February 21, 2023

2023 Tax Season: A Comprehensive Security Checklist

To ensure that your personal and financial information remains secure, following a set of guidelines and best practices is essential. As a CPA firm, the security of your client's personal and financial information is of the utmost importance during tax season.

With the increasing threat of cyberattacks and data breaches, it is crucial to implement strong security measures to protect your clients' information. Not only is this a legal requirement, but it is also a critical factor in maintaining the trust and confidence of your clients.

To protect client information, it is also essential to be aware of potential risks your firm may face during tax season. It includes cyberattacks, phishing scams, and unauthorized access to client information. Implementing a comprehensive security plan, including the measures outlined in this checklist, can help reduce the risk of a data breach and ensure that your firm complies with industry regulations.

Protecting Yourself Against Social Engineering Threats

Social engineering is a cyberattack that relies on psychological manipulation rather than technical exploits. It targets human vulnerabilities, such as trust and curiosity. These attacks come in various forms, including phishing, pretexting, baiting, and tailgating.

  • Phishing is the most common type of social engineering attack. It involves an attacker impersonating a trustworthy entity, such as a bank, email provider, or social media platform, and luring the victim into divulging sensitive information. Phishing attacks also happen via email, SMS, or social media. The goal is to trick the victim into clicking on a malicious link or downloading a malware-laden attachment.

    Avoid phishing attacks by verifying the sender's authenticity before responding to any message. Check the sender's email address or phone number and look for any signs of spoofing or impersonation. Please do not click on any links or download attachments unless you are sure they are safe. Hover your mouse over the link to see the URL and check for any spelling errors or suspicious domains.

  • Pretexting is another form of social engineering that involves the creation of a false pretext to trick the victim into revealing sensitive information. For example, an attacker may pose as an authority figure, such as a manager or IT support staff, and request the victim's login credentials or other confidential data. Phone calls or in-person interactions are some examples of pretexting attacks. To avoid pretexting attacks, verifying the identity of the person requesting the information is crucial. Ask for their name, job title, and company affiliation, and confirm their credentials with a trusted source. Be wary of unsolicited requests for information, especially if they come from an unknown or unexpected source. Only share confidential data if you know the request's legitimacy.

  • Baiting is a social engineering attack involving enticing offers or incentives to trick the victim into clicking on a malicious link or downloading a malware-laden file. For example, an attacker may leave a USB drive containing malware in a public place, hoping someone will pick it up and plug it into their computer. Baiting attacks also happen via email or social media messages. It is important to be cautious of unsolicited offers or incentives to avoid falling victim to baiting attacks. Please do not click on any links or download files unless you are sure they are safe. Be wary of any media devices you find in public places, such as USB drives or CDs, as they may contain malware.

  • Tailgating is a social engineering attack that involves an attacker physically following the victim into a restricted area, such as a building or office, without proper authorization. Tailgating attacks rely on the victim's politeness or lack of vigilance to gain access to sensitive information or systems. It is crucial to be vigilant when entering restricted areas To avoid tailgating attacks. Only hold the door open for those who have proper identification or authorization. If you need clarification on someone's identity, ask for their ID or contact the appropriate authority to verify their credentials.

Social engineering attacks are a significant cybersecurity threat. They rely on human vulnerabilities and can be difficult to detect and prevent. However, by following some basic guidelines, such as verifying the authenticity of senders, being cautious of unsolicited offers or requests, and being vigilant when entering restricted areas, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to social engineering attacks. Remember, the best defense against social engineering is education and awareness. Stay informed and stay safe.

Guidelines for Strengthening Cybersecurity and Protecting Organizations 

The U.S. government has made several recommendations to organizations and individuals to help protect against global cyberattacks. These include regularly updating your software and operating systems, being cautious of suspicious emails or links, and using strong, unique passwords for each account.

