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Top Cybersecurity Risks for CPA Firms in Miami

Cybercriminals are always hunting for identity theft victims. It is becoming increasingly important for you to take proactive measures to protect your clients’ personal and financial information. It doesn’t matter if you work by yourself or for a large accounting firm—digital security risks are a growing concern for everyone in the accounting profession. Those who don’t address these concerns are putting themselves and their businesses at serious professional liability risk.

There has been a rise in cyber attacks since the Coronavirus pandemic set in. 80 percent of firms have seen an increase in cyberattacks. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to take proactive measures to protect clients personal and financial information.

The truth is, cybercriminals are always hunting for new victims. Gartner research shows that the cyber security market will be at $170.4 billion by 2022.

We’ve already seen countless instances of hackers targeting businesses and institutions and getting paid millions of dollars in ransom money. Cities like New Orleans and Naples, Fl have suffered severe attacks that compromised their systems and the security of the cities themselves.

Since financial institutions are trusted with much of their client’s personal data, they are high valued targets for hackers.

Here are the Top Cyber Security Risks CPA Firms in Miami are facing:

Ignorance

While the advanced abilities of modern cyber criminals may seem obvious, too many businesses do not grasp the reality of the frequency and the severity of the threat. One study estimates that 97% of companies have already experienced a breach of some sort, meaning at least one hacker has bypassed all layers of security. The threat of cyber security is real, and ignorance offers no protection.

Poor Passwords

Passwords are the most basic defense against unwanted digital access. How secure are your passwords? Are you using them to their fullest potential? For most corporations, poor passwords are a major security risk. About 76% of corporate network breaches are directly related to lost or stolen credentials, like easily hacked passwords. Change your password immediately if it is “123456,” “password,” or something equally unsafe. Be sure to follow best practices for strong passwords like a long chain with varying types of characters.

Internal Threats

Internal threats usually come from individuals who misuse their information access. Unfortunately, no matter how careful your firm is, you may have an unscrupulous employee on your hands. Also, service vendors may find themselves in a building where sensitive information is on display. It’s important to restrict access to information to employees on a need-to-know basis.

The Cloud and Other Technological Vulnerabilities

Unless you have Managed IT experience, finding all the technological vulnerabilities in your software and hardware is nearly impossible. Every application and operating system on your computer, phone, or tablet can have a vulnerability, and it only takes a hacker one moment to exploit it once it has been found. When you use cloud-based storage, you add another layer of vulnerability. Work with an IT professional and be sure to review your cloud-based service providers often.

Phishing, Malware, and Hacking

4,000 firms were analyzed in a 2020 Verizon report and they found that 52 percent were a result of hacking.

Phishing and malware are malicious attempts to access sensitive data. Phishing is the process of sending an email that entices a reader to click on an attachment and enter personal data, which opens the computer to a hack. Malware is malicious software installed without a user’s knowledge with the purpose of hacking the computer or otherwise disrupting its function. Both are a risk for the modern CPA. All it takes is an involuntary click on a seemingly innocent email to infect a computer or release sensitive information.

Of course, you also have the risk of being hacked.

As a data collector and caretaker, a CPA has a legal responsibility to remain compliant with government regulations. Over time, the data that is stored in order to remain compliant becomes a threat in and of itself. If the data is not properly stored, or if it is not able to be found in the event of an audit, your firm could face a large set of legal risks.

How to Defend Against Cyber Security Threats

Work with an IT professional

Work with an IT professional to ensure you have proper security protocols in place. Review any cloud-based service providers to see if they have good security measures as well. Perform a security risk assessment to stop any potential problems before they can grow.

Understand and Protect the Flow of Confidential Data

Make sure you understand the flow of confidential data in your firm and enforce proper security procedures. Review access controls to ensure only those who should see data have access to it. Train, vet, and monitor your employees, and carefully screen any service providers or vendors who come to your facility. Make sure customers are not able to see the data of others when they visit your facility.

Create an Information Security Plan

Have a written information security plan that includes a timely purging of generic data sets. Train your employees to adhere to these rules. Review the plan periodically among leadership staff as well as employees.

Reduce Your Risk with Professional Liability Insurance

Protect yourself with proper insurance. While all of these risk reduction strategies are important, the most important way to protect yourself and your business is through professional liability insurance. Purchase a policy that properly addresses all potential cybersecurity exposures.

Protect Your Firm from Cybersecurity Threats

For CPAs, protecting data can quickly become a full-time job. It is your ethical and legal responsibility to do everything in your power to protect your clients and their personal data. Beyond that, you need to protect yourself—Cybersecurity risks are very real in this modern world. By following these strategies and obtaining appropriate liability coverage, you can fight cybersecurity threats head on.

