Financial women blind-folded in front of books representing regulatory compliance.

Regulatory Compliance: Compliance is Everything

The Need For Regulatory Compliance

 

Regulatory compliance is an understandably dull subject. Yet, if your financial institution or business ignores or isn’t aware of it –it could cause problems.

Regulatory compliance ensures organizations follow state and federal law, as well as federal standards and procedures. That may sound simple enough, but considering the variety of mandated regulations like HIPAA, SOX and PCI DSS, falling out of compliance happens fairly frequently. If that happens, you’re looking at possible audits, federal fines, even public scrutiny and negative attention that comes with an investigation. In a time where social media shapes perception, a company cannot risk losing business because of their reputation.

The reality is, not maintaining regulatory compliance only takes you towards significant revenue loss for your organization, or even worse.

Penalties for violating SOX compliance standards, for example, and can lead to millions of dollars fines, removal from listings on the public stock exchange and even years in prison. That is why compliance is often the focus of an organization’s security system.

Regulatory Compliance Isn’t Easy But…

While there are different types of compliance regulations for different industries, the three largest are HIPPA, SOX and PCI DSS. Your particular organization might need to comply with one or all three. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specifics of the regulations that apply to you. That being said, it’s possible to think you are taking the necessary measures to ensure compliance and still be in violation of one or more regulations. This happens unintentionally or unknowingly.

Some of the reasons for this might be because you’re referencing outdated material, updated or new wording of rules replaces old and misunderstandings on how these laws are interpreted by the various enforcement agencies.

Furthermore, these regulations are constantly changing and keeping track of all the minute alterations can take time and energy better used on other business related goals.

Cloud Compliance

Even processing data has to go through regulatory benchmarks. These benchmarks are called Data localization laws.

Data localization is important to understand cloud compliance. It should not be confused with data sovereignty. Data localization laws require personal data to be handled in a specific territory instead of a cloud provider. Laws in different countries often differ regarding this.

SOX Compliance

SOX requires the following to be bench-marked, audited and monitored regularly, specifically sections 302, 404, and 409:
• Information Access
• Internal controls
• Database activity
• Account activity
• User activity
• Network Activity
• Login activity

Industry Costs of Compliance Statistics
IT Security:

IT security is an essential requirement everyone in the financial industry knows to sustain at all times. Given the sensitive nature of the data a financial organization possesses, there are serious repercussions for shirking this responsibility.
Make sure the right controls are installed to avoid data breaches and you have the toosl ready to alleviate any issues if they occur. Investing in services that monitor and protect your financial database is essential to complying with regulation.

Data Backup:

Always keep backup systems to protect your sensitive data. Both data centers and on-site IT infrastructure are subject to the same SOX compliance requirements.
Access Controls:
This regards both electronic and physical systems put in place to stop unauthorized users from viewing sensitive financial information. Part of this is adopting effective security measures like implementing multi-factored authentication, keeping servers or data centers in secure locations.

What Can You Do?

Considering you are in the best position to look after your businesses’ affairs, you should familiarize yourself with the most recent regulatory compliance information. Knowing as much as possible about the nuances of regulatory mandates prepares you to understand compliance regulations. You can leverage this information to stay updated on any changes and plan accordingly.
You should then adopt technology that is in complete compliance with your industry standards. That means finding IT support with expert knowledge on regulation and compliance.
You should try to find an organization that creates a customized infrastructure that serves your specific requirements. Additionally, it should take into consideration all the standards mentioned previously: HIPAA, SOX and PCI DSS.

For more information on compliance standards and compatible IT solutions visit our website or call us at (305) 551-2009 and we’ll answer any questions or inquires you might have.

Accounting Firms SOX Compliance

Are You an Accountant? What You Should Know About SOX Compliance

Background & History of SOX

The Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX Compliance) Act of 2002 mostly came about due to a great deal of national attention surrounding several financial and accounting scandals by major corporations in the early-to-mid 2000’s. These corporations, like Enron, Tyco International, AIG, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems, and WorldCom were discovered to have executives within each organization who falsified accounting records to either secretly steal money for themselves, or to disguise decreasing company earnings, which falsely maintained higher company stock prices.

