Accounting Firms’ Guide to Safeguarding Client Data

woman taking notes next to an open laptop

Accounting firms are one of the top industries that deal with sensitive client data. Accountants store and process information such as names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, and bank account information.

Unfortunately, this data can look really appealing to cybercriminals. 

According to IBM and the Ponemon Institute’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach report, industries similar to accounting firms can suffer an average of $4.65 million per breach. And lost business accounts for nearly 40% of that total. 

In order to avoid potentially devastating data breaches and keep their customers coming back, accounting firms must do everything they can to safeguard client data. 

Here are five steps accounting firms should take to protect their clients’ private information.

[Related: Healthcare HIPAA Compliance Checklist]

1. Backup Client Data

One of the top priorities of accounting professionals should be to back up their clients’ data regularly. 

Backing up this sensitive data outside of the original platform can provide another level of security in the instance of a data breach. Consider using cloud storage solutions to store encrypted data to further safeguard against incidents. 

If you are backing up client data on additional devices such as USBs, CDs or external hard drives, regularly perform an inventory on these devices and limit access capabilities. Additionally, properly dispose of or physically destroy hard drives, USBs, CDs and other physical devices when the information or device is no longer needed. 

Ensuring your clients’ data is encrypted, backed up and safe shows that you care about your clients and are doing your due diligence to be professional and trustworthy.

2. Use Strong Passwords

Weak passwords are a huge vulnerability that allows hackers to gain access to sensitive information. In fact, 81% of company data breaches are due to poor passwords

If your accounting firm is holding client information behind easy-to-guess passwords or ones that are used for everything, that data should not be considered protected. 

Use a password generator or password management system to create unique, strong passwords. Then, be sure to store them safely and update them regularly. 

[Related: 6 Essential IT Solutions for Schools]

3. Secure Wireless Networks

An unsecured wireless network is a sure-fire way to make your clients’ data vulnerable to attack or hacking by cybercriminals. While best practice is to avoid wireless networks for devices that store and process client information, that’s not always possible in this day and age — especially with so many professionals working remotely. 

If your accounting firm must use wireless networks to access private data, you should always be certain that your router isn’t self-identifying, your passwords are strong, and you avoid public Wi-Fi.

4. Be Transparent About Data Breach Incidents

While admitting your accounting firm has undergone a data breach could be potentially embarrassing, it’s important to put that aside. 

Being transparent about data loss company-wide is imperative to minimize damage and prevent it from happening again. Transparency with your clients will also go a long way in building loyalty and trust.

[Related: Phishing vs. Spoofing: Similarities, Differences, and How to Prevent Them]

5. Partner With a Managed IT Service Provider 

Accounting firms should focus on providing excellent financial services to their clients — not worrying about performing damage control after a data breach. 

That’s where we come in. CMIT Solutions of Bellevue specializes in providing managed IT services for a variety of industries, including accounting. 

We’ll keep an eye on your devices and take proactive measures to make sure that your clients’ information stays secure before a breach is even on the horizon. Relax and feel confident that your data is safe and protected 24/7 with our managed IT and cybersecurity services.

Contact us today to learn more.

Featured image via Unsplash

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