With tax day right around the corner, the targeting of payroll professionals, human resources executives, and tax preparers is again proliferating. Relying on illicit phishing emails that appear to come from a company’s actual chief executive officer — think firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com —cybercriminals request lists of employees and their personal information in hopes of gaining access to Forms W-2s, Social Security numbers, and other financial data.
In other cases, emails that appear to come from tax software providers alerting a user of a critical update ask recipients to click on a link. All it takes is one click from one employee to lead to an infected website, though, where an automatic file download can then access your computer and steal your data.
Stories of hackers filing fake tax returns with stolen identities are also common, as are basic attempts to sell illicit info on the black market. But what happens to the data once it’s stolen means little to the business owner or decision maker left footing the bill for emergency IT services AND informing clients of a confidentiality compromise. No matter what industry you operate in, such a breach will have a negative impact on your company.
If your company houses confidential data, your systems are at risk. The tax day situation outlined above provides a bigger lesson: proactive monitoring solutions that keep constant watch on your computers and networks are critical. But so is compliance, which is mandated at different levels depending on your type of business. Meeting government and industry regulations can be difficult to achieve, especially for small businesses where resources are stretched thin.
That’s when the assistance of a trusted IT advisor and compliance expert like CMIT Solutions comes in handy. We understand the importance of data protection and cyber-crime prevention. We deploy a layered approach to network security that keeps your systems, your employees, and your information safe. We offer local, professional-to-professional service backed by a nationwide system of business owners and technicians. We even know the IRS’ Publication 4557 about Safeguarding Taxpayer Data forward and backward.
Another aspect of cybersecurity that we understand intimately is any successful plan must focus on the human element. Below, we’ve compiled five straightforward strategies to enhance your data security.
1) Watch out for phishing scams.
Does the format of that new email seem odd? Does the domain name appear to include extra characters? Are obvious typos or awkward phrases included? This general assessment can be completed in seconds — and although it might seem annoying or inefficient in today’s digital world, it’s a must. If an email that sounds important but seems like it just appeared out of the blue there’s probably a reason why. Which is why it’s so important that you…
2) Don’t click ANY links or open ANY attachments in an email unless you know the sender and are expecting the email.
This recommendation constitutes the basis of any sound security strategy — and not abiding by it is the most likely way to compromise a computer, network, or data storage solution.
3) Mix up your passwords.
The options here are infinite. You can manually create variations on a long mix of numbers, letters, and special characters. You can use an online password manager to regularly change your logins, requiring you to remember just one secure master password. You can activate two-factor authorization on any accounts that offer it. Or you can give your company the highest level of protection with enterprise-grade password management solutions. The important thing is that you never use “password123” ever again.
4) Strengthen your online browsing protections.
If you rely on a Wi-Fi network, make sure it’s password protected and not public. Any time you’re transmitting personal information online, look for “https” or the lock sign next to the web address in your browser. And please, don’t click on any of those ads or headlines that are too good (or ridiculous) to be true.
5) Treat your data with the care it deserves.
You take your responsibility to your clients seriously — you should take their data seriously, as well. (And the IRS really wants to make sure you take their data seriously.) At CMIT Solutions, we can help you protect your systems. From critical data backups to top-flight encryption to automated administrative processes to software and hardware upgrade assistance, we’ve got you covered.
Worried about suspicious online activity? Afraid your systems have been hacked? Want to avoid online scams and keep your data safe? Contact CMIT today. We pride ourselves on staying up to date with security and compliance issues. We listen to you to resolve your immediate technology headaches and plan for your long-term technology strategy. In short, we worry about IT so you don’t have to. Everybody deserves that kind of support this time of year.