Because of this, most of the corporations either failed or were sold off, and left in their wake thousands unemployed and billions of dollars lost

As a result, Congressmen Paul Sarbanes , D-Md., and Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, joined forces to create the SOX Act, creating an enforcement method with the goal of protecting shareholders and the general public from accounting errors and fraudulent practices in the enterprise, as well as improving the accuracy of corporate disclosures.

The Act became law on July 30, 2002 and is named after Sarbanes and Oxley, who sponsored it. The act set deadlines for meeting compliance and established requirement rules. Moreover, Congressmen Michael Oxley and Paul Sarbanes drafted the act to create more accountability in the corporate sector.

SOX Compliance Statistics Accounting

Effects & Benefits

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board was created due to SOX, setting specific standards for audit reports. It obligates all auditors from public companies to register with them. Also, it prohibits accounting firms from doing business consulting with the companies they are auditing. They can still act as tax consultants.

SOX compliance is both a legal obligation and an effective business practice. Although, companies should behave ethically without the need for these standards. Implementing SOX  has the added benefit of protecting a company from cyberattacks like malware and ransomware. Additionally, SOX compliance includes many of the practices of any data security plan.

There are many elements of SOX compliance, all of which Nerds Support are well familiar.

IT SOX compliance solutions for accountants and CPA professionals

A Brief Overview of the Major Elements of SOX Compliance

● Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB)

– Provides independent oversight of public accounting firms providing audit services, as well as enforcing registration of auditors, defining the specific processes and procedures for compliance audits, inspecting and policing conduct and quality control, and enforcing compliance with the specific mandates of SOX.

● Auditor Independence

– Establishes standards for external auditor independence to limit conflicts of interest, as well as addressing new auditor approval requirements, audit partner rotation, and auditor reporting requirements.

● Corporate Responsibility

– Mandates that senior executives take individual responsibility for accuracy and completeness of all corporate financial reports.

● Enhanced Financial Disclosures

– Sets enhanced reporting requirements for financial transactions, as well as requiring internal controls for assuring the accuracy of financial reports and disclosures.

● Analyst Conflicts of Interest

– Includes measures designed to help restore investor confidence in the reporting of securities analysts.

● Commission Resources and Authority

– Defines practices to restore investor trust in securities analysts. As well as defining the SEC’s authority to censure or bar securities professionals from practice.

● Studies and Reports

– Require the Comptroller General and the SEC to perform various studies and report their findings.

● Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability

– Describes detailed criminal penalties for altering or destroying financial records, also including any other interference with investigations, all the while providing certain protections for informants.

● White Collar Crime Penalty Enhancement

– Increases the criminal penalties associated with white-collar crimes and conspiracies.

● Corporate Tax Returns

– States the Chief Executive Officer must sign company tax returns.

● Corporate Fraud Accountability

– Identifies corporate fraud and records tampering as criminal offenses, and lists to specific penalties for such offenses. The SOX Act contains several specific, severe consequences for violations of any and all specific parts of the act.

 

Penalties for not complying with SOX can lead to fines, removal from the public stock exchange, and more. By the same token, CEOs and CFOs who knowingly submit an incorrect certification to an audit faces up to 20 years in jail and $5 million in fines.

How certain are you that your organization is operating within strict SOX compliance? With Nerds Support, you’re just a call away. Our Miami IT Solutions team is ready to help you tackle all your IT needs. With over 17 years of experience in helping leaders in the accounting industry we know how to help you succeed.

Financial cloud Industry Digitizing with the Cloud

Financial Cloud for The Financial Services Industry

Cloud for Financial Services Industry

Financial cloud services is an evermore popular topic these days. Financial services organizations are moving to the cloud for a competitive advantage, advanced security and the potential for innovation. The global finance cloud market was valued at more than $15 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach about $55 billion by 2024, according to report by Mordor Intelligence.

One of the driving factors in cloud finance is operational efficiency. Moreover, using the cloud companies are able to offer end-to-end loan processing in record time, surpassing finance industry benchmarks.

