Why cybersecurity is becoming a bigger problem for accountants

Thursday 21st April 2022

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important as cybercriminals become more sophisticated. It is no longer enough to rely on standard antivirus software and firewalls to protect your data. If your company uses smartphones, laptops, tablets or computers to hold vital security and financial information on clients, you may find yourself becoming a lucrative target for hackers desperate to get their hands on all this valuable information. You need to be able to defend yourself against a possible cyber attack.

So why are accountants at greater risk from cyberattacks?

During the pandemic when many more people were working from home there was an increase in cyber attacks for all types of accounting practices, with the most common time for an attack at year end and when tax return deadlines were due. Whilst most businesses are at risk from cybersecurity, for accountants it is becoming a bigger problem due partly to the huge amounts of confidential information and sensitive client data that their systems hold. These generally include financial details, tax IDs, bank account details and payroll data plus possibly information on investments, future strategies and intellectual property. A cyber-criminal will be highly motivated to gain access to this valuable data.

Accountant firms are gateways

 Accountancy firms are now seen as the gateway to access lots of sensitive information enabling the clever hacker to commit fraudulent activities on the company’s clients. The more information they find the bigger and better the picture they build of the businesses they want to target, resulting in the potential for devastating financial loss to the client and reputational damage to the accountancy firm. Cyber attacks hold businesses to ransom costing time and money, plus the awful task of notifying clients and working out where and how the system has been breached.

Small and large firms at risk

Though large firms are at risk many accountancy firms are small and/or self employed and underestimate the threat posed by hackers increasing their chances of becoming a target. If a business has no real expertise in the area of cybersecurity and has few security barriers it makes it much easier for a break in. Hackers are extremely motivated searching for vulnerabilities in accounting software and once they’ve hacked into one type, they are in a perfect position to attack many other firms using the same software, making accounting firms vulnerable and extremely lucrative to a hacker.

Whilst many accountants have a responsibility to advise clients on strategic and operational aspects of their business, this may now include some responsibility to advise on issues of cybersecurity. The more the accountancy firm understands about the topic, the better the advice they can give.

Cybersecurity is becoming part of the everyday job for accountants.

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