By its very nature, accounting software contains sensitive, confidential, and personal information. Unfortunately, that information is often valuable to many people outside of a small business.
Hackers seem to be everywhere lately. And with the recent breach of the US Office of Personnel Management affecting more than 21 million Americans, it has once again found its way into the spotlight.
Seeing a story like that can be a real eye-opener. When something like it happens, all businesses, even small ones, need to step back and look at the personal information they store. One breach could cause serious damage. Could your accounting software be better protected?
Here are five ways to protect sensitive business and personal information.
1. Delete confidential information when it is no longer being used, and there are no laws stating otherwise.
One of the very basic things you can do to ensure the valuable information in your accounting software is kept confidential is to get rid of it when you no longer need it. If you are not required to keep it by any applicable laws, delete the information.
Deleting something from your system does not always fully get rid of it, but there are technologies available that can completely remove all traces of information.
Not every business needs something so extreme. Decide what level of protection your business needs by considering the type of information you store.
- How sensitive is it?
- What are the odds that it will be breached?
- How bad would it be if it were breached?
No matter how you answer these questions, you should take measures to delete confidential information when you can.
2. Encrypt any sensitive information.
One of the best things you can do when you have sensitive information is to encrypt or redact the parts of the information that would be beneficial to hackers.
Encrypting data means that it can only be read with a key. That means that to use the information, the hacker would have to get both the data and the key to reading the data. Although this is possible, it makes data theft harder because hackers would need to get more than just the information.
An alternative to encryption is redaction. You can make stolen information useless by removing all or part of the personal information. For example, removing all but the last four digits of a Social Security Number qualifies as a redaction.
3. Monitor the system to make sure no unauthorized users are accessing it.
The next thing you can do to protect your information, or the information of your customers and employees, is to monitor who has access to the information. When you do not monitor personal information, it will take a lot longer to catch any potential problems if they were to occur.
When you make monitoring access to your accounting software a part of your business practices and internal controls, it will become a routine that does not interfere with your job duties. It can also help reduce breach-related concerns, along with other worrisome issues.
When you catch an access problem early, you can quickly investigate, eliminate unauthorized access, and mitigate the damage.
4. Use accounting software that has security features built into it.
One of the best things that you can do to protect confidential information is to use accounting software that includes top-level security features. This is especially effective when you can combine security features with diligently monitoring and protecting the information yourself.
The accounting software that you use should have many standard security features. For example, security login procedures should require users to have secure passwords and frequently update them. Also, if suspicious activity occurs on an account, the software should alert you.
When choosing accounting software, make sure that you find one with the security features that you need.
5. Learn how to spot scams.
Make sure that you or your employees do not fall for even the most sophisticated scam. The following is the minimum you should do to protect your company:
- Have frequent training on the topic.
- Put verification steps in place before allowing access to information.
- Only let authorized personnel be able to access secured information.
Make Security a Priority.
No matter the information you are storing, you need to make sure you are taking steps to guard it. Hackers can cause lasting damage to your business if you don’t protect it. Taking these steps can help reduce the risk and impact.