Finance and asset management is undergoing a radical transformation. Four out of five organizations that participated in a Bizagi report say that providing a better customer experience that can respond to customer needs enables competitive advantage.

Digital Transformation

Companies continue to explore the cloud for financial services and its benefits. Additionally, cloud software provides companies the ability to focus on revenue and wealth management, while maintaining customer relations.

CSPs arose as a leaders in the digital transformation of various industries. These industries like retail and distribution represent sectors with medium to low regulatory oversight. This reduces some of the complexities associated with implementation.

However, adopting the cloud for highly regulated industries like banks, insurance and healthcare companies did not follow this trend. CSPs lacked the maturity to meet financial organizations’ regulatory and compliance requirements. But this has changed in recent years, with cloud adoption increasing within the industry according to a Gartner study.

Both the banking and insurance industries are adopting cloud services. The study also states that by 2020, 36 percent of institutions will use the cloud to support more than half of their transactional systems of record.

Regulations and Standards

The entry way to the cloud does have its challenges and it’s important to understand the full picture. Those who work in an industry as heavily regulated as that of financial services don’t need  reminders of their importance. There’s an expectation that Financial services organizations protect sensitive data and are subject to strict data security requirements. Data protection, business continuity, data privacy are considered when outsourcing their infrastructure over to a cloud service provider.

Financial services are among the most regulated industries with regards to data privacy and security. There’s a long list of regulations that include: PCI, DSS, GLBA, GDPR, Dodd-Frank, FFIEC, SOX and the USA Patriot Act.

Reluctance to Adopt the Cloud

With 71 percent of financial service businesses agreeing that digital transformation needs to happen fast in order to prevent commercial failure, what problems stop these companies from committing to the cloud?

In a survey released in March 2015, the majority of participants cited data security as their primary concern, with application development and testing being their primary desire of utilizing the cloud.Financial Industry Respondents Statistics on Digitizing with the Cloud

Reasons to Adopt the Financial Cloud

Despite those concerns, the reality is financial cloud security is actually an upgrade, and actually deter or remove any potential risks to data. A cloud provider uses top grade security features and a team of highly skilled systems engineers that monitor suspicious activity around-the-clock. Cloud service providers (CSP) , like Nerds Support also implement automated backups every day to reduce risk of data loss in case of a breach. The cloud is better than traditional systems with security. Using pattern matching technology to recognize anomalies when they appear, cloud providers prevent risks rather than create it.

CSPs are extremely secure and have redundancies in place. Regardless, it’s up to each financial institution to understand what they are buying from a CSP, the type of risks associated with the service provided, and the regulatory requirements. For example, depending on the importance of a FI’s service and the sensitivity of their data, the FI can choose the level of encryption. Passwords and encryption keys can be managed in various ways; some CSPs, like Nerds Support, offer additional services like “security as a service.”

Some CSP’s, like Nerds Support, take the added step of achieving compliance with HIPAA and PCI DSS regulations. In doing so they show the capacity to meet stringent security requirements, enabling customers to leverage security capabilities to meet these compliance requirements.

A Customized Cloud

Financial institution need to assess all the risks involved in their processes. Some of those tasks cannot be outsourced. That’s why the financial organization goes through a strict evaluation and assessment of the provider to ensure the quality of service is guaranteed as promised when choosing a provider.

The greatest risk for any organization, however, is not being ready to implement a digital transformation. Larger organizations face internal resistance. There is a resistance to change that plagues both large and small companies.

As more and more companies adopt cloud solutions, however, those in the financial services industry are looking to implement the cloud themselves to keep up. The need to incorporate on demand, easy-to-use services to meet ever changing customer expectation.

The skepticism by financial institutions is understandable. However, they were using Amazon Web Services which is a public cloud provider. There are CSP’s that cater to mid-market businesses and offer personalized services to their partners in the financial services industry. These types of services are more characteristic of private or hybrid clouds.

For example, CSP systems engineers at Nerds Support take the time to evaluate their partners’ current IT infrastructure through an extensive consultation process, rather than pushing a one-size-fits-all cloud service.