Conclusion

The cyber risks are so great these days that management must get involved to ensure that appropriate mitigation strategies are in place. We all know the first step to treating addiction is admitting there is a problem. Similarly, the first step toward cyber security is acknowledging that you are at risk.

 

a man using the cloud on his tablet

How To Help Your IT Department with Managed IT Services

If you’re looking to grow your business, you should consider managed IT services in Miami. Managed IT Service Providers help improve business’s operations by reducing costs and providing superior technology solutions. Here are a few ways an MSP can help you achieve your business goals.

You can take a look at 10 examples of cloud computing on our blog.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions Increase in Popularity

It’s no secret that Nerds Support’s Miami cloud solutions is increasing demand day-by-day. A lot of companies are turning to the hybrid cloud. Organizations need to learn about hybrid cloud to grow. But hiring an MSP can help them.

Experts expect  the hybrid cloud market to grow from $44.6 billion in 2018 to $97.6 billion by 2023.

The hybrid cloud market was valued by Markets and Markets at $45.70 billion in 2019. Furthermore, hybrid cloud is expected to reach $128.01 billion by 2025.

These numbers indicate that Hybrid cloud systems are growing in popularity and use. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that 94 percent of enterprises use cloud systems. This is according to Right Scale annual state of the cloud report.

More and More Businesses Embrace Multiple Cloud Applications

In addition to using the hybrid cloud, companies are using more cloud applications like Citrix & Vmware. So, it becomes important for organizations to integrate all of these different solutions. An MSP can provide integrated solutions so that companies have a smooth workflow.

Sticking to one type of cloud solution might resolve some issue but create others. Both public and private cloud solutions have benefits and drawbacks.

Pros of Public Cloud

  • Based on a pay-as-you-go model. Lower upfront costs.
  • Large enough to meet the needs of a majority of organizations
  • Massive network of servers which protects the system from failure.
  • Servers are physically housed in a secure, offsite data center
  • Large public Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Comcast Business Cloud have enterprise level infrastructure and top grade security.
  • Scalable on-demand resources and applications

Cons of Public Cloud

  • Options are limited if a company requires more customized solutions.
  • The public nature of cloud puts your data at risk. A hacker targeting the public cloud vendor could expose your data even if the hacker was not targeting you specifically.
  • Public cloud may be a one-size-fits-most, and has limited flexibility in configuration and security.
  • Public cloud is not ideal for companies who use sensitive data or is subject to compliance regulations.
  • Data centers might be located overseas where specific regulations don’t apply or compliance standards differ.

The Pros of Private Cloud

  • Hosting and infrastructure are not shared by customers, providing a higher level of control, security and customization.
  • Server can be stored onsite or offsite
  • Capable of delivering different service models
  • Strong security features make it ideal for companies who operate using private data.
  • Can adhere to strict compliance standards
  • Has more flexibility and controls
  • Cost could decrease over time
  • Lower security risk. Private clouds are not as targeted as larger public cloud vendors.
  • Higher scalability than public cloud.

Cons of Private Cloud:

  • Remote access of a private cloud could create security risks
  • More expensive up-front costs than public.
  • Private clouds might require hardware that you will have to own and maintain.
  • Security, in many cases, is up to the user

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud harnesses the capabilities of both public and private clouds. Hybrid clouds offer more customized options than public cloud by giving companies the option to choose decide where to place your IT applications.

Pros of Hybrid Cloud:

  • Flexibility and scalability depending on individual application needs within the company.  For example: interacting with clients on the public cloud, but keeping their data secure on a private network.
  • Scalability and flexibility is determined by the needs of the company
  • Higher level of security than a public cloud alone
  • Can choose what aspects of IT will be private and which will be public.
  •  Integrates benefits of both private and public cloud solutions

Cons of Hybrid Cloud:

  • Keeping track of multiple different platforms and vendors
  • If you’re using multiple platforms and vendors it it could get overwhelming to track.
  • Using both public and private clouds may require more complex IT management that could equate to higher overall costs
  • Using a combination of public and private clouds could require advanced IT support and management that will raise costs

Fortunately, many of the drawbacks associated with hybrid clouds are resolved through managed it services. A managed IT services company like Nerds Support offers co-managed IT. That means we provide the business with supplementary IT department capable of handling the transition. Not only that, but we also provide the hardware necessary for a successful cloud migration.

