Your clients need to be very concerned about cybersecurity – and so do you. By becoming educated on and advising your clients about cyber risks and safety measures, you will be able to expand your position as their trusted advisor, further demonstrate your value, and increase your referral base.
Educate your clients
Since accounting and internet security don’t seem to overlap, your clients might not think to bring it up with you. However, your client’s financial data could be at risk from malevolent threat actors, and a security breach or system disruption would certainly negatively impact the company’s ability to operate. Therefore, it’s important to proactively discuss cybersecurity with your clients.
While many companies focus primarily on protecting themselves from cyber threats, protection is not enough. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity framework recommends 5 aspects of cyber safety:
- Identify: Identify the most important data and the areas of vulnerability that need to be protected.
- Protect: Develop a system of protection sophisticated enough to protect your sensitive information. Steps include firewalls, encryption, and strong passwords that are changed often.
- Detect: Develop a system to detect a security breach and to communicate it to every member of the company.
- Respond: Have a response system in place to immediately close the breach and protect other systems.
- Recover: Regularly back up information so you can revert to the most recent backup, limiting lost information and allowing the company to continue to operate.
In addition to discussing these steps with your clients, also recommend that they test the ability to restore from the backup, rather than just trusting that it will work. If your client has just a few systems, it may be straightforward. However, a more complicated technology system may demonstrate glitches that should be worked out before recovery is needed.
All employees should be formally trained to use protective protocols, recognize attacks when they see them, and alert the company if they discover a breach. Since technology is continually improving and hackers are constantly trying new methods to break through existing security systems, advise your clients to regularly update the training.
Secure your own networks
All the advice you give to your clients should be taken by you first. You have your clients’ most sensitive information in your computer systems. Demonstrating to your clients that you have gone through these steps first will increase their confidence in you and influence them to heed your advice.
Consider the business opportunities
Cybersecurity requires very specialized training. If you are interested in technology, you could develop the skills needed to properly advise your clients or hire an expert as part of your team, which could offer you a new revenue stream. Another option is to develop a partnership with a cybersecurity company, in which each refers its clients to the other. Become educated on cybersecurity, implement it, and look for ways to grow your practice by helping your clients stay safe from cyber threats. Cyber threats are real and will continue to multiply. Make sure you protect yourself and advise your clients on how to protect themselves as well.