As a business manager or accountant, you are responsible for handling extremely sensitive information for your clients—everything from their phone numbers, home addresses, and social security numbers to credit card, bank account, and investment information. They depend on you to keep that information safe.
Security breaches could be devastating to your clients and to your business. Consider the financial losses that a client might sustain if an unauthorized person were to gain access to a personal bank account. Even illicit access to a social security number and an address could enable a criminal to commit fraud.
Breaches require significant time and resources to undo the damage. Closing accounts, alerting the authorities and fraud specialists, requesting new cards, monitoring credit scores, and conducting similar tasks are time-intensive processes that pull your team members away from other responsibilities.
Breaches can also lead to the embarrassing exposure of private information for your high-profile clients. And they can ruin your reputation as a trusted business partner. One well-publicized breach could cost you multiple clients.
Unfortunately, protecting sensitive client information is extremely challenging, especially given the growing array of internal and external threats. You need to defend against clever cyber hackers from around the world who are continuously finding new ways to break into digital systems. At the same time, you need to restrict access to particular client information and accounts by a range of supposed allies, including your clients’ staff and family, and even your own employees.
How should you address critical security issues? Choosing the right accounting solution is a good start.
Adopt a multi-layered approach to security
As you search for ways to better protect client information, look for an accounting solution that offers a multi-layered approach to security.
Your accounting solution should help you retain tight control over account access. You need ways to define which of your employees, and which members of your clients’ staff or family, can access which accounts. You might decide to allow one of your employees to access the credit card account for your client’s charitable foundation but not the client’s personal checking account.
You should also be able to set policies for what users can do if they have access to an account. For example, you might give your client’s personal assistant the ability to view bank account information but allow only your client to approve payments to vendors.
In addition to using role-based permissions, your accounting solution should employ two-factor authentication to help ensure that users really are who they say they are. An additional authentication layer for the payment process can help prevent unauthorized people from making fraudulent payments.
If you choose a cloud-based accounting solution, ensure the cloud service provider can demonstrate the highest level of data and systems security where your clients’ financial data is stored. That cloud environment should comply with rigorous service organization control (SOC) regulations. In addition, data centers where the cloud solution is hosted should be hardened, resilient and controls for physical access are rigorously enforced.
The accounting solution should also have sufficient business continuity and disaster recovery strategies in place. You need to be sure your clients can continue to conduct business transactions such as paying vendors even if a server fails or a data center floods. In most cases, opting for a cloud-based accounting service will enable you to protect mission-critical data more cost-effectively than implementing business continuity and disaster recovery solutions on your own.
Fast reconciliation plus auditing capabilities
You need to spot any problems fast. The sooner you can identify fraudulent charges or unauthorized payments, the sooner you can alert fraud experts and reclaim lost funds. An accounting solution that is integrated with a banking system can accelerate reconciliation and enable you to pinpoint issues right away.
Audit trails can help you figure out what went wrong and who is responsible. Your accounting solution should track every action—from scanning the new invoice through authorizing payments. Audit trail capabilities not only help with post-incident investigations but also serve as a deterrent against insider fraud.
Tightening security often requires more than deploying a new solution. You might need to educate your staff about the best ways to safeguard sensitive information. Some businesses will need to redesign their workflows to make sure staff members aren’t inadvertently creating security risks. Your accounting solution vendor should be able to help you implement best practices to strengthen security. Outside consulting firms with security and compliance specialists can also be helpful when you require a thorough assessment of your processes.
Reduce risks for your clients and your business
When you’re responsible for securing your clients’ highly sensitive personal and financial data, your accounting solution can play a vital role in keeping data safe. Selecting a solution that employs a multi-layered approach to security helps minimize risks for your clients and your business.