Things to Consider

The point here is that CSP’s are not all the same. They vary in the services they provide and how the go about implementing the cloud itself.
When adopting a cloud strategy, financial services decision makers should watch out for:

• Cloud providers that are unwilling to use compliance and up-to-date security to improve and personalize their service.
• Cloud providers that lack the financial services expertise necessary to maintain compliance and regulation standards.
• Make sure that your cloud contract states you keep ownership over all your data.

Customer Support is Important

In the early years of cloud computing, customer support was a huge issue for users. Users plagued by poor response times, inexperienced technicians and overall poor customer experience. Since then, CSP’s have taken great strides in improving support. Cloud technology has been around long enough to better implement through industries that benefit.

If you need a rapid response to client issues, make sure that your cloud services provider has options available for technical support. These options should include phone consultations, email and user training.

The reason to emphasize this point is because a CSP partnership is one that works best when it’s long term. Choosing a cloud provider that dissatisfies means going through the grueling process of migrating from one account partner to another. The problem is, many of these applications don’t easily transfer to other systems.

What are you waiting for?

It’s time for the financial services industry to leverage financial cloud to improve productivity, security and service. The opportunities and capabilities are there. For more information on  financial cloud services call Nerds Support  at (305)551-2009 or visit our website.

 

Texas Ransomware Cyber Attack

Ransomware Attacks & Financial Firms

Ransomware Attack On Texas

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 a ransomware attack took place in 22 municipalities in Texas. Computer systems were hacked and held for ransom in a widespread ransomware strike. The cities of Borger and Keene were among those affected. Borger residents couldn’t access birth certificates or pay their utility bills.

Ransomware attacks are a growing problem for governments on a city, state and county level, according to a report by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The type of ransomware was not revealed and no state networks were breached in the attack according to Texas officials.

What is known is that the ransomware came from a single source.

Ransomware

Ransomware is the most common tactic used by cyber criminals because it’s relatively simple to execute and it’s cheap.

This has led to a rise in ransomware attacks since 2017 and most victims are small cities and counties. These cities are perfect because they often have underfunded IT staff and are therefore most vulnerable.

The same reasons that make these places so vulnerable to attack make financial firms vulnerable as well.

Cyber criminals are leveraging ransomware attacks to steal from industries of all kinds, but financial services firms are among the most lucrative.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. They store valuable, sensitive and confidential data that can be sold on the dark web or to a competitor.
  2. They usually have significant amounts of money available. This making them more likely to pay a ransom to get back encrypted data if there’s substantial downtime.
  3. Their IT security is believed to be lacking and inefficient, especially within smaller banks and credit unions.

The Looming Threat of Ransomware Statistics

Ways to Avoid Ransomware & Cyber Traps

Effectively combating ransomware requires implementing technical and cultural measures. This includes:

Training

Ransomware attacks are perpetrated through an email containing an infected link or attached document. Knowing what to look for is half the battle and greatly reduces the chances of falling victim to these attacks.

Here are some telltale signs of a ransomware attack:

  • There are glaring grammar and spelling errors in an ostensibly professional email.
  • You receive an email at odd hours of the day or night.
  • If the link attached to the email connects to an unusual URL. Hover your cursor over the link to check the URL.

Now more than ever it’s important to address this concern. Cyber-attacks affect financial services 300 times more than other companies, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Despite this, BCG found that many financial institutions are poorly equipped to respond effectively to a ransomware attack.

This comes from a failure to prioritize cybersecurity as a top issue. There is an overemphasis on prevention over detection and response. There is also a lack of security awareness in company culture in general, which can worsen the problem.

If employees reuse account credentials like passwords attackers can easily obtain them and cause serious damage. The most dangerous threats come from inside a firm- from a careless employee who fall victim to phishing, spoofing and other social engineering schemes. The resulting losses across the financial services industry run up to tens of billions of dollars.

 

Securing Your Network

It’s important to train users to recognize certain kinds of attacks, but keeping a secure network requires an approached focused on strong network architecture. An infrastructure capable of detecting and eliminating malware that may have found its way into the network.

