Managed Service


Less Common Cyberattacks for Accountants

Check the news any given day and you might see a report about hackers accomplishing a data breach, or of a ransomware attack encrypting all company data until it pays up. These are the well-known types of cyberattack, but there are less common cyberthreats accountants should be aware of, as well.

There is almost a malware malaise now. You’ve heard so much about the threat of a virus invading your networks or systems. Someone clicks on a perfectly innocent looking email, and the result is computing chaos? It’s not fair!

You also know to put a firewall around your technology; it’s as if you’re in a military movie. You have to “protect the perimeter.” Ensure no one can breach your cyber protections to secure personal data and intellectual property.

Still, a watchful eye for phishing emails and social engineering attempts isn’t enough. Installing security tools and upgrading anti-virus software also won’t cover everything.

Knowing where less common cyberattacks are coming from could help, though.

Less Common Modes of Cyberattack

You may not believe it possible of the people you work with, but they are a real vulnerability.

One problem is that we’re eager to help, especially when it comes to clients. There is a pre-established relationship, as your business has visibility into their financials. People are less likely to think twice about providing information to a client.

Yet cybercriminals do their homework and have enough information to be credible. Then they play on urgency and emotional appeal. They might call or email someone at your firm pretending to be an admin assistant for someone at the client. They might spin a tale of the CEO needing emergency cash in a far-flung location. Can’t you please help get it to them? Or they send a malicious file asking you to look at this complicated tax document for them (posing as the client). By the time you realize it wasn’t actually the client, it’s too late.

Insider attacks are a problem, too. Employees know your company’s infrastructure and are familiar with your cybersecurity tools. They also know where the sensitive data or confidential information is kept. Additionally, they may not act maliciously all the time. If a disgruntled worker is patient, rather than going out in a blaze of glory, it can be harder to detect the breach.

According to the Ponemon Institute, insider-related incidents cost $11.45 million in 2019. Establishing role-based access credentials can help limit exposure. With this approach, people can get only to the information they need to do their jobs.

Other Forms of Insider Threats

Humans also lose things. This is unintentional insider vulnerability. Perhaps they use their personal device to log into the business systems. Laptops, external drives, and mobile devices allow mobility and simplify data access, but what if that mobile device is lost or stolen? If you’re not protecting remote access, you could end up having to tell clients their data is in unknown hands. Encryption can help.

Then, there are the simple mistakes. It’s a good idea to review how you share and publish information. Information goes back and forth regularly between team members, the business, and clients. Don’t lose track of the information or where it is stored. You need to be sure that location is compliant with financial regulations.

If you’ve ever “replied all” when you meant to send to one person, you know how easy it is to mistake sharing privileges. You may intend to share only data with a client, yet you send it out with permissions where everyone can see it. Major oops!

Conclusion

Accountants can prevent, detect, and react effectively to these less common attacks. Don’t be complacent. Thinking it won’t happen to your firm can lead to disaster.

Partner with a managed service provider (MSP) to enhance your user activity monitoring and access management practices. These IT experts can set up alerts and incident response plans, too. Avoid the worst happening to your business. Be proactive.


E-accounting: Top 3 Considerations for Online Client Meetings

Many businesses were teleconferencing before COVID-19. After all, meeting virtually saves both you and your client time, and busy business owners often don’t want to spend the time to make a trip to your office. The coronavirus has hastened the move to e-accounting, but this approach presents some new problems, which we’ll address in this article.

#1 Speed

First, let’s consider speed. You may have a promised internet speed such as “up to 15 Mbps.” But internet connection speed, which impacts your experience, reflects bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth is the amount of data transferred per second, whereas latency is how long it takes for that data to get from source to destination. You need both to be good to be able to handle many video calls at once. Yet a lot of consumer-grade hardware is not built for several of your staff to be on the same call with a client.

Tip: Switch to a business-grade router. Optimize its settings to ensure security from bandwidth leeches and improve signal strength.

#2 Quality of Service

Large downloads can also impact your connection with a client or team member. If you’re on a video call and someone else in the office downloads a large file, your call could lag or drop. Likewise, if you’re working from home during a conference call and your teen is playing Grand Theft Auto, that could also cause issues.

Tip: Use smart networking hardware. You can rank the activities your business values more to improve Quality of Service (e.g. configuring video conferencing to take data preference ahead of file downloads).

#3 Security and Privacy

With virtual communication, you need to be aware of security and privacy issues. Accountants have to consider compliance with regulations, too. Before jumping on an online call with a client, research the teleconferencing app, not only how it secures the call communication but also what it does with the data collected. Encryption is standard, but end-to-end encryption is the highest level available to you.

Tip: Depending on the app, there may be security options you are not using. They are not set up by default because they can make the software more difficult to use. Still, if security and privacy are a priority, you’ll want to make those changes.

Conclusion

Not all internet service providers (ISPs) are equal. Some ISPs, and the modems or routers they supply, may not be up to the task for your business.

Partner with a managed service provider (MSP) to identify the best options for your firm. Perhaps high-quality internet isn’t available in your area. We can help you find a good wireless option. If the internet is unreliable, we can set up failover options to switch your traffic to 4G when necessary.

We can also help you address common e-accounting issues. Our experts will find you the right hardware to handle your traffic. Plus, we can configure QoS prioritization, block some devices, and schedule activities that need a lot of bandwidth. For example, we can schedule system backups for the middle of the night when fewer people will be online.

Embrace e-accounting’s advantages without losing speed, quality, or security. We can help.