Moving Enterprise Applications to the Public Cloud or Private Cloud

Cloud migration, for those of you who don’t know, is the act of moving business operations into the cloud. It is more a digital move than a physical one but it is at least partly physical. Cloud migration involves moving applications, data, IT processes, and data to the data center or centers.

Enterprise applications are located in the private cloud to maintain the security of an organization. But more and more organizations come to know that cloud is actually the more secure solution. So, companies are moving enterprise applications to the cloud. An MSP, like Nerds Support can help you move your enterprise applications to the public cloud safely.

Optimizing IT Cloud Strategies

As more and more companies are using the cloud, it becomes important to optimize and refine services and reduce expenses. As companies know the benefits of cloud solutions, they are looking to improve on the costs related to cloud. MSPs can assess the status of an organization’s cloud infrastructure. They can provide an all-in-one solution at an affordable cost.

Well, MSP service is not just about growing your business. It’s about achieving meaning growth. Let’s build a stronger foundation for the future with reliable managed services.

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Be careful with social engineering scams that install malware

Reduce Malware Infections in 7 Steps

7 IT Solutions To Reduce the Risk Of Malware Infections

Friday, June 26 2020 The University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine paid over $1 million to regain access to data after hackers encrypted it with malware.

Situations like this happen all the time. Unfortunately, businesses and institutions across the world have failed to properly prepare for cyberattacks. In many cases it’s a matter of outdated infrastructure and insufficient funding. In other cases, it’s neglect or improper training.

Because of the fact that if your system is infected, you likely won’t be getting your files back unless you pay the ransom, you likely don’t want this to infect your work systems. One of the ways to limit the possibility of this is to educate your employees on how to minimize the chances their systems will be infected. Here are seven practical IT solutions to reduce the risk of malware infections.

1) Watch out For Vulnerabilities

Cyber attackers are using all kinds of technology to exploit networks and systems. One piece of malicious tech they use are exploit kits. Exploit kit, also exploit packs, are programs used to deliver malware to a vulnerable network.

What do I mean by vulnerable? A vulnerability in software is a mistake, or error, in the code. The hacker manipulates the user into visiting a malicious website and if any errors exist in the code of the system, the exploit can be implemented.

Furthermore, exploit kits function in the background making it difficult to determine when you’re experiencing an attack.

Update your operating system, browsers, and plugins. If there’s an update to your computer waiting on queue, don’t let it linger.  Additionally, updates to operating systems, browsers, and plugins are often released to patch any security vulnerabilities discovered.

You can protect yourself from these types of attacks by avoiding links and remembering to update your software. Many of us have the nasty habit of putting off systems updates. The little icon in the corner that reminds us of a new update is often seen as a bother. However, consider the alternative.

These systems updates fix any security vulnerabilities the developers and programmers uncover. There is actually a type of vulnerability called a Zero-Day vulnerability and it happens when hackers exploit undiscovered or unintended vulnerabilities. The malware is actually called zero-day exploits.

This applies to mobile phones as well. Software updates on your phone are meant to strengthen the software and patch any flaws the programmers missed when releasing the software. Software is constantly improving because code is constantly improving.

This explanation in many ways oversimplifies the process but it works for our purposes.

2) Remove Software and Files From your Systems You aren’t using

We’ve all heard of spring cleaning. We look through all the things we have and toss out what we don’t use. If we let things accumulate they create clutter and can create big problems. Well, the same thing applies to software on your devices.

You have to periodically look through all the software on your devices and determine which ones are outdated and which ones are worth keeping. For example, Microsoft no longer releases software updates for Windows 7 and Windows XP. Furthermore, using these applications without support or patch updates puts you in a position to get hacked.

How old are the applications you use? When did you last update them?

Do your homework and find out or someone else will.

3) Be aware of Social Engineering

Cybercriminals spread malware into your systems through social engineering tactics like phishing. There are older, less commons ways too that are worth going over. In some cases, a hacker will place an unlabeled USB in a public place or an office. The idea is that an unsuspecting victim will pick it up, consider it harmless and claim it as their own. This is also a form of social engineering because it still manipulates users into executing a certain action.

There are anti phishing tools you can use like Retruster that protect against fraudulent emails, phishing and ransomware. There are also many plug ins available for free that help users identify malicious links by creating a “safe to click” marker on them.

4) Inspect your Inbox Like Your business depended on it: Because it does.

Understand that the biggest vulnerability your business has walks on two feet. It doesn’t matter how many tools, tips and software updates you have if you fall for a social engineering scam. And it doesn’t just happen to small companies either.

