Accountants Need to Provide Data Security Services for Themselves

It’s a situation rife with dangerous implications. Accountants work with client data all the time. And they also store a lot of data about their clients such as contact information and government identifier information. This takes place at a time when viruses and various forms of cybercrime are increasing exponentially. It leaves accountants in a vulnerable position if they do not take the steps necessary to protect their client data.

There are various steps they need to take:

  • Increase the level of their IT literacy to maximise the chances of their identifying and dealing with illegal intrusions of their and their clients’ systems,
  • Analyze the data they store that is sensitive. Determine which information does not need to be retained and permanently delete it – for example tax information beyond the statutory retention period and information related to ex-clients.
  • Rethink the storage systems being used. For example, research shows that cloud storage is often safer than in-house storage. So a high quality cloud storage provider should be engaged.
  • Research also shows that the problems that have been experienced with cloud storage in the past have generally been due to a lack of proper control procedures at the user level, not at the provider level. So the accountant needs to become familiar with the proper controls in their own shop to prevent compromise of the cloud data. This is not an impossible task, since accountants are well versed in internal controls.
  • Follow the usual good practices with regard to the maintenance of their own systems, such as installing software updates promptly and keeping up to date with advances in technology.
  • Install and maintain high level virus and intrusion detection software.
  • Consider having your system and related procedures reviewed by a IT security specialist.
  • Be sure you have a good, tested disaster recovery plan. (You recommend this to your clients every year, don’t you?)

Some additional contemplation will yield some further steps to take. The important point is to go through the process regularly.

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