January 27, 2022

2023 Trends: Why Security Continues To Be Top of Mind for CPA Firms?

Updated February 23, 2022, following rising Global conflict overseas.

Following the escalating conflict overseas, cybersecurity events are likely and must be a top priority for companies across the United States.

Society's full-fledged transition to online work, in juxtaposition with increased digitalization and the overall online nature of the world; has created prime opportunities for cybercriminals such as hackers, phishers, scammers, and extortionists. What are the 2023 trends threatening online security?

  • Attacks by Cybercriminals. Global cybercriminals are using account takeover tactics, inserting themselves into online conversations undetected and installing malware. Often adapting to enhanced cybersecurity measures, cybercriminals use machine learning and artificial intelligence to evade protective barriers. 
  • Threats of Ransomware. The definition of ransomware is a malware designed to prevent an organization from having access to files on their computer unless they pay a ransom. In other words, ransomware involves infecting devices with a virus, which locks files and threatens to destroy them unless a ransom is paid. 
  • Protect Connected Devices. Also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), connected devices will experience increased threats, given the increased number of connected devices. For example, hackers will be able to use a connected household appliance to gain access to a network and access a computer with valuable data. From a cybersecurity perspective, it is difficult to know the security level of the various devices which are accessing networks. 

While businesses across industries are concerned with cyberattacks in 2023, some businesses, such as certified public accounting (CPA) firms, are even more vulnerable to cyber threats because of the very nature of the accounting profession. 

What are the Challenges Regarding Cybercrime for CPA Firms in 2023?

CPA firms face many cybersecurity challenges, and the encounters with cybercrime are continuing to evolve in the year 2023 as we have seen with the most recent Russian-Ukraine conflict. Accounting firms have access to extremely sensitive financial information and personal data about their clients, which makes them especially vulnerable to cybercriminals according to digital forensic experts. Below are some of the specific threats challenging CPA firms in 2023.

  • Rising Data Security Threats. Data breaches and data theft for CPA firms can cause significant financial loss, while also harming a CPA firm’s hard-earned reputation, which leads to a loss of clients. According to the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report conducted by the Ponemon Institute, which focused on data breaches, the average cost of a data breach in the United States is $8.6 million. Small and medium-sized CPA firms are often the target of data theft because of the sensitive information held by CPA firms and the fact the information can lead cybercriminals to more prominent parties. Social Security numbers stored by CPA firms are also an easy target for data thieves. 
  • Ransomware or Malware Attacks. A 2019 Ponemon and Accenture report on cybersecurity concluded ransomware attacks had increased by 15% over prior years and current predictions forecast continued malware maleficence. A ransomware scheme could mean a significant loss of productivity for CPA firms, while systems are held for ransom. This is in addition to the financial loss if the firm decides to pay the ransom. Hackers know CPA firms’ systems contain sensitive, important financial information which makes them a preferred choice for nefarious schemes. 
  • More Phishing Schemes. Phishing schemes, sometimes called spearfishing when they target a specific individual or whaling schemes when a high-ranking person in a business is targeted, are a common way for hackers to deliver ransomware. Seemingly innocuous emails are often the vehicle by which ransomware is deployed.

Cybercrime causes myriad problems for CPA firms, including financial and revenue loss, disillusioned clients, and diminished reputation, if a data breach or other cyberattack occurs.

Which Cybersecurity Strategies Can CPA Firms Fiercely Adapt?

It is imperative CPA firms, regardless of size or composition, have vigorous cybersecurity protections in place. According to the Journal of Accountancy, “It may seem counterintuitive, but the risk of cyberattacks is disproportionally higher for smaller and medium-sized organizations, which tend to be much more reactive than proactive.” Cybercriminals target CPA firms with weak data security protocols. Remote work is now a consistent part of the business environment, which has essentially changed how businesses operate. CPA firms have been challenged to stay abreast of the IT infrastructure, the drastic increase in IoT devices, and the increased cleverness of cyber criminals. The following are some of the strategies CPA firms are deploying against cyberattacks in 2023.

  • Store data and information in encrypted databases. Data encryption enhances security for rest and transit data. Cybercriminals have become more adept at breaching defenses to steal data. An algorithm converts data into “cipher text” (unreadable text) for the encrypted database and only a key generated from that algorithm decrypts the text, making it much harder for cyberattacks to breach the system.  
  • Prevent cyberattacks and interruptions with backups. Prevention is one of the most effective cybersecurity measures. Having effective backup strategies is a necessary measure for CPA firms to thwart cyberattacks. Backup measures should be physically removed from the network so that in case of a malware infection, the backup data does not become infected. You should have a minimum of two daily backup solutions, completely separate from your network.
  • Educate employees. Training employees to be cognizant of updating and keeping passwords secure, avoiding phishing schemes, and reviewing who has access to data are important strategies. While educating employees is helpful for CPA firms to not become targets of cybercrimes, it is only one of many preventative procedures. 
  • Take proactive steps to protect client information. Since CPA firms provide critical accounting services and are guardians of clients’ sensitive data, it is imperative they take proactive steps to protect client information and remain vigilant in their pursuit to protect the privacy of their clients. Clearly, CPA firms are more vulnerable than ever to a privacy breach. Fortunately, there are specialized services available to provide cybersecurity solutions and strategies. 

How Can Cetrom Support the Cybersecurity Hurdles CPA Firms Face in 2023?

C-suite executives and tech gurus recognize the importance of focusing energies on cybersecurity during the coming year.  They also recognize that a professional, dedicated IT provider has the expertise to help with their cybersecurity challenges. A multi-layered security approach is paramount. C-suite executives and tech professionals recognize the importance of having a cloud-based solution for cybersecurity needs. 

Cetrom is a well-established IT provider with the expertise and knowledge to prevent, detect, and combat destructive viruses. Cetrom’s expertise is focused 100 percent on the cybersecurity of CPA firms. Their specialty is hosting accounting-specific operations. Contact Cetrom today to learn more about how we can help answer your cybersecurity questions. 

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