accounting firm hackers

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accounting firm hackers

Byron Patrick, Managing Director of Network Alliance, knows how to stop accounting firm hackers from breaching your information (and your clients).

Unfortunately, most accounting firms feel they’re invincible and don’t take the necessary precautions. That’s why we brought Byron onto the podcast.

On this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Byron Patrick delve into tech and:

  • How to find your “hedgehog” as mentioned in Good to Great by Jim Collins
  • The two critical areas to study in your firm before adding another application
  • One quick trick that could stop accounting firm hackers for good

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How to Find Your “Hedgehog”

Byron Patrick, Managing Director at Network Alliance, started out as an accountant. He wanted to be an auditor until another area caught his eye…

Byron believes in Jim Collins’ idea of the “hedgehog.”

If you can find something that:

  • You are good at
  • You are passionate about
  • You can make money with

You’ll have a successful, enjoyable career. Byron realized he gravitated towards accounting tech. Rather than being in the thick of the numbers, he’d rather look at the back end systems (much like we do here at Jetpack).

That’s how he stumbled upon Network Alliance. This company helps only accounting firms as their ‘outsourced IT department.’ Rather than you focusing on security and hackers, you’re free to grow your business and client relationships. A win-win.

Byron also deeply believes in finding that core niche you can help. That’s also what Network Alliance does. Since they only focus on accounting firms like yours, they’re able to specialize and become experts in this space.

Byron blended his passions for tech and accounting to now guide Network Alliance. A perfect fit you might say.

Obviously, most of his time he’s fielding questions about technology and security, including when to start using new applications.

 

Two Critical Areas to Study in Your Accounting Firm Before Adding Another Application

For some firm owners, finding new applications is enjoyable. For others, it’s a huge headache. There’s a growing pressure to be super techie in your firm when you don’t need to be.

Even though Byron works in technology, he doesn’t feel a swarm of applications are necessary all the time. 

Before you add another tool, you must study two critical areas of your firm. 

#1 What are the major challenges facing your firm?

#2 What are the major opportunities available to your firm?

These two areas — challenges and opportunities — should be priority #1 when deciding to throw a wrench into your daily processes. Byron sees too many firms chasing ‘shiny objects’ with new applications and technologies. Doing this only distracts your team from the important challenges and opportunities at hand.

Don’t chase a fad or do something just because you saw another firm do it. 

For example, Byron had a client say ‘they saw a new application worked for another firm, it could work for theirs as well.’ This is the wrong way to approach new technology. You have to remember that every new technological piece added to the mix adds time. Employees need to be trained and catch up.

You must approach everything intentionally or else it will never get done. For example, many firms want all their documents in the cloud. But, it’s not as simple as flipping a switch and *presto!*

It takes effort, time away from clients, getting employees onboard, changing processes…the list goes on. Are you ready for that? 

You should only take on these new tasks if there is a major challenge or opportunity at hand.

DAVID’S TIP: You must understand right off the bat: How will this new tool help our firm succeed? Is it actually going to help make us more profitable or treat our clients better? Or, is it just a shiny object we heard other firms doing? New tools, like Jetpack, take discipline to do. There are no magic fixes as much as we want technology to be one.

Find the bleeding spots and make sure the tech you choose is the right step at the right time.

The Blunt Truth About How Secure Your Firm Really Is:

Security sounds a scary word. You read about security breaches all the time. “It will never happen to us,” owners say. We say this because security is broad and paralyzing to think about. We’re accountants not Silicon Valley coders.

Well, it doesn’t need to be this way.

Byron recommends partnering up with an outside IT consultant to look over your shoulder. Or, make sure your IT team is up-to-date and trained regularly. Client data hacks could torpedo a firm. That’s not meant to scare you, but warn you that there’s danger out there.

Your security is only as strong as your people. 

In fact, 75% of all data breaches have some form of human error in them.

That’s why: even if you’re not a techie firm who knows all about security and IT, spend time discussing where there might be trouble spots. Spend time each quarter training your staff on these issues.

There’s actually one interesting way to keep your staff engaged with these threats…it’s a bit controversial too…

 

One Quick Trick That Could Stop Accounting Firm Hackers For Good:

A top way hackers break into your firm is through the most common channel used…your email.

This sounds obvious, but to many of your team members, they may not understand the seriousness of the matter. Their inbox is a fragile place…a ticking time bomb if to be so bold.

That’s why Byron recommends regular security tests.

An example? This could save many from accounting firm hackers…

Send fake phishing emails to your team. See who clicks the links or downloads the files. Byron recommends doing this on a monthly basis, at the minimum. 

Doesn’t this just make team members scared?

Your goal is to simply stop phishing attacks. If your team members don’t click sketchy links more out of fear of repercussion than protecting your firm…it doesn’t matter. The goal is achieved.

DAVID’S TIP: Most attacks through your email probably happen during the April tax season rush. You’re tired, not paying full attention…do these tests regularly even during the stressful times to keep your team on their toes.

These phishing emails come in many forms. Some even look legit. Byron’s seem emails from CEOs at the firm that asked for PDFs of client’s W2s. It’s from the CEO and looks harmless. As it turns out, the CEO’s email account was hacked and now client data is leaked.

Set up secure portals and protocols for sending information like this.

Protect your firm.

Byron says you are free to chat with him at any time (even if you aren’t looking for a security company) to ask questions and learn. 

Email him at dpatrick@networkalliance.com

Call him at 703-715-4948

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