Should accountants be wary of breaches? Snowden says yes
July 21, 2014

Individuals across the globe have been following the Edward Snowden story for some time now. A former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower, Snowden's been a source of interest to people from all backgrounds. At this point, it doesn't matter what class you're in, what industry you work in or even what country you're from - chances are good that you know his story and some of the details of the spying he says the U.S. government has done.

However, accountants might want to pay attention to his latest allegations. In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Snowden claims that, among those in a few other trades, accountants should be especially on edge about their privacy when using digital technology.

Because the vast majority of professionals use computers and the Internet to keep track of things like accounts payable and receivable, as well as invoicing and other expenses, what do accountants need to know about the current situation?

Politics aside
Whether or not an accountant is a Snowden supporter or takes what he says with a grain of salt, all professionals know that they have to stay safe when they're online. As Accounting Today reported, Snowden believes that businesspeople with an obligation to protect clients' privacy are constantly facing new challenges, because we live in what is essentially an unsecure world. He also noted that technology can be used to help increase privacy.

How to stay safe
While Snowden is talking more of governments potentially taking nefarious actions, the fact remains that it's unarguable that there are individual cybercriminals out there who want to hack into databases and steal information and money. Because accountants delve into sensitive personal information and finances, they're very often a target of hackers.

So what should accountants do? According to the American Institute of CPAs, there are a number of answers. First, professionals need to be aware of not only the legal issues surrounding data protection, but also the peculiarities of which data needs to be monitored. For instance, leaders should have a general idea of where sensitive data is stored and what pieces of information become more important when paired with other data points. Think of it this way - birth dates might not be considered sensitive, but when they are combined with mothers' maiden names, that could be a treasure trove for hackers.

The source also suggested having the right types of procedures and technologies in place to detect and answer breach attempts. For instance, encryption and basic anti-virus software is always a necessity, as is a set plan to inform clients if an attack should be successful.

Nexus: G-WEBCD6