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As a certified public accountant (CPA), you are entrusted with confidential client data. And as our world becomes more and more rooted in technology, there is an increasing amount of legislation and regulations on the books to keep this information secure. It’s been reported that more than 50 percent of firms struggle to stay abreast of new legislation regarding IT security and compliance requirements. Managed IT services for accounting firms can help you protect your client data and meet your compliance requirements.
Here’s what you need to know about how IT services for CPAs can greatly impact your operations and your data security.
The risk of cyberattack is on the rise everywhere, it’s true. However, CPA firms are at particular risk of cybersecurity vulnerabilities because of the inherent nature of what they do. In particular, CPAs and CPA firms are susceptible to threats from bad actors for a few reasons:
Hackers are resourceful—and they want to make the most of their efforts. CPAs and other consulting firms are appealing to malicious actors because they hold such valuable data all in one location. Additionally, smaller firms might not have the resources that larger enterprises have to build strong cybersecurity defenses on their own, making them especially enticing for hackers.
Most CPAs work with many clients at once and provide numerous services for each client or organization they work with. This means there are many more potential weak spots where bad actors can gain unauthorized access including on computers, mobile devices, networks, stored in the cloud, and in their email systems. This makes it harder to ensure all data is given the proper level of protection necessary to safeguard it from theft.
Under the law, CPAs are subject to a multitude of cybersecurity compliance obligations, particularly for three separate categories of data: personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), and payment card industry (PCI) data. This kind of sensitive data can be extremely valuable to cyber attackers, making it that much more at-risk.
This kind of taxpayer data is very vulnerable, which is why there are legal protections in place to ensure it stays protected against a breach. As you likely already know, the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 (also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) was passed to establish regulations for paid tax preparers and set criminal and monetary penalties for “knowingly or recklessly making unauthorized disclosures of taxpayer information.”
Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides guidance for tax preparers to help maintain this compliance. This guidance has come to be known as the “Security Six.” This guidance recommends:
The regulations also state that tax preparers and CPAs should each have a written information security plan, or a WISP.
While this may seem somewhat straightforward, this is not always necessarily the case. With more and more legislation enacted each year to protect sensitive data, many CPAs have questions about how to stay current—and compliant—with it all.
For example, there are 47 separate state laws about how to handle breach notifications for compromised PII, as well as compliance requirements for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), especially if a CPA firm accepts credit cards as payment for services.
Why do these considerations matter so much to CPAs? Healthcare companies don’t always know if third-party service providers (like CPAs) may have access to health records that would require these firms to stay compliant with HIPAA regulations, have designated HIPAA security officials, and conduct risk assessments—even if they don’t ever actually encounter PHI. In many cases, CPA forms are unaware that they are in scope for HIPAA technological compliance.
As for staying current with PCI data security protocols, there are extensive security measures required for handling credit card information, all of which can consume copious time and resources for CPA firms.
Handling other people’s money (and sensitive data) can get complicated quickly, especially around tax time. Perhaps one of the reasons CPA firms are so vulnerable to attack is that there are already so many considerations to juggle. But IT issues like cybersecurity and compliance don’t have to add to the burden.
There are plenty of steps and precautions CPAs can take to keep their data secure beyond the recommendations listed above, including:
But another important step accountants can take is to employ the support of professional, managed IT services. After all, the work CPAs do is already so specialized and valued—and their to-do lists are already lengthy—that taking on the task of managing cybersecurity becomes almost another full-time job.
Managed IT services for accounting firms can fill many roles, but among the most important is the handling of specific, regulated cybersecurity obligations to stay compliant with the growing list of security-related legislation and stay ahead of the increasing threat of cyberattacks. CPA firms can enhance their cybersecurity strategy with managed IT services to keep data protected. These managed IT services can also include disaster recovery planning, software support services, remote support services, data storage services, and even data backup services.
With managed IT support for accountants, you can spend more time taking care of your clients to boost your productivity and customer satisfaction, all while taking comfort in knowing your cyber security needs are handled.
As you handle your cybersecurity needs and asset management, you still have to be sure that your client files are secure in-transit, and at-rest, and readily available. That’s why Christo IT offers accounting-specific managed IT services that include:
We understand that you handle highly-sensitive information all day long. In your world, security is everything. Our team will help develop a cybersecurity strategy that takes the guesswork out of compliance and keeps your sensitive data secure while making audit engagement much less stressful.
As an accounting firm, you have a unique set of requirements and an entire ecosystem of networks, devices, hardware and software, and cloud-based solutions to think about. We’ve taken the time to determine how to best serve CPAs, and are here to help as the foremost managed IT service for accounting firms in the greater Philadelphia area.
Ready to learn more? Connect with us today!
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