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Protecting your Data during Tax Time

Protecting Data During Tax Time

Tax season is a particularly risky time because the need to review and send sensitive data over various channels leaves you vulnerable to an attack from potential identity thieves. During the tax season, exercise caution with phone calls and emails sent from cybercriminals who pose as a representative of the IRS. Even a manager inside an organization could potentially steal information from an unwitting employee. The universal need for everyone to take part in the personal and business tax process puts everyone at risk for compromise around the same time. Fortunately, there are a few strategies to employ to keep security high during this period of extra vulnerability.

What are the Risks?

Eric Cernak, a cyber and privacy risk leaders, has noted how W-2 phishing attacks are only one of the many popular methods that identity thieves have used to get confidential information from businesses. Ransomware has also been increasingly employed as an attack against businesses. Most of the time, hackers will infiltrate the system and encrypt a large swath of company data. After this has happened, they will demand payment in the form of a cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, because it is harder for authorities to track. Once the payment has been made, they often offer to release the information but not without a catch. Hackers may release only some of the originally compromised data with plans for future exploitation. It's also impossible to "undo" some leaks. Sensitive information tied to tax forms is especially vulnerable because we can't easily change identifying information (like Social Security numbers and birthdates) if they fall into the wrong hands.

The Cost to Small Business Owners

The tremendous impact of an information breach to any size business can be crushing. In addition to the potential loss of money through identity theft, the loss of productivity is significant-even on a personal level. These attacks have started to increasingly impact small business owners. It takes time, money, and expertise to restore data and get a business back up and running.

How to Protect Your Data

Protecting your business during tax time involves effectively training employees. Find ways to endow employees with a shared sense of responsibility for the security at the company. Since everyone's personal identifying information could be at risk, it's truly a shared endeavor to avoid the compromise of tax-related information.

The best-planned security measures are often weak without implementation of a consistent monitoring plan. Even without ill-intentions, humans will usually be the weakest link for hackers. Education and monitoring can protect everyone.

Even after taxes have ended, the risk of cyber attack continues. Preventing data leaks and loss requires vigilience and will only be as effective as its weakest link. Don't overlook the importance of physical security of tax documents. Since hard copies can always be lost or damaged, don't forget to digitally backup all tax documents from personal and business filings. Consider a system like SecureDrive to back up your files and keep information secure.

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