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Tax Professionals Getting Hit By Ransomware

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It happens to the best of us, and it seems like it is getting to be an every day occurrence. Your computer is attacked with malware, and instead of silently spamming the rest of the country and world with opportunities to get their UN endowment, we’re held up for ransom. Our computer, or computers are ‘locked up’ and inoperable. The contents are encrypted, and some hacker on the dark web wants seventeen bitcoins sent to their gmail account.

 

I almost got hit with something like that and it took two weeks and hourly communication with my online security system.

It wasn’t their fault. I clicked on a link that I didn’t check out properly to verify that the sender was in fact sending the email with the link. I knew better, but I got sloppy. It had been several years since an outsider had been able to access my computer, and that was only because I inadvertently let my security license lapse while I was travelin.

It’s a nightmare to be locked out of your own system.

There is a helpless feeling that is hard to explain. Our very lives and incomes are so tied up in electronics that if anything happens, we arre totally lost.

The IRS recently warned tax professionals that ransomware attacks are on the rise worldwide, as bad actors here and abroad infiltrate computer systems and hold sensitive data hostage. The IRS is aware of a handful of tax practitioners who have been victimized by ransomware attacks.

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects computers, networks and servers, and encrypts data to prevent access. Cybercriminals then demand a ransom to unencrypt the data. According to Pensar, the average ransom is about $679, but experts advise owners never to pay ransoms.

Tax professionals are among the most vulnerable profesionals and are becoming regualr targets of ransomware attacks. We hold a vast amount of personal financial information for our clients, and our work processes demand connection with many other systems, any of which could be compromised.

Ransomeware can be spread through phishing emails or links that redirrect users to websites that may infect their computers, such as happened to me recently.

Law enforcement officials recommend that victims never pay the ransom, for among other reasons, there is no guyarantee the cybercriminals will provide the decryption key even after the ransom is paid.

Your best action is to keep an active and well respected anti-malware license in effect and installed, and to develop an effective backup procedure to avoid losing data due to a ransomware attack.

If your practice is large enough, you need to educate your staff and clients about the growing threats and advise them on how to recognize cyberthreats, including phishing emails, and malware from websites they visit while browsing the internet.

You can also secure client files and data with a trusted vendor and also retain archived backups offsite.

Run antivirus scans regularly, both quick and deep scans, and keep your antivirus databases up to date. Automatically update your databases and activate total protection systems.

Scan all incoming emails and attachments, and then filter spam and quarantine any suspicious attachments.

Do not install any software from an unverified vendor as they may include spyware.

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Best to you and yours,

kirks-sig

 

Kirk

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