Uncovering Cyber Threats for Accounting Data Security

Cyber-attacks are a constant concern for network administrators and IT professionals, but they’re not the only ones who need to be worried. Every company is only as successful as the next data breach, one that can prove costly in terms of financial compensation for the victims and a loss of overall trust associated with an affected company.

So, how do professionals go about uncovering the next threat on the horizon, and making sure they’re prepared to face it head on?

The first step for any company or organization that gathers and stores sensitive data – whether —it’s the customers’ credit card numbers or bank account information, or clients’ personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers or birthdates—is to be sure that the data that is gathered and stored is absolutely vital. If this information is no longer pertinent, as is the case after a new account has been opened and the need for a Social Security number to conduct that initial credit check no longer exists, it’s important to reevaluate why it’s being stored; data breaches happen on information that is sitting there unprotected, ripe for hackers to access.

Once a company has evaluated its need for information, the next step is to make sure that every available tool is put in place to protect that information. The company believed to be responsible for causing the Target data breach, one that affected millions of consumers during the busy holiday shopping season, is believed to have been relying on a free download of an outdated anti-virus software as its only protection against a cyber-attack; the version wasn’t even licensed for business use, and certainly, it proved inadequate to ward off a threat of that magnitude.

Employee training and oversight are other important factors in ensuring that cyber threats are thwarted as quickly as possible. Inadequately trained employers and employees, who are determined to conduct data breaches from within the company—these so-called “inside jobs”—are major contributing factors in the loss of data security. Yet, companies still don’t invest enough time in preventing accidental or intentional data breaches. Even worse, they often overlook the need for barring access to certain types of customer data, leaving the doors open for all employees to access information, regardless of position or need.

Some of the most helpful solutions are also the simplest, such as keeping abreast of new threats and understanding how they work, as well as understanding how they were implemented in the first place. Knowing your sources for emails, file sharing and other digital communications with your corporate connections is also important, as well as knowing what level of security protection those entities have in place. Most important of all may be keeping a constant check on your system and conducting a full security audit on a regular basis, instead of merely relying on the notion that you’ve done all you can do to protect your data.

While hackers constantly find new and even more creative ways to break into protected systems, it can feel like there’s no way to fully prevent a data breach. But, with the right focus and effort on prevention, companies can minimize the effects and the damage, as well as work to make themselves a non-lucrative target.