Ah, tax season. Steady as a beating drum, the Tax Man comes around every year, looking for his due. COVID-19 may have shaken things up a bit, but even when he’s late, the Tax Man is never gone. And now he’s here again, meaning you’ve got to get ready. Believe it or not, some of your biggest challenges this tax season may not even come from your literal tax preparation (fun paperwork and such). No, it might come from something even scarier than the Tax Man.
Who could be scarier? Well, they don’t have a name—at least not one you’re likely to ever know, anyway. They could even be multiple they’s all working together in order to do terrible to things to you and anyone else that’s vulnerable. We’re talking, of course, about the mysterious and malevolent cybercriminal.
It’s nigh impossible to influence external factors affecting your business, so don’t bother. Like the Tax Man, you can’t ever be rid of cybercriminals. They’re all around, and they’re always looking for their cut of your hard-earned dollars. Instead, influence what you can influence: your business. Do it right and you don’t ever have to worry about becoming the next cyberattack or data breach victim on the local news—or the next lawsuit defendant.
Top 10 Tech Tax Tips
Use firewalls and antiviruses
This is just plain good advice, no matter what season it is. Cybercriminals see tax season as a perfect opportunity to try to hack business and individuals, so if you are currently risking it without these security features, it may be time to reconsider.
Another great practice, regardless of tax season, but it’s worth considering for the same reasons. The FBI recently promoted the use of passphrases, which sidestep the traditional “complex” password criteria (one uppercase and one lowercase letter, one number, etc.) for a more secure, lengthy string of words. “FantasticYellowBowledHair,” their example, is easier to remember than a complex password and just as secure.
Neglecting the updates of your website and software, even for a brief period of time, can have disastrous consequences. Developers are constantly releasing patches to, as the term implies, “patch” holes in the code, and the generally relate to security issues. Trusting employees to press “Update now” or schedule a time for updates regularly is risky and inconvenient. The best way to curtail this threat is to use remote maintenance tools offered by third-party help, like, for instance, a managed service provider. These tools push updates during off-hours, reducing risk and downtime—a win-win.
Get professional support
On the same wavelength, it’s always a smart idea to enlist outside help when your organization lacks the resources or expertise it needs. Managed service providers are one affordable option when it comes to covering all IT issues, especially during tax time.
Go with the best practices
As AT&T ads will tell you, “OK just isn’t good enough.” When it’s your organization on the line, you should only use the industry’s best practices. This will help you get your tax to-do list done quicker, improve your security, and help you serve your customers better.
Encrypt your data and wireless network
Another no-brainer, but it’s important to check. The University of San Francisco provides a simple guide for checking if your hard drive is encrypted. Your wireless network should use the latest security features, too, and a guest network should never allow access to internal systems or files.
Back everything up
This is the best defense against ransomware, as we recently discussed in another blog. When a ransomware or other attack occurs during tax season, losing access to critical data can ruin a business. Having the ability to reset to an earlier status is truly invaluable. Simple and tailor-made backup solutions are offered by many service providers.
Find tech that works for you
Your hardware and software need to be something you can live with, otherwise you won’t use them. Make tax season a lot more manageable by using devices and applications you’re already comfortable with rather than ones you feel forced to use only in March and April. What’s more, these tools should be secure, easy to use, and have ample storage for your organization’s needs.
Communicate with your accounting team
Your accounting team may very well be running around this tax season like chickens with their heads cut off. Help them out by listening. Follow tip eight by asking what they find easiest and invest in those tools rather than ones they won’t use.
It’s important to comply with all government regulations, especially at this time of year. This task can be overwhelming, so it’s a smart idea to turn to a service provider that has experience helping clients in your industry. When considering help, ask the candidate to show you their specific experience. What does your MSP do to keep you compliant?
Following these tech tips will get you on the right track to avoiding serious losses from mistakes and attacks this tax season.
What if you are a tax preparer?
Sure, you’re thinking, this is all good and whatnot, but I am a tax accounting firm. I help other companies do their taxes, and we’re perfectly capable of doing our own, so how could your tips help me?
Well, as you might have noticed, none of the above tips are really about doing your taxes for you since that’s not generally the role of an IT provider or managed service provider. Instead, they are heavily focused on cybersecurity. So, why is cybersecurity so important for you?
As you know, financial service companies like yourself store a vast amount of private information about clients, making them a prime target for cybercriminals. Financial services companies face millions of cyberattacks each year. Recently, the SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations released an alert about an increase in ransomware sophistication against broker-dealers, investment advisers, and investment companies. Ransomware, a particularly nasty cyberattack that holds data hostage, has been on the rise recently, laying siege to financial services firms as well as healthcare and IT companies. A common theme? All three hold vast amounts of other people’s data—data you have a legal obligation to protect.
In 2020, credential theft, phishing, and business email compromise (BEC) accounted for two-thirds of all breaches. Blocking these attempts to trick you is paramount to a successful data protection plan. The federal government now expects you to be able to show you’re taking steps to protect customer data, and that means the usual—firewalls, antiviruses, data backups and disaster recovery, etc.—but it also means following best practices for passwords, account management, log monitoring, and general network security. In other words, you can benefit from the above tips, meaning, by the way, that you yourself can benefit from the services of a company that can do these things for you.
Who’s there to help you?
You may have noticed that many suggestions incorporate outside help, and that’s with good reason. Expertise is invaluable. Whether you’re a tax preparer or not, getting your tax security done right the first time is critical for your business. When you need help with any of the above steps, you should reach out for that outside help. Let the trusted team at Machado Consulting explain how we can help make a data protection plan that works for you. Reach us here or by phone at (508) 453-4700.