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Is your data secure? 5 Cybersecurity considerations

27th Mar 2024
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Bright was created in 2021 when Thesaurus Software Ltd. and Relate Software Ltd. decided to join...
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In the digital age, accountants play a pivotal role in ensuring data security – custodians of modern, increasingly sophisticated systems that keep clients safe in a fast-changing landscape. Gone are the days of locked filing cabinets and paper ledgers; today's data is digital, accessible, and, inevitably, vulnerable to new cyber threats.  This has been made more complex by the rise of remote working, with more data in transit and online, adding more breach points to digital journeys. 

The responsibility of protecting sensitive financial information now sits with accountants – here we explore five areas that are too important to ignore. 

1. Secure storage 

Secure storage is the basic first step for data security in accounting. Cloud solutions have become the norm, offering enhanced security, scalability, and accessibility, however this doesn’t mean you can assume everything is taken care of.  

Storage solutions are only as secure as the processes around them.  Encryption ensures that data, even if intercepted, remains unreadable without the necessary decryption key. Meanwhile, 2FA adds an extra layer of security, requiring not just a password but also a second factor, such as a code sent to a mobile device, to gain access 

2. Responsible data transfer 

Data transfer within the accounting process is a critical moment of vulnerability. Think emails from clients, files sent via Google Drive or Dropbox or WhatsApp messages. The more manual handovers that happen within your practice, the higher the risk of breach, error or intrusion. 

Traditional methods like email attachments and downloaded spreadsheets are prone to interception and unauthorised access. Integrated solutions offer a secure alternative, enabling the encrypted transfer of data within a unified system through APIs. These platforms minimise the risk associated with data transfer, providing end-to-end encryption and audit trails that ensure data integrity and confidentiality. 

3. Robust access controls 

People are the biggest risk in your firm and in your clients’ businesses. That’s why controlling who has access to what data is such a crucial, and often overlooked aspect of cybersecurity.  

  • Control who sees what: Implement strict permission settings on who can access what data on what client, with different levels of access according to roles and the visibility required. 
  • Set password policies: Ensure passwords are managed on a user-by-user basis to mitigate the risk of unauthorised access and enhance overall system security. 
  • Audit ready: Ensure your software enables you and your clients to see who has changed what in your systems to maintain a detailed audit trail.  

This is an ongoing task – regular reviews of permissions, especially when client or team changes occur, should be conducted to prevent unauthorised access by former employees. Firms should also consider not just access to data coming in, but also data going out. For example, providing documents through a secure client portal, rather than via email, can enhance security by ensuring that only authorised individuals can access sensitive information such as payslips. 

4. Managing disclosure 

Digital data disclosure isn’t just a matter of systems – it’s also important to review communication roles. Managing what information is disclosed and to whom within and outside the organisation is vital.  

Given the volume of information they handle and the privileged access they enjoy, accountants must be extra cautious about the chains of disclosure, particularly in client businesses. This means confirming identities and chains of reporting to ensure that sensitive data remains confined to authorised personnel such as the finance team or C-suite.  

5. Data hygiene 

Data hygiene is an ongoing process that involves regularly reviewing and purging unnecessary or outdated information.  

  • Only request, collect and store essential data for your practice and clients. 
  • The more data you hold, the greater the risk. Make sure you’re deleting legacy data on a regular basis – storing old data opens your firm to breaches in GDPR rules, leaving more exposed to hackers. 

Appointing a data security officer is a responsibility under GDPR, providing focus and accountability, ensuring that data hygiene is maintained, and that the firm remains compliant with legal and regulatory standards. 

Putting security at the heart of your business 

Your client relationships rely on trust and vigilance when it comes to their most sensitive data. The systems at the heart of your business should play a key role in ensuring end-to-end security for client information, from the point of collection, through transfer and analysis. 

Bright’s range of accounting software is designed to create a complete ecosystem of finance services based on a single set of secure, integrated architecture. Whether it’s onboarding, bookkeeping or tax, accountants can trust Bright solutions to keep data secure and trustworthy at every step. 

To find out more, book a call with one of our team today. 

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Written by | Bright 

 

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