Facebook and Google put together were victim to a payment scam of over $100 million. Between 2013 and 2015 a Lithuanian hacker managed to send each company fake invoices while pretending to be an Asian manufacturer they were in business with.

This is an example of Vishing, a.k.a. voice phishing. Leading to the next point:

5) Always Verify credentials with Cold Callers

Vishing is a bit more difficult to pull off on companies. However, when done correctly it can generate a huge amount of profit for the scammer like I mentioned with Facebook and Google.

Depending on the company you might get a call from someone pretending to be Microsoft. In other cases it’ll be a vendor or a bank checking in. It’s difficult to say in what form these scams will come because the scammers tailor them specifically for a business.

In the case of Facebook and Google, for example, the scammers had to know they two companies were working with that specific vendor.

For your company it will be different according to your specific circumstances. If it isn’t believable then the victim won’t fall for it.

6) Make sure You have a Secure Connection

Whether you’re working in the office or remotely, you need to ensure your connection is secure. If you’re working from home, perhaps you’ll need a VPN to protect your Wi-Fi connection. Additionally, when you’re browsing on the web make sure the website is secure.

7) Use strong passwords with Multi-layer authentication

A large percentage of people reuse the same passwords for the personal and professional logins. It’s time to change that habit. Companies like Google and Apple created password generators that create strong, complex passwords. However, don’t leave it up to google.

If your business doesn’t use multi-layer authentication for access to important documents, files or websites, you’re living in the past. Nerds Support uses multi factor password authentication to ensure whoever is logging in can only do so if they are the right person.

Our systems require a mobile phone confirmation, email confirmation and password confirmation in order to provide access to our systems. That way, if a device gets stolen or a hacker gains access to a password, neither will be enough to access files alone.

Conclusion

Malware attacks are growing. Now that businesses are moving towards remote work, protecting against these types of attacks are more important than ever. Cyber security is not just about the technologies that protect your important data. It’s also about what you are doing to protect your business. It is the first and the last line of defense.

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A business owner thinking about choosing a Managed IT Service Provider

5 Mistakes When Choosing a Managed IT Service Provider

What is The Role Of A Managed IT Service Provider

One of the biggest misconceptions about working with a managed IT services company is the idea that you have to replace your IT department.

However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Managed Services companies are usually brought in to augment and assist existing IT personnel.

Small and medium sized businesses often hire a managed IT services company to provide the same support they would have with an advanced IT department at a lower cost.

Co-managed IT services are options as well. Co-management services are for businesses that already have an IT department but want to improve upon it while taking advantage of the cost savings and structure of an MSP.

The benefits of a managed services company are numerous. For one thing, they handle application and network security issues while lightning the workload for I.T. departments.

Every business wants to grow, but growing too fast comes with its burdens as well. Rapid, exponential growth could start putting a strain on your resources and time. IT is no exception.

But, should you make the decision of hiring a managed IT services company, you have to know what to look for.

Unfortunately, business owners fail to consider some very important factors when choosing an MSP that is right for them.

Here are 5 BIG mistakes businesses make when hiring an MSP and how to avoid them.

1) Letting Managed IT Services Handle ALL of your Problems

Outsourcing all of regular applications and security to an MSP doesn’t rid you of responsibility. It’s still very important that you develop a strategy alongside your IT department and review it with the Managed services provider.

Businesses have to stay in the know when it comes to IT solutions and requirements. An MSP might know your industry well, but only you know your company.

As a business owner you need to discuss compliance, security, infrastructure and strategy regularly and frequently. This ensures the MSP is doing their jobs according to your business goals and complimenting them.

2) Relinquishing Control

Some providers gain popularity simply because they are large. But that doesn’t make them right for your business. Especially since they are so large that establishing a point of contact is nearly impossible.

This is a big problem among large public cloud providers. Public cloud providers have so many clients that they don’t have the time to cater to a individual client’s needs. It devolves into a tenant/landlord relationship rather than a partnership.

You are sharing their services with other businesses and they don’t have time to review your concerns. There are even cases where support is sold separately from the cloud service.

At the end of the day an MSP is an extension of your business, not a business unto itself. They are there to consult and contribute but not control. Choose a provider that is transparent and easy to access.

Which leads me to mistake number three.

3) Choosing a provider that is indifferent about response time.

Downtime is a significant issue for all businesses. However, not all MSP’s act accordingly when it comes it comes to downtime.

Choosing a provider that fails to properly respond to down time is particularly horrible because it can be frustrating, agonizing and terrifying.

