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Business employee working on his laptop remotely from home

Advice For Your Employees While Working Remotely

More and more companies are working remotely due to the pandemic and it doesn’t look like this trend is going to stop anytime soon. Companies are offering more full-time remote positions, which gives employees more flexibility to their work-life balance. However, this shift isn’t always seamless for the company; managing technology and people is very different while the whole team is working remotely. Today we will cover some technology tips to tackle ASAP and advice to give your employees to help them work from home as efficiently as they can!

Technology tips

Providing the tools, platforms, and apps your employees need to work remotely is a must. Depending on the type of service you offer, a laptop will be the very minimum of what they need in order to digitally transform their home office. You may also need to provide things like a second monitor or external hard drives.

It will fall on the IT department to equip every computer with the communication and workflow systems necessary for your employees to work effectively from home, so you need to be ready to teach your employees how to use communication platforms. Tools like VoIP phone systems or chat room applications will help your team communicate just as you would in person. And unlike a traditional office phone set, these digital communication platforms can be easily installed for employees who are already working outside the office. Hosting meetings to teach your employees how to use the new applications will be a helpful start, then you can continuously share tips about system updates and user training so they stay up to date with the changing technology!

Once all of the heavy lifting from the IT department is complete, you can still blast out technology resources and help your employees work effectively from home. General computer help and cybersecurity will go far while people aren’t working in the office.

In light of COVID-19, online phishing and other scams have become more common. Provide your team with a comprehensive list of ways to avoid phishing scams, viruses, and other attacks on your devices that come via email. It’s important to have individuals stay aware and vigilant of these attacks, especially while working remotely. Other, general computer tips like restarting on a regular basis, backing up data to an external hard drive, and closing out of unused tabs can be helpful for people who aren’t technologically savvy! This advice will keep their computers running faster and will result in fewer headaches at home.

Workplace advice

HR is another department that will have a heavy hand in getting your team working remotely successfully. They will be the main communicators of company changes and the ones willing and ready to offer additional support to remote employees.

You may have to offer resources on home-office environments, mental health, and childcare services. Some employees may be looking to create a home office space or even preparing to sell their home now that they’re working remotely full-time. This is a great opportunity to share information about home equity loans. This large sum of money can be used to upgrade their home office or make other changes around the house if they’re planning to sell.

Telehealth services have seen a large increase in usage over the past 6 months due to the pandemic. This is a great time to share a telehealth service that can be used by your team and covered by your insurance provider. Proper mental health practices will help keep your employees productive and happy while working at home.

Finally, share local childcare services that are still available and open during COVID-19. Parents who work from home may appreciate the break in their day that they were used to having while working in an office setting or while their kids were at school. Employees will value the advice you have to share about local happenings that can positively impact their family and home environment!

There is plenty of information and resources available to you to pass along to your employees while they work remotely. From cybersecurity to childcare, your employees will value that you are researching and sharing ways to help them do their jobs effectively and keep a good work-life balance while at home.

 

A businessman holding a laptop secured by the cloud

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.

 

When choosing a managed service cloud provider, it's important to consider the consequences of SOC 1 & 2 compliance regulations

Why SOC Compliance Matters When Choosing An MSP

If you’re in a service industry, chances are you’ve run into the term SOC compliance. Some of you may have undergone a SOC I or SOC II compliance audit.

As remote work becomes increasingly more popular companies are choosing to adopt managed IT services and cloud based platforms.

However, even companies that undergo SOC compliance don’t consider how important it is when choosing a managed service provider.

What is SOC Compliance?

For those of you who don’t know or are wondering about SOC compliance, here’s a quick overview.

There are two main types of SOC compliance. There’s SOC I and SOC II compliance audits. There is such thing as a SOC III but it uses the same reporting as SOC II only it’s designed for public consumption.

A systems and organization Control audit I, or SOC I is a type of audit created to test the internal controls a service organization uses to protect sensitive client data. To be more specific, a SOC I audit tests the internal controls that could affect financial reports.

SOC II compliance audits were developed by the American Institute of CPA’s and exists to make sure service organizations controls like Security, integrity, confidentiality and privacy are up to standard.

Service companies like financial and CPA firms benefit from SOC compliance in the same way MSP’s do.

What are the Benefits of SOC Compliance?

A service organization goes through a lot of scrutiny in when it comes to compliance. SOC reports are among the most important pieces of information for a financial firm or CPA. They verify that the appropriate controls are in place and those controls work efficiently and securely.

For a financial firm it’s an invaluable tool and the same applies to an MSP. When you contract a Managed Services provider, you’re onboarding a new IT team. How integrated that IT team is depends on whether you choose a Co-managed plan or not. Either way, you’re making these service providers a part of your company.

Therefore, your firm is entrusting an MSP with highly confidential client information to one degree on another. That means your prospective provider should be able to comply with a SOC audit as well.

Benefits of SOC I Compliance

There has been a steady increase in SaaS adoption by a variety of industries. SaaS was predicted to grow 10.5 percent in 2020 by Gartner before the global pandemic of 2020. With companies forced to operate remotely, cloud and SaaS services became even more essential.

With a SOC I audit you can evaluate your provider’s policies and procedures, which is pivotal to running your operation. If they’re going to be the IT arm of your firm, they should be subject to the same regulations and systems checks.

Building Trust

Being able to check and validate a company’s security controls creates trust between you and your provider. A SOC I audit is proof that your MSP has the proper tools to protect both your and your client’s data.

Establishes Organization & Accountability

SOC 1 compliance audits can be costly and rigorous. However, if your MSP has multiple client organizations with a multitude of users, it can generate difficulties when keeping track of the right data. Conducting a SOC I audit provides, you the client, a report for review that saves time, money and makes your MSP’s process transparent.

