5 Key Cybersecurity Threats and How Accounting Firms Can Counter Them

5 Key Cybersecurity Threats and How Accounting Firms Can Counter Them

Raise your awareness of these common cyberattack methods.

It’s an unfortunate reality that small and medium-sized accounting firms are some of the most popular targets of cybercriminals. With reams of sensitive client financial data sitting on their servers, they represent potential goldmines for hackers and other bad actors. 

However, in many cases, they have less IT security protection and don’t have the staffing resources to protect against threats. It is therefore crucial that they focus on accounting cybersecurity.

Gaining an awareness of cybersecurity threats is the first step in protecting your firm. Let’s look at five of the most common types of cyberattacks affecting businesses today, including accounting firms.


Ransomware is a cyberattack that acts by encrypting all the files on a device or software. This makes it impossible for you to use any of your systems. The attackers typically demand money in exchange for removing the encryption and re-opening access to your files. 

A recent evolution of ransomware is ”triple extortion.” Hackers copy the data and threaten to leak it if the ransom is not paid. The demand has three components that aim to: 

  1. get the encryption key to regain use of your systems
  2. destroy the copy; and
  3. prevent the data leak

The frequency of ransomware attacks is astounding. Of the responses to a 2023 global survey on ransomware, 66 percent of organizations said they had been victims. Business, professional and legal services, as well as financial services, were industries most impacted by this kind of activity. 


Phishing affects businesses and individuals. Often, phishing scams come with the threat of installing ransomware or other dangerous programs onto your systems. It can also trick people into divulging personal or sensitive information about their business or personal financial accounts.

A common phishing method involves sending out a fraudulent email that looks like it’s coming from a legitimate source. An example would be a note from what appears to be a trusted vendor asking the business to update its account information. The email likely includes a link to click. If you do click it, you might unintentionally download threatening software.

The software from phishing scams might lock you out of your systems, or could give the hackers access to your passwords and login info to your business accounts.

If you suspect an email from a vendor isn’t real, you can check it out by calling them at a number you know is legitimate and ask if they’ve sent out any messages. 


DDoS stands for distributed denial of service. It is a different kind of cyberattack that might be hard to detect at first. A simple denial of service (DoS) attack is a bit different from DDoS activity. 

DoS happens when a server is flooded with what looks like legitimate website traffic. The server is overwhelmed and crashes. During the attack, the organization is unable to use its systems. All facets of operations might be affected. 

In a DDoS attack, the hacker uses several devices at once to execute the activity. They take control of those devices with vulnerable security systems. They take them over so you can no longer control them internally. Instead, the hacker operates them remotely as part of a “botnet,” or group of internet-connected tools.

A key sign of a DDoS attack is unusually slow network performance, but there are a few other indicators. If you can’t access any websites on your systems, it’s possible a DDoS attack is happening. An IT professional can examine the kind of traffic coming into your server and recognize it as illegitimate from its source.


Malware is a category of computer software that scammers trick users into downloading onto their devices. Sometimes, it can happen to a business without anyone knowing. Clicking a random link can be all it takes for malware to enter your systems.

Hackers install malware on business machines so they can gain access to usernames, passwords, financial account information and more. They can use these entry points to steal valuable assets from your business.

There are some signs that you might have malware. Repeated error messages, pop-ups, new toolbars or icons, and a new default search engine are just some possible indicators. You can use security software to scan for malware and remove it.  

Insider threats

Insider threats are a catch-all category for threats that result from the unintentional or intentional actions of someone an organization trusts. This includes employees and contractors with access to sensitive information. 

Unintentional insider cyberthreats include opening the door to things like ransomware and malware. Someone with computer access at work might accidentally click, download or access a file that causes a security violation.

Intentional insider cyberthreats occur when someone with access deliberately tries to disrupt a company’s systems or make them vulnerable to infiltration. They might change company data on purpose or install malware to meet these nefarious end goals. 

There are many ways to safeguard against insider threats. In the U.S., the federal government has training and other resources to help protect businesses. Exploring other IT security options for your practice, such as moving your digital assets to the cloud, are other options. 

Shield your accounting firm from cyberattacks

Awareness of cybersecurity is an important first step. There are other ways to take action to protect your firm and its digital assets. You can move your business to the cloud to greatly enhance overall security. 

Cloud providers like Caseware, a trusted provider in accounting software and audit analytics, have bank-level encryption and other industry-leading measures in place that most individual firms cannot afford or manage. Caseware’s cloud-based software also seamlessly integrates with other Caseware offerings like Caseware IDEA.  

Take steps today to protect your firm from cyberattacks. Contact Caseware to learn how Caseware Cloud can protect your practice.