5 Ways CPAs Can Help Business Leaders Protect Against Cyberattacks

 – January 26, 2022
5 Ways CPAs Can Help Business Leaders Protect Against Cyberattacks
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With cyberattacks proving inevitable, is your company ready to be hit? Are your clients? Given the impact a breach can have on an organization, limiting collateral damage is critical and you can provide guidance to protect your organization and your clients.

As a CPA, your company and your clients look to you as a business advisor and trusted partner to help minimize risk and limit exposure. If IT security isn’t part of the conversation, you’re missing an opportunity to increase your value and doing a disservice to those needing or looking for advice.

These days it’s not uncommon for CPAs and accounting firms to discuss technology — even if it’s just asking questions. There’s no need for a technical discussion. These are higher-level business conversations that address risk, strategy and corporate culture.   

There’s no shortage of products a business can purchase to protect itself. But third-party/supply chain attacks have changed the game, as they’ve become more common and far more brazen. Unfortunately, there’s not much a business can do if the software company that provides its enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) or business management system is breached.

That said, here are five best practices and proactive measures that can limit the impact of an attack and ensure that a third-party breach doesn’t mean game over:

  1. Recommend endpoint detection and response (EDR). A business needs to know they’ve been breached as quickly as possible, and they need a post-attack/response plan. “Honeytokens” or “virtual tripwires” set up to alert organizations of suspicious activity in their network are a great tool. If being breached is bad, not learning about it until days or weeks after it happens is worse — and not knowing what to immediately do and who to call can be catastrophic.
  2. Suggest threat hunting as a proactive service. Threat hunting services are useful for those who want an extra layer of visibility and an ability to identify attackers or adversaries hiding in a network. Threat detection or threat hunting is a fairly common service that can either be run as part of an organization’s existing IT managed services or by a trusted third-party partner.
  3. Discuss two-factor/multi-factor authentication (2FA/MFA). A generally affordable (and easy-to-implement) tool, multi-factor authentication ensures that criminals who do gain access to user login credentials must validate their identity before being granted entry. While it’s not 100-percent guaranteed, it does provide that extra layer of security and peace of mind.
  4. Understand how Zero Trust helps. While some call it “the shiny new object,” the truth is the Zero Trust (ZT) model has been around for quite some time but gained significant exposure in May 2021 when the federal government mandated ZT as part of its security strategy. A concept more than a tool or piece of software, the process assumes that nothing ― devices, applications or users ― inside the network can be trusted and operates under three basic pillars: Verify Explicitly, Use Least Privilege, Assume Breach.
  5. Go more advanced with a SIEM solution. Security information and event management (SIEM) technology is an advanced cybersecurity solution that collects and converges data from different parts of an IT environment with the intent of monitoring a firm’s security levels. Providing improved visibility and insight into user activity, endpoints, traffic and more, a SIEM (with automated remediation actions) enables a business to maintain oversight into their network and beyond. Automated remediation means less reliance on IT resources and provides a “set-it-and-forget-it” approach.

Cybersecurity will always come down to an organization’s culture and defensive posture — on your toes, knees bent, arms ready. Technical tools are essential; however, more and more business advisors are having the security conversation with their clients because it is a business conversation more than a technical one, and it dovetails nicely into the overall conversation of risk and preparedness.

Businesses that stay sharp and have a plan will have an advantage and typically be able to weather the storm. Those that are complacent and unprepared may not be as fortunate.

 

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