Accounting firms handle a wealth of valuable information, such as financial statements, tax returns, bank details, and other sensitive client data. These data can be sold on the dark web or used to conduct identity theft or financial fraud, making accounting firms an attractive target for cybercrime.
What’s more, small accounting firms tend to be easier targets since their cyber defenses are usually not as strong as those of bigger ones. Knowing this, some cybercriminals may target a small accounting firm to gain access to the IT systems of its big clients.
If an accounting firm falls victim to a cyberattack, it could suffer operational disruptions, financial losses, reputational damage, and, in some cases, legal and regulatory penalties. A great start to defending against cyberattacks is knowing the types of attacks that commonly hit the accounting sector.
Credential theft involves stealing user login credentials, which cybercriminals can then use to gain access to sensitive information, steal funds, or launch other cyberattacks. Cybercriminals can steal credentials in different ways, such as:
- Using keyloggers – installing malicious software that records every keystroke the victim makes
- Launching brute force attacks – using automated tools to try multiple combinations of usernames and passwords until the right combination is found
- Conducting phishing attacks – posing as a reputable individual or organization to trick victims into giving away their login credentials
Malware, short for malicious software, is designed to cause harm to a computer system, network, or device. It can be delivered through infected email attachments, malicious links, and other means. Once installed on a system, the malware can allow cybercriminals to spy on their victim’s activities, steal sensitive information, disrupt computer systems, generate profit, and extort money from the victim.
There are many types of malware, including:
- Virus – replicates itself and spreads from one computer to another once a user has opened or executed the infected file or program
- Worm – self-replicates and spreads without any user interaction
- Trojan – disguised as a legitimate program or file to trick the user into installing or executing it
- Ransomware – encrypts the victim’s files or blocks access to their computer system and then demands a ransom payment in exchange for restoring access or decrypting the files
Accounting firms are particularly vulnerable to ransomware. For example, in 2020, US accounting company BST & Co. CPAs LLC suffered a Maze ransomware attack. This led to the exposure of the firm’s and their clients’ data, including the protected health information of up to 170,000 patients of a large medical group.
In a social engineering attack, cybercriminals use psychological manipulation to trick victims into performing a certain action, such as wiring funds or giving up sensitive information. Common types of social engineering attacks include:
- Spear phishing – a more targeted type of phishing in which the cybercriminal identifies specific individuals and customizes the phishing message to make it more convincing
- Vishing – a type of phishing attack conducted over voice calls
- Baiting – involves enticing the victim with something they need or want, such as free software, in exchange for personal information
- Scareware – involves displaying false warning messages on a victim’s computer, making them believe that their system is infected with malware, and then prompting them to install fake antivirus software that actually infects the system
- Watering hole attack – targets a specific group of users by infecting a website that the group frequently visits, such as an accounting website
predictiveIT can bolster your accounting firm’s defenses against these cyberattacks and other cyberthreats. By leveraging our managed cybersecurity service, your firm can enjoy full-scale, enterprise-grade cybersecurity tools and solutions without breaking the bank. Book an appointment with us today.