Controlling your data

Written by promotiondept

November 12, 2018

Controlling your data Target. Home Depot. Anthem. The IRS. The U.S. government. Numerous hospitals and universities. The commonality? All have been the victims of headline–splashing cyberattacks that led to the breach of confidential data. With so many cyberattacks in the news, many CPA firms may wonder, “Are we next?” CPA firms CAn be a treasure–trove […]

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Controlling your data

Target. Home Depot. Anthem. The IRS. The U.S. government. Numerous hospitals and universities. The commonality? All have been the victims of headlinesplashing cyberattacks that led to the breach of confidential data. With so many cyberattacks in the news, many CPA firms may wonder, “Are we next?”

CPA firms can be a treasuretrove of informon for cybercriminals. Firms routinely collect sensitive informon from both clients and employees, including Social Security numbers, bank account informon, earnings and business informon, and, if the firm accepts credit cards as payment, credit card numbers. All of this informon requires protection under professional standards and various state and federal laws and regulons.

Most firms have acknowledged that data security represents a critical requiring careful manment. However, implementing controls over data security can be unfamiliar territory with a daunting vernacular. This can be especially challenging for sole practitioners or firms without dedicated IT resources. To help get started, consider implementing these baseline security measures.

Implement access controls to help ensure only authorized individuals are permitted to access sensitive or critical areas of informon.

Physical access controls

CPA firms likely restrict access to their premises already, but access to the area in which the firm’s server is kept should also be restricted with a lock or access code. If mass stor (flash drives, external hard drives, etc.) are used, purchase the encrypted versions. While the cost may exceed that of unencrypted , the protection they provide justifies the itional expense. Another option is to use software to encrypt unencrypted flash drives.

Encryption of all laptop and desktop computers and mobile is one of the most beneficial controls CPA firms employ. A lost or stolen computer or device can result in a devastng and expensive data security breach if it is not encrypted. Fulldisk encryption may help to mitigate dams if a breach occurs. Various state breach notificon statutes create a safe harbor that waives notificon requirements if encrypted data are bred. Refer to applicable state breach notificon laws for informon on whether a safeharbor provision applies.

Fulldisk encryption is built into all major operng systems including Windows and Mac OS X. Instructions on how to “turn on” encryption are available online from Microsoft or Apple. BlackBerry are encrypted by default as are iPhones and iPads running iOS 8 or newer. The Android operng system s encryption, but it must be enabled.

Logical access controls

Logical access controls are tools and protocols used for identificon, authenticon, and authorizon of computer informon system users, including software programs.

Assign access privileges to software or network folders where sensitive informon is stored based upon the principle of “least privilege,” meaning a user should only have the minimum access required to perform his or her job responsibilities. Conduct routine reviews of access and modify access authority when an employee leaves the firm, changes roles, or is perceived to be at of becoming disgruntled. Many data security bres are from the inside and perpetrated by a disssfied employee or former employee who has knowledge of the firm’s systems and their vulnerabilities.

Prepackd software often comes with default settings. the default settings and tailor access rights to your firm. In ition, be sure to implement software s or patches when they are provided by the vendor. These s may help troubleshoot and fix a security vulnerability identified and ressed by the vendor.

To help further control access, use passwords. While complex passwords (those that use a combinon of upper– and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers) are , they are easily forgotten. Instead, focus on long passwords or phrases, 16—20 characters in length, that are changed periodically. Be sure to keep passwords and encryption keys in a secure locon. Costly data security bres have occurred because a password was taped to the bottom of a laptop.

There are many ways to help protect and man sensitive informon during each step of data flow at a CPA firm.

Many software tools are designed to help prevent or detect intruders in the firm’s network.

Conduct regular evaluons of the effectiveness of the firm’s data security measures. Testing results can indicate where itional work or training is needed. include:

Data bres do not always take the form of a cyberattack. The theft or loss of a laptop or flash drive or a misdirected email are common types of data bres at CPA firms, both of which are preventable. For these reasons, regular security awareness training, constant vigilance, and attention to detail are essential for all firm owners and employees.

Even with these controls in place, a data breach can still occur. Security incidents can take a toll on a firm of any size. Putting an incident or data breach response plan into place can help the firm act quickly, helping to prevent further data loss, regulatory fines, and client backlash.

Sarah Beckett Ference (sarah.ference@cna.com) is a control director at CNA. Nickolas Graf (nickolas.graf@cna.com) is a control consulting director at CNA. He is a Certified Informon Systems Security Professional, Certified Ethical Hacker, and Certified Informon Privacy Professional.

Continental Casualty Co., one of the CNA companies, is the underwriter of the AICPA Professional Liability Program. Aon Services, the Nonal Program Administrator for the AICPA Professional Liability Program, is available at 800-221-3023 or visit cpai.com.

This article provides informon, rather than advice or opinion. It is accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge as of the article date. This article should not be viewed as a substitute for recommendons of a retained professional. Such consulton is recommended in applying this material in any particular factual situons.

Examples are for illustrve purposes only and not intended to establish any standards of care, serve as legal advice, or acknowledge any given factual situon is covered under any CNA policy. The relevant policy provides actual terms, covers, amounts, conditions, and exclusions for an insured. All products and services may not be available in all states and may be subject to change without notice.


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