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Data Security for Accounting Firms

Morgan Hines
Posted by Morgan Hines on Mar 11, 2024 11:38:59 AM

In today's digital world, keeping accounting data safe isn’t just a smart move for customer satisfaction - it's often the law! Each piece of data contributes to a story that you likely wouldn’t want to share in full. Fortunately, the best practices we will explore in this article provide a solid foundation for keeping data secure. 

Best Practices in Data Security for Accounting Firms

Data security is constantly evolving, yet the following basic practices go a long way to protecting your firm and your clients.

1. Encrypt Sensitive Data

While encryption used to be a high-tech process reserved for military operations and secret missions, it's now the expected standard for securing any private data. 

Encryption turns your important information into a secret code that only you and those with the right key can understand. It takes your message and transforms it into a scrambled puzzle that can only be solved by someone who has the special key to unscramble it. 

Encrypting sensitive data means that even if someone manages to get their hands on your information, it's just a jumble of characters without the key – keeping financial details safe and sound.

2. Implement Two-Factor Authentication

While most of us are familiar with being constantly asked when logging into software for two-factor authentication, it's important to ensure it's part of daily life at an accounting firm. Ensuring that all business information has this second layer of protection means that even if someone got their hands on your password, it's unlikely they would be able to access your data. 

There are many options for two-factor authentication, including:

  • Text Message (SMS): receive a one-time code via text message to enter for verification
  • Push Notifications: a notification sent to your mobile device prompting you to approve or deny the login attempt
  • Email Verification: similar to SMS, but the one-time code is sent to your email
  • Authenticator Apps: a specialized app that generates time-sensitive codes for you to input
  • Biometric Verification: uses your unique physical features, such as fingerprints or facial recognition
  • Hardware Tokens: physical devices, such as USB keys or smart cards, generate codes or act as a key for authentication
  • Phone Call Authentication: receive an automated phone call with a spoken code to enter after your password

3. Choose Secure Cloud Solutions

Choosing secure cloud solutions for your accounting firm is like picking a vault for your data. Secure clouds have extra layers of protection, keeping your sensitive data safe from hackers or viruses. 

While cloud-based software can be extremely secure, not all software is built alike. Some systems place security at the forefront, while others might be the digital equivalent of leaving your important papers on a park bench. Yikes! Ensure the company has a reputation for building secure solutions without a history of repeated breaches in the past.

4. Establish Access Controls

In your accounting firm, not everyone needs to see every piece of data. Establishing access controls means you decide who gets access to specific information. Grant access based on roles on a need-to-know basis. The receptionist might not need access to payroll details, just like the IT person might not need access to client invoices.

5. Ensure Payment Gateways Are Secure

While most client information should be kept confidential, particular care must be taken when dealing with payments. Ensure that your software takes payments with secure payment providers. This not only mitigates risk, but when clients notice you are using secure payment options, it gives them confidence when working with you.

6. Back-up Data Regularly

Losing your own company data is something most businesses would dread. Now, imagine telling a client that you've lost their confidential financial data. 

Fortunately, this can be easily avoided with regular, secure backups. Many leading software solutions offer automatic backups, which are stored in a secure, encrypted online vault. You can often choose the frequency and where you would like the data to be stored.

7. Update Software Regularly

Many people think that updates are just to launch new software features, but most updates include security improvements. As online threats continue to evolve, so must software. Developers at software companies are typically tasked with staying ahead of the latest threats and releasing them as updates. Some cloud-based solutions provide automatic updates, but check if your software requires manual updating.

8. Train Employees

Ensure that employees understand not just how to use any security features but also why. While some security measures, such as two-factor authentication, can feel like a bit of a hassle, an understanding of how devastating a security breach could be for a business can usually incentivize proper usage of the systems.

9. Develop an Incident Response Plan

In the event of a security breach or cyber attack, instead of scrambling, ensure there is a clear process to follow. While hopefully there will never be any incidents, developing an Incident Response Plan can give you peace of mind. Ensure that you regularly revisit this plan, and all employees are aware of their roles.

Data Security for Accounting Firms Continues to Evolve

In the dynamic world of accounting, there are no guarantees. However, following these suggestions will mitigate a significant portion of the risks accounting firms may encounter in their daily operations. 

From encrypting confidential information, choosing secure cloud solutions, and implementing two-factor authentication, these practices allow your systems to act as a digital fortress. You can confidently discuss the measures you’ve taken to protect clients’ data and feel at ease knowing your firm is following best practices.

Sponsored Content: This article is generously brought to you by one of our valued sponsors. Their support enables us to continue delivering expert insights and the latest industry trends to our dedicated community of accounting professionals.

Topics: Business Technology


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