If you’re an accountant, your main job is to help clients get their finances straight. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Accountants deal with extremely sensitive personal data, as well as confidential statements, tax records and other financial information on a daily basis. All of which are a goldmine for cyber criminals.
Unlike other industries where the primary target of cyber-attacks tends to be large corporate databases, attacks in the accounting sector often focus on the communications between accountants and their clients.
As such, accountants are most at risk of GDPR breaches and loss of client confidentiality. It is, therefore, vital to protect communications by ensuring files and information are shared in a secure way – meeting regulatory compliance in this area. It’s a big responsibility, especially in the age of GDPR. So, how do you go about ensuring files and information are shared safely?
A secure file sharing platform is a must
Without a secure file sharing platform, there is a greater risk that accountants (or their clients) could send confidential documents, albeit inadvertently, over email or a public network – meaning the information is more likely to fall into the wrong hands.
To protect client privacy, it’s an accountant’s responsibility to practice and promote secure file sharing. Not only will this help to provide security and protection of crucial documents, but it will also help accountants maintain culpability and give them precise permission control on certain files.
Types of file sharing
There are many options when it comes to file sharing, but which is the best for accountants? As email is an entirely digital, universally accepted and user-friendly process, it still remains the primary means of sending documents electronically. But, as we’ve already alluded to, it is far from the safest option.
Client data should only be emailed when strictly necessary and absolutely must be encrypted by a secure email service such as Mimecast; otherwise, the information can be read by anyone who intercepts it.
Many tech-savvy accountants have moved on from email to use file sharing sites or client portals. These platforms are a leap forward in security, providing a convenient alternative for sharing and receiving multiple files.
Many file sharing sites operate on a monthly paid subscription service, with features such as security, file tracking, reporting and storage included. There are now also a number of cloud-based file sharing options available including Dropbox, ShareFile and Egnyte.
A client portal is a great way for accountants managing multiple clients to streamline and optimise business operations. By creating a client portal, accountants can make workspaces for each individual client – helping to unify communications and file sharing across all clientele in one place. A portal designed specifically for accountants will also offer several additional advantages over standard file sharing applications such as access control, eSignature integration, mobile access and integration with document management files. This can even take the form of a mobile phone app which clients install on their phones.
What to look for
When choosing a secure platform for sharing files and data, it is important to look out for a platform which, at the very least, offers precise permissions and activity monitoring. It is important to have complete control over who is viewing, downloading or printing a file. Using a file sharing platform with granular permission control adds an additional level of security to the protected documents being shared and ensures only the right people have
access to certain documents.
A secure file sharing platform should also hold users accountable and pave the way for a smoother workflow; as such, it is vital to choose a service with an advanced activity monitoring feature which tracks every event that happens on the platform including individual file sharing, as well as when someone has opened a file or when a new version is available for review.
With all the many forms, files, contracts, data and disclosures that accounting entails, securely sharing these documents is crucial. By utilising secure platforms such as file sharing sites and client portals, accountants can promise their clients security, as well as an optimised and streamlined process.
By Bruce Penson, Managing Director of Pro Drive IT