of cyber attack where the criminal sends an email or message pretending to be from a trusted person or source which they then use in an attempt to trick the recipient into revealing information such as account details or passwords. Phishing scams, especially when targeted towards accountancy firms, often use more sophisticated methods in order to get people to open emails or messages, such as social engineering techniques.
Email subject lines such as “Outstanding Invoice”, or even mentioning colleague names will all encourage the recipients to open the message or email. Once a person clicks and opens a phishing email, the cyber attacker can then easily install malware on their computer or attempt to gain access to sensitive information. One of the easiest ways to combat phishing scams is through education and, at CYFOR Secure, we offer Phishing Simulation training to help educate and prepare your employees for dealing with phishing scams.
Protecting Your Accountancy Firm From Cyber Attacks
It’s important to remember that your accountancy firm is never too small to be targeted. But, with the right measures in place, no firm is too small to protect itself from the risks of a cyber attack. There are some steps you can take to ensure that you are doing all you can in order to protect your firm from cyber attacks and ensure that, as an accountants, your cyber security forms a considered plan.
– Have firewall and antivirus software implemented on devices and networks. Be sure to regularly check and update these so that cyber criminals can not try to find faults in older operating software or systems.
– Ensure that all data which is critical to your firm (including financial and client data) is backed up securely, either on the cloud or a remote device. This means that, in the event of a cyber attack, data can be restored.
– Be sure to set a clear security policy for employees to follow so that, in the event that an attack is detected, there is a procedure in place for the right response.
– Following this, consider implementing an incident response plan which is revised and practised regularly.
At CYFOR Secure, we’re here to help support accountancy firms with their cyber security defences against cyber attacks and crime. When securing and protecting your firm, prevention is always better than the cure and, no matter your budget, there are cyber security steps you can implement to your business plan. Taking care of your cyber security may seem complicated, expensive and overwhelming, so taking care of this now will keep your client’s data protected, as well as your firm’s reputation. Contact CYFOR Secure today to discuss your cyber security strategy.