Outsourced Help Desk for Accountants

Outsourced Email

Accountants are experts at surviving the “busy season.” Tax accountants, for instance, are slammed as annual deadlines draw near. There are slow times, too, but during crazy times, the last thing an accountant wants is essential tech going down.

A broken computer or server downtime can be devastating. Say it’s a few days before a tax deadline, and the accountant logs into an essential tax preparation application and sees a blank screen: the system is down, and they can’t get in. It’s the kind of crisis that more cups of coffee can’t handle.

In the United States in 2018, the Internal Revenue Service’s website crashed on April 17, Tax Day. Since many people had waited until the last minute to submit their tax returns, this single day of downtime is estimated to have cost millions. It’s a clear example of the damage even a day of server downtime or other type of outage can cost a business and, in this case, one that business accountants can relate to!

If the firm takes a break-fix approach to its technology needs, the answer will be to call in an expert. This could mean hours on the phone with an IT helpline only to find out the problem is with another service provider. Or it could mean trying to reach someone to come out and check the network only to get on their calendar in the next available spot.

Deadlines are looming, and you are spending time on IT woes? It’s a disaster.

A proactive approach is to outsource IT help to a managed service provider (MSP) instead. Rather than waste valuable time trying to solve the problem yourself, turn to an IT technician to get to work.

Outsourcing Your IT Help Desk

With managed services, when you need help, the experts are readily available to tackle your concerns. Many solutions are remote.

Better yet, the MSP will use your slow times to set up systems to cut the risk of downtime during crunch season.

The MSP gets to know your business objectives and your technology infrastructure, which can help them react more efficiently and effectively. They can also track your IT to detect issues or security vulnerabilities early. Plus, they will help create business continuity plans to get your firm up and running again fast.

If the worst does happen, the MSP is only a help ticket or phone call away. Their experts are familiar not only with your technology but also with how you use it. Plus, as a consistent customer, you are a priority, not just another name on a list of people needing help who all see their needs as an emergency.

One other advantage to outsourcing your IT help is that it can reduce costs. The break-fix approach can be an expensive one. Instead, you’ll pay an MSP a set, monthly fee for the peace of mind that your IT needs are being looked after. The MSP can also help you identify opportunities to reduce IT-related operational costs.


7 Benefits of Cloud Computing for Accountants

Accounting Cloud

The public cloud services market has grown dramatically, and, according to Gartner, migrating to the cloud is a top priority for a third of companies. Analysts predicted the market would reach $266 billion in 2020. Accountants enjoy cloud computing, too. This article rounds up the advantages of available cloud services.

Cloud computing can help accountants:

  • improve productivity;
  • empower employees;
  • optimize operations;
  • reduce operating costs;
  • backup better;
  • scale effectively;
  • add security.

Let’s talk about each of these in greater detail.

#1 Improve productivity

Cloud computing centralizes access. Files are available on any connected device, in real time. Avoid version control concerns as files pass among your team members or between you and the client. Everyone can work on the most recent file that is instantly updated in the cloud. The files are accessible on other devices if needed, too.

#2 Empower employees

The cloud enables on-demand access to computing resources. This includes software, networks, servers, and storage applications. Accountants can work from wherever they are, on their own timetable, from their own devices. With the widespread adoption of remote work, cloud services have become even more appealing.

#3 Optimize operations

Previously, you might have had an expensive server in a closet. Replacement was the option when it reached its end of life or could no longer meet your needs. You had to research, budget for, maintain, and secure the next tech. Cloud computing provides access to the most up-to-date tools, plus, the vendor does the upgrading, maintaining, and securing. This lets you focus your full attention on the accounting business.

Additionally, the cloud can streamline accounting practices. You might also gain speed, as the computing runs on faster servers with greater bandwidth.

#4 Reduce operating costs

Many cloud computing vendors offer their services as a pay-as-you-go model. This means you pay only for your level of usage. Plus, you no longer have to pay to host and maintain the tech you are replacing with cloud services.

You get enterprise-level technology affordably, as the cloud provider leverages economies of scale.

#5 Backup better

You may already be backing up business data on-site using external drives or tape. You might also be contracting with a third-party backup provider. A cloud vendor often has redundant backup systems to ensure your data. In the event of fire, flood, or other disaster, the cloud provider can launch a new backup quickly.

Meanwhile, if something disrupts your business directly, you can access cloud computing data. So, if the office floods, you can still get work done off-site.

#6 Scale effectively

Scalability is a great advantage of cloud accounting software. You pay only for what you use and can quickly add more, and you can do so without having to invest in new hardware or pay steep upfront costs.

#7 Add security

A small accounting shop may have had a member of staff who was also trying to keep an eye on IT security. Your cloud provider will have teams of such people. These industry experts focus on proactive cybersecurity.

Cloud Computing Challenges

Migrating to the cloud is not without challenges. There is the private cloud option, of course, but most small accounting businesses will be working on the public cloud.

This requires a partnership with a Web cloud solution provider. While this can simplify your work, it does reduce your direct control of the service provided.

Know that cloud computing can further extend your business interconnections. You could be including employees, customers, vendors (and their hired subcontractors) in access, so data breaches and account hijacking are a concern, too.

Work with a managed service provider (MSP) to ensure the cloud solution is secure. The MSP can review cloud architecture and strategy. Their experts will review configurations for adequate controls and check for interface vulnerabilities. Plus, they can help limit cloud usage visibility. MSPs can also set up effective identity access to harden your site against cyberattack.

Migrate safely to the cloud, and ensure you meet all compliance requirements, with the help of an MSP.