These recommendations are designed to increase an organization's overall cybersecurity posture and reduce the risk of a successful attack. Here are a few critical suggestions for preparing your organization for a potential cyberattack:

  • Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA is essential in increasing an organization's cybersecurity posture. MFA requires users to provide two or more forms of authentication, such as a password and a security token, before accessing sensitive information. This added layer of security helps reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. MFA can also be implemented using biometric authentication, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition, in addition to a password.
  • Adopt a least privilege model: This model restricts access to sensitive information and systems to only those users who need it to perform their job duties. It helps reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. In the most miniature privilege model, users are only granted the minimum access necessary to perform their job duties which makes it easier to identify the source of a breach if one does occur.
  • Implement advanced threat protection: Advanced threat protection uses advanced techniques such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect and respond to potential threats in real time and can be used to protect an organization's network, endpoints, and cloud-based systems. It provides a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity and helps ensure that an organization's sensitive information and designs are protected from the latest and most advanced cyber threats.
  • Regularly patch systems: Regularly updating and patching your organization's systems is critical to reducing the risk of a cyberattack. Attackers often exploit unpatched systems to gain access to sensitive information. Additionally, organizations should have a process for testing and applying patches and updates in a controlled and secure manner to ensure unintended consequences, such as compatibility issues or system downtime, do not impact systems.

By taking these steps, organizations can significantly increase their cybersecurity posture and reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack. However, it is essential to remember that cyber threats are constantly evolving, and organizations must stay vigilant and adapt their security measures as needed to keep pace.

Enhancing Cybersecurity to Protect Your Organization

In addition to security monitoring, it is also essential to improve your overall cybersecurity posture. These include:

  • Reviewing your cybersecurity insurance is crucial in protecting your organization from the financial consequences of a cyberattack. Cybersecurity insurance can provide financial protection for your organization in case of a breach or cyberattack, covering the costs of investigations, notifications, and other related expenses. When reviewing your cybersecurity insurance, it is crucial to consider the coverage offered and the policy's limits. For example, some policies may only cover specific types of cyber threats, such as data breaches, while others may exclude certain types of losses.
  • Providing cybersecurity awareness training to employees is essential to maintaining an organization's cybersecurity posture. Cybercriminals often target employees as a way to gain access to sensitive information and systems, making it crucial for employees to understand the risks and identify and respond to threats. Cybersecurity awareness training should educate employees on various topics, such as phishing attacks, password management, and safe browsing habits. The training should also emphasize the importance of reporting any suspicious activity and the steps employees should take in case of a breach or attack.
  • Reviewing your disaster recovery plan is an essential step in preparing for the unexpected and ensuring your organization can continue to operate in the event of a cyberattack or other disaster. A disaster recovery plan outlines the steps your organization will take to minimize the impact of a disaster and quickly resume critical operations. The plan should outline the steps that will be taken to protect data, systems, and infrastructure, as well as the processes for restoring critical systems and data in the event it is needed.

Ensuring Tax Season Security: A Checklist for CPA Firms and Consumers

The 2023 tax season brings a range of security challenges for CPA firms and consumers. To ensure the security of tax filings and information, it is essential to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. It includes implementing multi-factor authentication, adopting a most miniature privilege model, enabling advanced threat protection, regularly patching systems, and providing cybersecurity awareness training to employees.

CPA firms should also review their cybersecurity insurance to ensure they are protected in the event of a cyberattack and regularly review their disaster recovery plan to ensure they are prepared for the unexpected. Additionally, consumers should be mindful of the security of their personal information, including their Social Security number, and take steps to protect their data, such as using strong passwords and avoiding suspicious emails or links. By taking these steps, CPA firms and consumers can better protect themselves from cyber threats and ensure that their tax filings and information remain secure during the 2023 tax season.

Concluding Thoughts

Cetrom offers a comprehensive security solution, designed to safeguard CPA firms against even the most sophisticated cyberattacks, including those from state-sponsored actors. With a cloud-based approach, Cetrom is the go-to choice for C-suite executives and tech professionals looking to secure their firm's digital operations.

With a sole focus on protecting CPA firms, Cetrom is equipped with the skills and experience needed to combat viruses, malware, and ransomware. Specializing in hosting accounting-related operations and safeguarding sensitive data, Cetrom employs cutting-edge AI security technologies and provides ongoing employee training and network support, as well as 24/7 cloud accessibility.

 

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