Avoid a security breach this tax season with these 5 tips

By Jonathan Hassell

| Banking

Tax season might be busy for accountants, but they aren’t the only ones preparing for a bonanza of paperwork. Malicious hackers and identity thieves abound this time of year. Here are five tips for protecting your enterprise information during a sensitive season and avoiding an embarrassing and damaging security breach:

1. Be cautious of suspicious attachments

A lot of financial information gets tossed around through email this time of year, and people might not always be automatically suspicious of PDF attachments or other types of files, especially in tax firms and financial organizations. However, attachments can be cleverly disguised to open up a payload of viruses or malware that can steal your data, lock it in exchange for a ransom or worse.

2. Use encryption when sharing personal information through email

To mitigate some of the issues surrounding email attachments, consider using a tool such as ShareFile or some other service that stores a file in an encrypted location and emails the user a link to authenticate and retrieve it. Not only is this method more secure, but it also gets around pesky file size limitations that might be frustrating with large PDFs and image files from scanners.

3. Use drive encryption on devices that could contain sensitive information

You might have heard the news stories about the security breach that occurred when a laptop was stolen from a Secret Service agent. Even if your laptop gets stolen, if your drive is encrypted, your data and personal information are safe. Your only loss is your device, and your insurance may even cover the theft.

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4. Create a backup scheme and regularly make test restores from it

In the event you do get victimized by a ransomware infection or some other problem that puts you out of commission, you’ll want to have recent backups on hand to restore from in order to get back in gear. Make sure all of your data is saved to locations that get backed up, understand the backup schedule (and increase the frequency, if necessary) and most importantly, test your restores. Make sure all your backups are good before you need them. Otherwise, a backup without a test restore is as bad as no backup at all.

5. Be suspicious of phone calls requesting personal information or verification

Some more recent scams involve people posing as employees from accounting firms or tax assistance clinics. These scammers are fishing (or more properly, “phishing”) for personal information including Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other details they can use to fraudulently obtain credit cards and services in your name. The more accomplished ones will already have a couple of details on you that they will ask you to confirm, a move designed to get your defenses down. Always call firms back on a number you find or a number you know to be legitimate before you divulge personal information.

Though these tips may not save your tax team from mountains of paperwork and spreadsheets, at least you can make sure those are the only headaches your employees will experience this tax season.

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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