NO ONE IS SAFE. That is one of the most important lessons we’ve learned in our cyber world these past few months. Every day, hackers and cybercriminals are stepping up their game to get past the cyber security measures of even the most protected systems around the world.
Take the NSA for example. In just a span of 30 days, cyberweapons stolen from United States’ security agency has been used twice to hit hospitals, utility corporations, businesses, and government systems. The cyber attacks were carried out in the form of ransomware – a type of software that encrypts the victim’s data, and threatens them that their data will be deleted unless a ransom is paid. This is similar to the "WannaCry" attack that affected over 200,000 victims last May 2017.
No one knows if these attacks will happen again or not. However, it is important to keep in mind that the finance and accounting industry is a big fish for these hackers. In fact, accountants in Kiev were hit by a ransomware hidden within their tax preparation systems. In just a matter of minutes, a tax accountant told the New York Times that he had lost all his past year filings and now has no way of confirming these filings.
While there are a lot of scenarios that may come to mind once you fell for these attacks, here are some things that you can do now to make sure you won’t be in the same predicament as those who have been victimized by these ransomware and malware:
1. Create external backups, cloud backups, or both.
Ransomware encrypts the data saved on your computer and asks you to pay a certain amount to access them again. On the other hand, malware can corrupt and wipe out data in your computer’s local storage. Having regular backups on the cloud or an external drive backup (or both) saves you the trouble of losing these files forever, or paying a hefty sum to access them again.
2. Be Vigilant in Using the Web, Apps, and E-mail.
Hackers normally get into your system whenever you click their links, download certain apps, or open documents sent thru email. However, these documents are actually programs or installers, disguised as files to deceive you into downloading them.
A good rule of thumb is to check the authenticity of apps and emails forwarded to you. Apps can be easily verified by checking the official app directory of your operating system (App Store for iOS/Apple, Playstore for Android and Chrome, and Windows Store for Microsoft Windows).
For email attachments, you can easily check the file extension of the attachment if it really is a valid document or a program installer (these normally end with the “.exe” extension). If the attachment checks out, and the email still looks suspicious, you can send a message to your contact and verify if s/he was the one who really sent the email.
3. Update your Security Software
As mentioned in the introduction of this blog, hackers are working tirelessly to infiltrate your system. One way to protect yourself from their newest strategies is to update your antivirus and other cyber security software to their latest versions. This ensures that your software can detect these threats, thereby protecting you and your data.
4. Educate Your Colleagues and Employees.
The recent “WannaCry” ransomware and Petya ransomware targeted businesses more than individuals. This means that once a single computer falls victim to the attacks, the data security of other users and devices are also at risk. Educating your colleagues and employees about the latest cyber threats is perhaps the most cost-effective way to protect your data.
Sending email updates, conducting seminar talks, or having lunch discussions with the IT team are some of the ways to keep your employees informed and updated on the cyber threats around the globe.
5. Utilize Big Data
This might sound strange to some but the reality is that big data analytics can help in increasing your organization's security. Data analytics can help you detect abnormalities from your patterns that are usually caused by successful infiltrations or cyber-attacks. With the help of data analytics, you can easily pinpoint which area has been infected and take actions to eliminate the threat and prevent it from spreading or getting into your systems again.
Protecting your data from cyber-attacks should always be your priority, especially if you are in the business of providing finance and accounting services. Remember that no matter how secure your systems are, improving your data security should be continuous, unless you want hackers to work around them and cause irreversible damage to your company.
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