It’s possible that your network may contain numerous latent threats, so all applications and email inboxes should be properly scanned for malicious content.

Top IT Service providers, like Nerds Support, deploy firewall as well as implementing comprehensive email security to stop threats before they become problems.

They’re also allow you to segment and control access throughout the network to minimize the spread of a virus attack should it get in.

Backups

When a hacker uses ransomware, they encrypt all data and sensitive information necessary to operate. That means payroll, customer’s financial information, email, internal documents and more. The only way to regain access is to pay a ransom of some kind.

If you backup your data, however, that doesn’t have to be the case. With the right strategy, rather than paying ransom, you can just restore your files from the latest back-up and the cyber criminal’s ploy will have been stopped in its tracks.

Cloud based back-up services are the best at this. Nerds Support provides partners with daily backups and updates all systems with the latest security features to combat cyber-attacks. These advanced solutions even allow you to create a virtual copy of your servers on the cloud and restore all compromised data within minutes of a breach or attack.

The Greatest Risk Isn’t What You Think

It’s logical for a cyber-criminal to target financial firms for the reasons mentioned above using ransomware. It’s a reality of living in an ever-more-digital era. Ransomware and other malware attacks are here to stay and should not be ignored. The greatest damage to a firm is not to their business, their productivity or their infrastructure, it’s to their reputation.

Financial services organizations possess people’s most personal financial information. Social security, banking information, credit history, etc. If you’ve failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent or mitigate an attack and your firm is breached, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to trust you again.

When you take on a client, there is an agreement that you will safeguard their information. There is a supposition of trust. If that trust is broken, the thing your service is founded upon, rebuilding your reputation will be an uphill battle for years to come.

What Does it Mean?

In the case of the Texas attacks, the governments of these municipalities have resources that help them recover. They have taxpayer funding, cyber security experts and other advantages that a private organization does not have. Even with these advantages, it’s still struggling to address the overall issue of cyber-attacks.

According to the cyber security firm Recorded Future, the attacks on these 22 cities were the most organized and coordinated attack they’ve ever seen. The Texas Department of Information Resources (TDIR) are currently involved in trying to bring back all systems online as are officials from other federal agencies.

If this is the type of damage that can be done on government institutions, there is no excuse for negligence on the part of any business let alone one as frequently targeted as a financial organization. Take stock of your current IT resources and make sure your company is properly prepared in all respects against ransomware and cyber-attacks.

For more information on Malware, ransomware and social engineering visit our blog or contact us and we’ll answer any questions or inquiries you may have about how to make your firm safe and secure.

A logistics team using technology to move their cargo

How to be a Functional Freight Forwarder

The freight forwarding business has faced a lot of challenges. As technology changes it creates opportunities for advancement, however it’s understandable being reluctant to change. Freight Forwarders go by many names; clearing agent, customs broker, customs and forwarding agents but despite this difference, the experience and challenges are more than likely the same across the board. Cloud technology is fast becoming the solution to specific industry issues and, if you’re a freight forwarder, it could be yours as well.

What is the Cloud?

The cloud is a term referring to accessing computer, information technology (IT), and software applications through a network connection. It is done by accessing data centers using wide area networking (WAN) or Internet connectivity. Almost all IT resources can live in the cloud: A software program or application, a service, or an entire infrastructure. With the best IT Support Miami provider, cloud solutions can be one of the most cost effective ways to organize your business.

Cloud Solutions carries the power for your business to be available anywhere. With the cloud, your employees can access company files from anywhere in the world, at any time. Cloud solutions also allows your employees to view files from any device. This includes laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Cloud solutions also allows you to have control over the people that can see your files, meaning that your business can always stay secure. You can read more about Nerds Support’s cloud solutions right here.

Nerds Support IT Services for logistics firms uses the cloud

How Does the Cloud Help Freight Forwarders in Miami?

Freight Forwarders are constantly dealing with information from other countries and employees that are on the go. Having Nerds Support take care of your company’s cloud solutions not only provide your company the security it needs to run efficiently, but also the flexibility that every business on the move needs.

