Data has always been an integral part of an accounting practice and for the most part, could be kept relatively securely in locked filing cabinets / safes etc. But as technology has proven to be far more efficient than any manual filing system, naturally many firms transitioned to this online world. But with this comes a myriad of security concerns and with Accountants holding onto data that is some of the most sensitive and valuable data of individuals, security of business systems should be up there as one of the highest priorities for a business. So we break down our top five tips on how to improve your data security.
1. Know Your Assets
Before you can even begin to work on how to make your assets secure, you need to know what you have in your suite. This is identifying your network connections (whether you have wired LAN or WiFi networks and what is connected to these). You should have an inventory of your hardware. This is of all your PCs, laptops, mobiles, servers, storage systems. Record this and ensure you keep it updated. Next is identifying all the software you use as a business. And make sure you capture everything. From Quickbooks, to email providers. Anything and everything that contains any kind of data needs to be recorded and checked to see how it is backed up and where i.e. in one location or multiple as extra precautions? The final piece of this puzzle is your users. This is not as simple as jotting down the names of all your staff and support personnel. Ideally you will record the user, what systems they have accounts to and what rights to those systems as well as what hardware they have / use.
2. Password Management
Unsurprisingly, this is an area that trips many businesses up. It should be shocking to hear, but many people, including those that work with you, reuse the same password for (usually) all the systems they have logins for. With access and protection over such sensitive data, you need to take imperative steps to protect it. There are a few tools to assist such as a Password Manager. This acts as a safe to your passwords and only requires you to recall the master password. Which allows you to create really strong passwords or even better a passphrase – a stronger and far more complicated password (any iPhone users will see Apple suggest these paraphrases when setting up new logins). Your Password Manager will remember the phrases so you don’t have to and this will make the job of hacking into your data a whole lot more complicated – which is exactly how it should be.
3. Multi-Factor Authentication
An annoying but very valuable step in protecting your data. It’s likely you have come across it already as most banks and data-heavy systems now require it. But basically it’s an added step at the login step to verify that it is you that is logging in by sending a code to your mobile via SMS or to be retrieved from an app or to email. Once you’ve plugged that code into the system, you are in. So where possible (because of point 2, and not being able to trust others to use difficult and different passwords), multi-factor authentication is a good tool to get that added layer of protection.
4. Strengthen your network
And no, not your people network, your communication network. As previously mentioned there are many benefits that technology has introduced to our lives but also added complications – WiFi is one of these. Whilst It creates easy connections to systems in your practice, they also make it easy for others to gain access. But you can take steps to strengthen the security of these networks. Reset your network password. Most people don’t ever change it from the default password, so login to your router’s configuration to reset your password with a passphrase. Also access to your WiFi network must be password protected. Provide the password to this network sparingly. Where possible, limit guest access as much as possible. They will respect the lack of access in order to protect their own data. Finally, keep the router in a secure place. With the touch of a button, it can be reset to factory settings and therefore you lose that added layer of protection. Again, keep access to a minimum to avoid ‘accidents’ happening.
5. Protect your systems
A simple way to keep threats at bay is to simply keep your systems updated. There is usually a reason that an update is required and often malware threats take advantage of problems in software which that update that you should be doing would fix. Although those automatic updates (thank you Microsoft) can be somewhat annoying with their timing, they are important to do. You should also install anti-malware software. This will help protect you from those dodgy emails that looked legitimate or downloading a file from a site you thought was secure. Malware is malicious and doesn’t take much for it to land in your systems, so keep your antivirus or antimalware installed and updated. Additionally, you can enable your firewall to manage what communications get through. Microsoft and Mac OS X have inbuilt firewalls that you can configure to suit your office needs. Finally, limit access to your systems. Limiting users allows you to manage some level of control over the data and security by way of permissions. Where you can, have one administrator that provides limited access to other users.
All of this information can seem overwhelming, particularly if technology is not really your thing. So the final piece of the puzzle is really getting the right people on your team to, firstly, help you understand it all, and secondly implement a sound, robust and secure operation so you can rest knowing that the valuable and sensitive data you have in your possession is in safe hands.
Data security and privacy are paramount in our industry. AccSource is equipped with the technology and top security protocols to maintain data security and privacy of our interests. Know more about Accsource’s technology and security advantage here.
Founder & CEO
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