Top Cyber Threats

Because the Sharing Economy relies on technology, computer security is a crucial concern.

According to AICPA’s Forensic and Valuation Services and Information Management and Technology Assurance team’s whitepaper entitled “Top 5 Cyber Threats,” the most prevalent cyber-crimes are:

  1. Tax-Refund Fraud
  2. Corporate Account Takeover
  3. Identity Theft
  4. Theft of Sensitive Data
  5. Theft of Intellectual Property

Tax refund fraud has been a popular new topic this year. The IRS’s stunning admission in May 2015 that 330,000 taxpayers had their data hacked.

Fraudsters use pilfered social security numbers to file false tax returns and claim refunds.  When the actual taxpayer filed, the IRS systems rejected it because it had already been filed by a criminal. This technique exploits the IRS’s heavily paper-based system that gives the crooks time to perpetrate the fraud.

What can you do?

While there is no foolproof technique, only giving out your social security number when absolutely necessary is advisable. Also, don’t consent to storing information on e-commerce sites, especially with credit card and address data. Lastly, file taxes as early as possible. You always have until your filing deadline to pay without penalties.

The Corporate Account Takeover occurs when hackers intercept bank login information when finance or business owners transact online banking. The funds are often wired to an offshore account where they are hard to reclaim.

To defend against this threat, ask your bank about best practices it recommends for keeping information secure or inquire about random number generator keys for login (although these are not foolproof – RSA, a large cybersecurity firm that issues random number tokens for use in security applications was itself hack a few years ago).

Nonetheless, good security practices are better than nothing. Also, don’t conduct banking on a public Wi-Fi connection. If possible, use a hard-wired connection in your business location or home. Always secure your computer network.

Identity theft is the modern scourge. Criminals use key personal data to open credit card, bank, and loan accounts in your name using your credit score. They rack up the bills, ruin your credit, and flit off to their next victim.

Use a commercial identity theft services such as LifeLock or Costco’s monitoring services (you have to be a Costco member) to protect against the opening of fraudulent accounts. These programs essentially identity theft insurance and provide automated preventative actions that limit access to your credit reports for the purposes of opening accounts.

Theft of sensitive data, or rather preventing it, comes down to using solid internet security in your business. An example is firewall. Other more mundane measures are changing passwords often and using different passwords for each site or application. Though simple, these techniques do make it harder for hackers to obtain your information.

Lastly, theft of intellectual property is where an impostor uses your company’s patents, copyrights, or trademarks to profit from these intangible assets. Preventing this requires diligence and security of networks.

Also check out this other helpful report from the AICPA: AICPA for the Top 20 Cyber Security Checklist.

SHAMROCK vCFO Services in Naperville, IL specializes in helping small and medium size businesses with strategy, taxes, accounting, and financial performance management. Steve Shamrock left big companies to help smaller ones energize the economy.