Imagine your business goes down and not only is the response time slow, but support is nearly unreachable. The average response time for a large MSP is 5.5 hours. They often market themselves in a way that de-emphasizes their response time in favor of their durable network and security. But, that’s just a trick.

A great MSP has multiple alert systems and responds to downtime in twelve minutes or less. Anything beyond that is negligence. It doesn’t matter how popular, “efficient” or “secure” an MSP is when during an outage or downtime they’re nowhere to be found.

54 percent of companies experienced a downtime event that lasted more than eight hours. That means over half of all companies, regardless of size, experience downtime of over a full work day. Furthermore, that could lead to massive hits in profit and revenue.

According to a Ponemon Institute Study, the average cost of an outage is $9,000 per minute. Let that sink in. Eight hours, sixty minutes an hour, $9,000 per minute.

4) Thinking all MSP’s are Essentially the same

All MSP’s are different. Managed IT Services companies have resources and tools that suite different companies. Don’t assume that all MSP’s offer the same services or have the same expertise.

For example, Nerds Support works with many financial services companies and CPA’s. As a result, we put a heavy emphasis on cloud compliance and regulations. Financial firms are heavily regulated due to the sensitive information they work with on a regular basis. So whatever MSP a financial firm hires has to closely follow those same regulatory guidelines.

To achieve compliance we had to undergo SOC I and SOC II audits to ensure our clients felt secure relying on us with securing their data and systems.

You have to make sure you ask any potential MSP the right questions. If you want to know exactly what questions to ask a prospective MSP, check out our e-guide “22 Questions for your IT Department”.

5) Misunderstanding Service Level Agreements

The contract between a company and a Managed IT services provider is called a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. Make sure that the contract and the agreement are clear that all relevant staff knows the ins and outs.

That includes where and when these services are available, where their servers are located, how to contact support and what is covered in the terms of billing.

The MSP should provide you with a non-disclose agreement that needs to be signed before the provider gains access to your company’s confidential data.

There should also be an understanding of how to report and analyze resources and services. If something isn’t working to your expectations, know how to report it and who to report to.

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Hosted Solutions Makes the Most of Your Miami Business

To some people, hosted solutions seems easy enough to comprehend. However, hosted solutions is such a generic term, that most people seem to have a different definition for the term.

Hosted Solutions refers to a plethora of solutions and services that is meant to serve end users in the giant world of the cloud. Thousands of different businesses need different types of applications and hosted solutions helps the cloud figure out which user needs what kind of application.

CPA firms might need a cloud that works with financial applications, while law firms may require a cloud that can hold a large quantity of documents and contracts. In the article below, find out what makes a hosted solutions plan good.

Hosted Solutions Should Provide all the Applications that You need

A great hosted solutions plan should be able to provide all the applications you need from one cloud, which is why Nerds Support is a great IT support Miami team to keep your business running efficiently. Take CPA Firms in Miami, for example. When an accounting firm uses Thomson Reuters’ cloud, they are only able to use Thomson Reuters’ applications. This means that if an accounting firm wishes to utilize Microsoft or Quickbooks, they will have to turn to another cloud in order to use these tools.

With Nerds Support’s Miami Cloud Computing Solutions, Miami CPA Firms would not have to use two separate clouds, but rather one reliable and flexible cloud to make cloud services for CPA Firms look effortless.

Hosted Solutions Should Provide a More Flexible Cloud

Having all of your business applications on one cloud means that your employees do not have to remember as many passwords to access their files, as they would if they were working on two separate clouds. Having one cloud would also make it easy to work remotely. If you own a freight forwarding company, having all of your business applications on one cloud can help any employee that is always on the go. Since employees in freight forwarding companies may be constantly on the road, it can be annoying to have to sign into two different clouds through a phone.

Employees working at home will also have a hassle-free experience, thanks to Nerds Support’s Miami cloud solutions! Nerds Support’s cloud hosting solutions holds almost all business applications, remote workers will save themselves from downloading two clouds to their laptops. The space that they will save will not only make their laptops faster, but make them more productive as well.

Nerds Support Provides Award-Winning Miami Business Hosted Solutions

Nerds Support’s Miami Hosted Solutions helps Freight Forwarders, CPA/Accounting Firms and Law Firms in South Florida. The team works with companies in order to provide the best solutions for their businesses. State-of-the-art technology will protect your businesses, and all the applications you need, from data breaches and hackers. Our highly advanced Miami cloud solutions also assure companies that they will be able to keep all of their business applications on one cloud.

If you would like to learn more about hosted solutions, you can fill out a contact form here or you can call us today at 305-551-2009.