Client Data Protection Checklist for Accountants

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Protecting client data should be a top priority for those working in the accounting industry. After all, accounting firms routinely collect sensitive information from their clients. This kind of personal identifiable information (PII) can include bank account information, Social Security numbers, earnings statements and business information. 

Because of this PII, accountants — regardless of their client number or practice’s size — face cybersecurity risks every day. And all it takes is one data breach to create a major obstacle in your daily operations and discredit your firm.

A 2021 IBM Cost of a Data Breach report reveals each data breach that professional services go through can cost around $4.65 million — with loss of business responsible for nearly 40% of the total cost. Those professional services certainly include accounting firms.

[Related: IT Support To Benefit Your Business]

Data protection checklist

In addition to safeguarding sensitive client information, accounting professionals must also prioritize cyber security in accounting to mitigate the growing threat of digital breaches and unauthorized access.

As an accountant, it’s crucial to cover your bases and take action to protect your clients’ data and PII. Consider the following best practices with this client data protection checklist for accountants to ensure your firm stays secure.

planning a defense against cyber attacks

Keep Up-to-Date Software

Be ahead of the game. Make sure you partner with a managed IT services provider that keeps your antivirus and anti-malware software up to date and running on the latest versions. Cybercriminals’ methods constantly evolve, so it’s critical to keep your protective software current to give your firm a powerful layer of protection.

Prioritize Physical Security

One of the most basic of these practices is perhaps one of the biggest — prioritizing physical security.

Operate on a need-to-know basis, or a principle of less privilege when assigning access rights. Ensure only those who absolutely must have access rights can obtain key cards and badges. 

Additionally, use visitor logs, access restrictions and security cameras to guarantee only authorized people enter certain rooms or obtain certain data. When people switch roles or leave your firm, conduct routine access authority reviews.

Furthermore, double-check that rooms with confidential data, physical devices and paper documents are physically secure during business and nonbusiness hours.

Use a Password Manager

Using a password manager can strengthen your accounting firm’s security and protect your and your clients’ data. A password manager securely saves and stores your passwords and usernames company-wide. This function is especially helpful for remote workers.

A password manager also offers safe, authorized password sharing. You can customize the manager system to enforce password creation policies, create an approved list of IP addresses and offer geo-locking.

[Related: Comprehensive Cybersecurity Protection for Every Business]

Implement Multifactor Authentication

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a major element of IT security, and MFA can do a lot to protect your and your clients’ data. MFA is the method of asking for additional information other than email/username and password to grant someone data access. 

For example, your accounting firm can use logins that require basic credentials, like the aforementioned email and password, and one other factor to qualify for MFA:

  • Security questions
  • A code sent to a separate device
  • Biodata, like fingerprints or facial recognition

This extra layer of protection bolsters your firm’s security and makes sure only verified users can access important data.

Organize Employee Training and Education

Regardless of the industry, employee knowledge is always on the front lines of cybersecurity. When your staff understands how to recognize threats, what to do if a data breach occurs and the steps that get everything back up and running, maintaining cybersecurity is much easier.

Organize regular employee training and education sessions that cover topics like phishing scams and cybersecurity threats. As added resources, have essential information and tips readily available on a shared drive or in the office for anyone to access.

Without proper training or education, your firm could suffer devastating breaches, costly downtime and a soured reputation. That’s why it’s paramount to empower your employees with the knowledge that they’re a key part of your team’s security.

it training, it support for nonprofits

[Related: Every Business Deserves Stronger Cybersecurity Protection]

Perform Regular Security Assessments

Even if you think you’re taking all the necessary data protection steps, you should perform regular security assessments to see whether anything needs updating or improvement. Ongoing reviews can help your accounting firm understand where (and why) there may be security gaps and prepare you for any future challenges.

Have a Disaster Recovery Plan

Even if you follow all the best practices for client data protection, your firm can still fall victim to a cyberattack. It’s clear that having a recovery plan in case of disaster is key. 

A disaster recovery plan contains step-by-step guidelines that your staff can follow in the event of unexpected disasters like theft, a data breach or even downtime as the result of external forces (like storms or blackouts). 

In crafting and updating this plan, it’s crucial to integrate specific measures for cyber security in accounting, given the increasing prevalence of digital threats in the financial sector. Nevertheless, make sure your team members know their individual responsibilities so that when or if something happens, your downtime is minimal.

[Related: Lessons Learned From Ongoing Outage]

Protect Your Clients’ Data and Partner With CMIT Solutions of Seattle

Make no mistake — cybersecurity should be a prime concern for your accounting firm. But you shouldn’t have to manage it all yourself. 

Partnering with a managed IT services provider like CMIT Solutions of Seattle can make you feel more confident in the security of your clients’ data. Meanwhile, you can focus on providing the best accounting services possible!

Allow CMIT Solutions of Seattle to solidify your security and protect your firm from a variety of threats with around-the-clock maintenance and support.

Contact us today, and let’s get started.

Featured image via Pexels

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