Unless you’ve planted your head firmly in the sand, you’ve probably seen or read about numerous computer hacks and scams. Identity theft is a very real problem, but when a ne’er-do-well accesses your accounting system and puts your customers’ sensitive data at risk, it can spell doom for your business.
Here are a dozen quick tips that will help keep your accounting system and your customers safe and secure:
- Change your password – One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent a hack is to frequently change the password to your PC and your accounting system. This should be done with regularity and each time you should use a new, unique and complex password (e.g. containing capital and lower case letters, numbers and special symbols, at least 8-12 characters long.)
- Never share your credentials – Do not share your log-on credentials with anyone and NEVER email or text passwords! Do not write down your user name and password unless you keep it under lock and key.
- Shred everything – Shred all documents that contain sensitive information, be it financial or human resources related. This information can be used to hack your network and/or your accounting systems. More than any other means, hackers gain access to critical business systems through employees throwing out scraps of paper with passwords written down by them.
- Put screen locks on your computers – Set up your computer so that after a certain length of time the system automatically locks the PC and requires a password to re-access.
- Keep your computers physically secure – Make sure that computers with access to your accounting system are physically secure. If you’re using a laptop, acquire and use a laptop lock. Leaving a laptop bag on the seat of your car, out in the open, may be asking for trouble. If your company is using a server, make sure it is kept in an area with limited access.
- Use a Firewall – If your computer is attached to the internet or other computers, make sure to use a firewall to keep it safe from intrusion.
- Use Virus Protection and Keep it up-to-date – Most virus software can be set to automatically update. Keep all machines on your network protected and up-to-date with the latest virus signatures.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) – If you or your team access the accounting system remotely, be sure to use a VPN so all data is encrypted.
- Limit outside media – Do not use, or allow others to use, outside media such as thumb drives; they can be used to spread viruses or malware.
- Limit access – As simple as it may seem, be sure to limit access to your accounting system. Make sure that anyone who uses the system has a business need and limit their access to only those areas that are relevant to their job function.
- Keep good backups and test them regularly – Back-up your accounting systems. Those back-ups should be kept in a safe, secure off-site environment. If they are backed up to the cloud, be sure their infrastructure and security practices are up to snuff.
- Dispose of computers securely – When swapping out an old computer, be sure to remove all sensitive data and physically remove the hard drive. There are a wide variety of companies that will physically destroy old hard drives for a nominal fee.
Following these 12 tips will help you go a long way toward keeping your accounting system(s) safe and secure. If you have any questions about any of these items, please contact your Zinner accounting professional.