Take precautions to secure business information

Since the dust has settled on another tax season,

I thought it might be helpful to share some insights on the critical role information technology (IT) plays in business. IT is a driving force in the success of business and companies that use it will see their operations continue to grow, even in slow economies.

In a complex, competitive and round-the-clock business environment, companies must be efficient, fast and safe. That’s where IT can help significantly enhance performance. With a boost in efficiency and mobility, comes security risks, however.

Like many businesses, certified public accounting firms have widened their scope of technology skills to remain current on the latest knowledge, but also to learn how to keep important and confidential data safe.

Some businesses have come to rely more on auditors and accountants in business advisory roles for their companies because of the oversight and understanding such firms have of the business environment. CPA firms can help organizations and businesses streamline their processes, maximize productivity and manage security.

Historically, fraud increases during economic downturns, which in turn prompts businesses to become extra vigilant in assuring the technology they have is safe and secure.

Privacy, security and internal controls related to personal and financial matters remain one of the top challenges for small business owners because of opportunists looking to exploit vulnerabilities. Now more than ever, business owners want command over every aspect of their ventures, including a working knowledge of the technology used to run operations.

One thing almost everyone knows how to use is

e-mail and the Internet. While e-mail and the Internet are great, they pose some of the biggest security issues for businesses and their clients. The best way to keep information safe is to protect against the possibility of a breach by focusing on e-mail and Internet security.

One way to protect your business is to understand what goes on behind the scenes when you send an e-mail. After you send an e-mail, it doesn’t go straight to the recipient. Messages are transmitted through networks of routers. By the time it reaches its destination, an e-mail has probably passed through a dozen or so pieces of third-party equipment. When an e-mail is in transit, it’s subject to intercept by identity thieves looking for personal information.

Here are some safeguards you can implement right away to protect you and your business:

n Use passwords that include upper and lowercase letters along with numbers and symbols. The password should be at least 10 characters long.

n Don’t use the same password for many different accounts.

n Include a secure file transfer feature that allows your clients an encrypted portal directly to you where only you and the client can access it.

n Make sure your CPA firm uses encryption technology where appropriate. According to the IRS and various state laws, transmitting a client’s personal information unencrypted via email or the Internet can carry significant penalties.

n Make sure your CPA doesn’t disclose your personal information to third parties without a proper disclosure authorization from you.

Certainly there are risks associated with technology. But if handled correctly, the benefits can outweigh the threats if you take the right precautions. The key is to implement security precautions before a breach.

We live in a wired world that offers great potential for businesses to succeed. But it’s wise to remain way of the risks involved. Whether it’s IT security or financial information security, always err on the side of caution.

 

About
Chris West is a principal at Dalby, Wendland & Co., a full-service auditing and accounting firm that opened its doors in downtown Grand Junction in 1948 and is now entering its 63rd tax season. For more information about Dalby, Wendland & Co., including tax updates, visit www.dalbycpa.com.
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Posted by on May 19 2011. Filed under Contributors. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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