Nerds Support’s IT Support Miami team provides Cloud services which can help secure a freight forwarding dealings, keep accurate records and also track shipments. Cloud computing has many advantages. It is convenient to use and in many cases you can gain access to it instantly. Remote users can also access cloud resources from wherever they have a connection. Therefore, there is no limit to the location.

With The Cloud, You Have Control

Cloud solutions also allows you to have control over the people that can see your files, meaning that your business can always stay secure. You can read more about Nerds Support’s cloud solutions right here.

Inventory is the most fundamental way of determining risks and streamlining costs. Inventory management through the cloud allows you to adapt to demand fluctuations while mitigating risks and emergencies. You’ll have real-time, adjustable control over your inventory.

Maximum Efficiency

Coordinating components from multiple suppliers in various locations can be daunting. Synchronizing the process is what matters most towards optimizing efficiency. Cloud based solutions allow for monitoring on both the micro and macro scale so you can make accurate models of merge in transition possible.

Cloud integration provides more data in real time and it makes it accessible to your team, regardless of time or location. The cloud can allow for sharing of files, data sets, and all pertinent information. Breaking it down in this way makes it easier to handle and again saves time and improves productivity.

You need to understand the pricing associated with the logistical elements of your specific supply chain. Accessing the cloud in real time and making the proper adjustments ultimately determines net profits, make or hurt margins.

Cloud Logistics Statistics

Cloud Security

When choosing a cloud provider, it’s best to consider either a private cloud provider or a hybrid. A private cloud provider hosts all applications and systems on privately owned servers located in highly advanced, secure data centers. A hybrid cloud has both elements of public and private. Although public clouds seem cheaper there are likelier chances of down-time and security issues because public clouds have more clients running off their services.

Most importantly, there’s the matter of security. The biggest concerns existing in the industry are in relation to cloud computing and the security of sensitive information. When choosing a cloud provider, it’s best to consider either a private cloud provider or a hybrid. A private cloud provider hosts all applications and systems on privately owned servers located in highly advanced, secure data centers. A hybrid cloud has both elements of public and private. Although public clouds seem cheaper there are likelier chances of down-time and security issues because public clouds have more clients running off their services.

Selecting the right cloud solutions for your business is essential if you want to ensure your organization is safe from data breaches, viruses and other threats. Our IT department can monitor applications in real time and deploy advanced analytics to predict incoming threats and downtime.

Cost Benefits

You need to understand the pricing associated with the logistical elements of your specific supply chain. Accessing the cloud in real time and making the proper adjustments ultimately determines net profits, make or hurt margins.

There will always be reluctance to adopt new technology, especially if it disrupts how an industry operates, but what if it gave you a competitive advantage? Many of the features within the cloud address issues in the logistics industry.

Reliability

Public clouds are also not available everywhere. There are parts of the world where the public cloud is not accessible. If your supply chain has different hubs and vendors in different parts of the world, compliance requirements might vary depending on location. A private or hybrid cloud, like Nerds Support is always deployed in accordance with international laws and regulations.

Compliance

Carriers face substantial compliance regulations by federal state and local authorities. There are environmental factors like emission standards and regulations brought about by governments that bring to question concerns over compliance costs hindering business.

These constant shifts create new challenges and problems for logistic management and therefore makes staying up to date with these changes just as important as everything else we’ve mentioned. A cloud provider like Nerds Support, ensures your firm meets compliance standards wherever you operate.

Conclusion

Cloud services in Miami are very important for a forward thinking freight forwarder. In 2018 it is very important to try and get ahead of the competition and ensure increased patronage and maximization of profit. Using cloud computing IT services from Nerds Support gives your company a way to improve your technology capability without sacrificing quality or making a large, upfront capital investment. Nerds Support offers the best in IT Support and Cloud Solutions for Freight Forwarders.

Your business can enjoy the newest technologies through our cloud services and cloud infrastructure design. You can upgrade and improve productivity without the lengthy delays usually involved with adopting new technology, in addition to doing away with an expensive equipment investment that would normally mean increased costs. Let our Miami Cloud Services team help you make the transition to the cloud. That way, you can start experiencing the benefits today!