It’s tax season again and if you’re using an accounting firm to prepare your personal or business taxes you should be asking more questions this year about the security of your information. Over one million cases of Taxpayer ID theft were reported in 2013!
There are many ways to compromise your tax data and no one is totally immune to becoming a victim. Most accounting professionals take reasonable precautions to ensure the confidentiality of your files. The typical tax programs that accounting firms use such as Lacerate, Ultra Tax or Drake Software, provide the option to encrypt and apply passwords on any file generated by the program. Most people are comfortable with this level of protection and are lulled into a false sense of security. What they fail to consider is the exchange and storage of sensitive information before and during the preparation of the tax return.
If you’re starting a new relationship with an accounting firm they will want to review your previous returns. Even if you’re not starting with a new firm, you have to send your data to your CPA. Most people don’t give a second thought to sending their files via email – maybe even using Google or Yahoo email! I have seen accounting firms use Google mail as their primary business email! The problem is these free public email systems utilize algorithms to “read” everything you send through their servers! So you may decide to zip the file and password protect it. Now you’re protected right? Not really. True, the email application cannot read the encrypted file, but think of what happens when the accounting firm receives the file. They unzip the files and store them on a PC or server – typically in an unencrypted state. Let’s say the hard drive needs to be replaced and their IT person backs up the data, replaces the drive and walks out with all the files on the old drive. Think it never happens… think again!
File sharing services like Dropbox, Box, and Microsoft SkyDrive are very convenient ways to share information, but don’t trust that your files are secure! The only way to persistently protect your files is by applying both a policy and encryption. This way you maintain control over who can access your information. If you need to disable the files regardless of their location you have that option.
Visit www.digitalquick.com to see if persistent security is right for you.
Photo credit SalFalko