How to improve data security in accounting firms

December 13, 2022

Accounting firms are a treasure trove of sensitive data, playing host to a plethora of bank account information, identification documents, tax identification numbers, and more. According to Accounting Today, accounting firms have seen a 300% increase in cyber attacks since the start of the pandemic, in an industry which is already highly vulnerable to IT security threats.

Data security has never been more important for accounting firms. Which is why it’s crucial to take the necessary precautions now, to protect client confidentiality in the long-term. Failure to do so could result in eye-watering costs and penalties, not-to-mention a loss of brand reputation and client trust.

Here are a few steps your accounting firm should take to ensure maximum data security.

Passwords & Authentication

Today, an increasing number of accounting firms are offering remote or hybrid working options. With this flexibility, comes high IT security risks. Employees should always be using a VPN when connecting to internal systems, only access data on password-protected devices, and never share sensitive information over email.

Firms should also set strict requirements on password length and complexity, and ensure that highly sensitive data is encrypted to provide protection from outside threats.

Delete redundant data

As the accountancy and finance industry holds a high quantity of sensitive data, it’s imperative to have the right information disposal mechanisms in place. Having a system to erase redundant data will help prevent stale documents being forgotten about and accessed by malicious actors.

Go paperless

Despite technological advances, one in five accountants still use paper ledgers. A paperless process can improve data security by ensuring that no files will be misplaced or lost. From going digital, accountants can easily and instantly access records for increased efficiency, while also having the option to back-up data for extra security and protection.

Get certified

Getting a security certification such as Cyber Essentials could provide the baseline protection to guard your firm from a cyber attack. By implementing the five security controls identified by Cyber Essentials, accountancy firms can shield sensitive data from potential threats. Being certified also enables firms to showcase their commitment to security and prove to clients that they are cyber vigilant.

To go one step further, firms could also consider becoming ISO 27001 compliant, adhering to an international standard which provides 112 security controls encompassing people, processes and technology. These standards help keep assets, such as financial information, safe and secure.

Move to the cloud

Cloud technology doesn’t just improve efficiency, scalability and productivity across accounting teams. Shifting to the cloud also means that rather than storing important information on your local machine where it could be stolen, clients’ data is instead stored remotely on secure servers. 

Firms can be safe in the knowledge that off-site cloud providers are handling security measures, performing data backup, providing automatic updates, and ultimately reducing the risk of a data breach. Cloud technology also reduces costs and ensures the software you’re using is the safest option.

Provide employees with security awareness training

According to a study by IBM, 95% of cyber security breaches result from human error. Educating staff about cyber and data security is absolutely crucial to minimise the risk of data leaks and cyber attacks.

By providing security awareness training, firms can prevent their employees from falling victim to phishing scams and help them to develop work habits which do not expose confidential information.

More about security with INAA

If you’d like to understand more about security best practices within accountancy and finance, take a look at what the INAA can do for you and apply for your membership on our join us page today. With expertise from around the globe, INAA members receive round-the-clock access to trusted industry expertise, strategy and communication tools, and exclusive insights to help you improve your accounting and auditing procedures and processes.