Opportunities for Identifying Weaknesses and Improvement

Managed Services Providers are like any other company. Companies are subject to inefficiencies and faulty processes that can bring the quality of their services down. There are plenty of MSP’s that believe their controls and systems are enough and don’t need improving. However, as a potential client, it’s difficult to determine the security and efficiency of an MSP until something goes wrong.

An independent audit of your MSP will undoubtedly optimize your company’s internal processes because you don’t have to waste time searching for documents and paperwork if anything goes wrong. Moreover, if there are any security protocols that are not on par with SOC I standards the MSP should be proactive enough to adjust and improve where necessary.

If there is a malware attack, for example, you can rest easy knowing the proper controls are in place to prevent it from causing damage.

Cyber Security Protection

Cyber attacks have increased in both volume and breaches in the past 12 months, according to a VMware survey. 88 percent of North American respondents said they saw an increase in overall cyberattacks resulting from employees working from home. In other words, cyber protection has become more important than ever as companies learn to maneuver through a remote environment.

A SOC I audit gives you an understanding of your MSP’s business and security processes and your clients will have greater confidence in your firm. Don’t be fooled by a provider that promises complete and reliable cyber security when they’re unable to  provide evidence to support it. Ultimately, it is your firm that will end up paying for the wrong MSP’s cyber security deficiencies.

 

Two business employees strategize their IT plan

Three Things Your Miami IT Strategy Needs to Succeed Now

Cyberattacks are among the biggest concerns in today’s world. A Varonis study reveals 62 percent of small businesses experience a cyberattack in 2018. However, this problem doesn’t simply affect small business.

The following companies were affected by cyberattacks in 2017

  • Whole Foods
  • Equifax
  • Deloitte
  • Yahoo

This doesn’t even begin to talk about other major breaches in cyber security. But nonetheless, the message is clear: cybercrime is at an all-time high and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Our Business IT Support team at Nerds Support is making it their resolution to keep providing their clients with the best IT services in Miami and to give prospective clients a new IT Strategy, designed to make their businesses efficient.

If you are looking to plan an IT strategy for your business, then the following three components are key to making your business safer.

1. Miami Data Backups:

Ransomware ignited a new fear within business owners. For months, business owners without an IT strategy imagined what they would do if their company was under a ransomware attack.

  • Should they pay the fine and hope the hacker would return the files?
  • Should they find someone to help them?

They struggled to make a solid choice.

Nerds Supports clients, on the other hand, did not have to make such a choice. Not only did our 24/7 IT Support team carry extensive knowledge on how to take down such malware, but Nerds Support also conducts daily backups.

This means that at the end of the work day, Nerds Support always saves a copy of all your company data. That way, if something happens the next day, at least you still have the data from the previous work day. Having a data backup plan not only makes a company feel safer, but also guarantees their company safety.

2. Miami Cloud Security:

The 2020 Lockdown proved that working at a secure office location might not always be possible.

Many businesses across multiple industries were forced to continue operating remotely. Although technology has enabled successful transition to a remote work environment. That doesn’t mean your business is safe with any security system.

If you can’t guarantee that all the devices of your employees are secured with advanced security features like multifactor authentication, compliance review and network security checks then you are taking a big risk.

When our Managed IT team explains cloud solutions to our clients, we always drive the point that the cloud’s strongest advantage is the security that cloud solutions provides. Nerds Support’s data centers are heavily monitored and constantly scanned to make sure your company files stay safe.

Our Business IT Support team also makes sure your company files are secure, so you may work from any place, at any time, with complete ease. Our cloud ran efficiently with no problems in 2017 and it is just as ready to take on Cyber Security.

3. Business Continuity:

How many businesses shut down after a hurricane hits?

During 2017, South Florida hit a major setback with Hurricane Irma. Businesses were left in the dark for anywhere between days up to weeks, leaving Miami business owners anxious to get back to work. But at Nerds Support, all the company’s clients were able to continue running their business through the hurricane. This was because Nerds Support’s servers were running at 100% capacity before, during and after the hurricane. That meant that nothing happened to all of our clients’ company data and even if their workplace was inaccessible, employees could have just opened their laptops from other locations and resumed working.

If you cannot operate under these conditions you are risking your business. Companies like Twitter, Square and Facebook are committing to a fully remote business model. Other companies like Goldman Sachs are looking into partially remote operations. That is because the world is waking up to the tentative nature of a business that depends on an office space to function.

Look around at all the retail stores that close down after a natural disaster or the COVID-19 outbreak. All of the major outlets and shopping malls that depended on their physical store to generate profit. However, we don’t have to look at the retail industry to see the breakdown of the old model.

CPA firms have struggled to migrate to the cloud and, therefore, integrate themselves to a remote work environment.  Some firms that had adopted the cloud partially are limited.  As this article in the Journal of Accountancy points out, firms that successfully migrate to the cloud are safer, more secure, more efficient and more productive as a result.

Business continuity ensures your business survives through any unpredictable event.  You wouldn’t buy a house without doors. You shouldn’t have a business without a business continuity plan.

Conclusion:

If you want to have a business IT strategy for 2018, you need to make sure it includes the following:

  • Data Backups
  • Cloud Security
  • Business Continuity

As a business owner, it’s easy to understand why developing an IT strategy from scratch can be difficult. But Cyber security is going to be so important, that it will be irresponsible to not have an IT Strategy on hand. The good news is that with Nerds Support, developing an IT strategy is as simple as making a phone call or visiting a website. Nerds Support’s clients are some of the most secure businesses in South Florida and our Business IT Support team is ready for anything cyber threats have in store. Call us today to see how you can kick off your year with a customized IT strategy.

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