Cyber security has become an issue that is at the heart of the accountancy profession

Arguably one of the first notable depictions of cybercrime in popular culture was in the 1969 movie “The Italian Job”, which saw a mathematician disrupt traffic by planting a virus into a mainframe computer. At the time, this may have seemed improbable, but crimes such as this are now commonplace.

A study by McAfee estimated that the likely annual cost to the global economy from cybercrime exceeds $445bn. And the reason why cyber security has become a much touted subject as of late is because it no longer seems to be a purely technical issue; its impact can be felt across every aspect of a business. 

One way to mitigate cyber crime risks involves having finance professionals play a leading role. This concept has previously been echoed by ACCA, which claimed that for the accountancy profession in particular, the need to maintain clients’ confidence was key.

And since computers and electronic documents are playing an ever-increasing role in what finance professionals do on a daily basis, cybersecurity must become one of the key concerns,” it said. 

However, ACCA’s latest report found finance leaders were not concerned about the pervasive capturing, storage and access to information, sometimes referred to as “living in a fishbowl”. Only 16 per cent of those surveyed cited it as one of the six factors that might have the largest impact on the profession in three to ten years. This is despite 85 per cent of respondents suggesting management was concerned about risks related to cyber crime. 

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Through its report, ACCA suggested finance professionals needed to keep an eye on the changing cyber-threat landscape and be wary of knowledge gaps. “A ‘head in the sand’ attitude is not a viable option,” it said. Right at the heart of this is the issue of clients’ trust. The future of accountancy therefore depends on cooperation across the profession to help combat, and defeat, such crime.

Finance professionals should thus help create reasonable estimates of the financial impact that different types of cybersecurity breaches will cause, define a risk-management strategy and help businesses establish priorities for most valuable digital resources. 

“Solving cybersecurity problems is a complex technical discipline that is arguably better left to professionals; but what is very important is firm knowledge of the basics of safety,” ACCA explained. “Gaps in such knowledge are a huge risk factor, as even one small gap is often enough for the enemy to get in. 

“Therefore, observing the rules of cyber hygiene, being aware of the cyber-threat landscape, and making constant efforts to close one’s knowledge gaps, are very important. Professional accountants and finance professionals should always be mindful of the old saying: ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’. Now, and for as long as the profession heavily relies on computers, no one can afford to be a cyber-fool.”

In an increasingly digital age, owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses must be aware of the cyber risks out there and the techniques to prevent damage. As such we took a look at the tricks of the trade.

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