The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Security Summit wrapped up the latest information series aimed at protecting taxpayers, businesses, and tax professionals from tax fraud and identity theft.
Launched in 2015, the Security Summit is composed of professionals and representatives in the finance industry, including state tax officials, software manufacturers, payroll and financial services companies, as well as tax professionals and financial planners. The collaborative effort is intended to develop and publicly share information and data to deter financial and tax crime.
Aimed at the growth in cyber-crime, the most recent information series was entitled “Protect your Client, Protect Yourself,” and offered core information to improve data security including the following:
- Financial entities are required to protect client data by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA). The Federal Trade Commission supports the GLBA in several ways, one of which includes the Safeguard Rule—which requires implementing a Written Information Security Plan (WISP). The Summit discussed and offered examples of a WISP.
- Tax pros and taxpayers are encouraged not to send business financial information to devices used for personal or leisure use. Similarly, financial professionals are encouraged not to use their professional computing equipment for personal use.
- As ever, experts caution against swapping USB and external hard drive devices between home and business computers. The same goes for inserting unvetted DVD/CDs and USB drives into any computer as they are easy means to install malware.
- Most responsible tax preparers know not to use shareware or free programs and apps downloaded from the internet. Be sure employees are trained and receive frequent cyber-tips and updates to avoid complacency with technical threads or social engineering.
- Because they offer fast access to sensitive financial and other information, passwords always get a lot of attention. Use strong lengthy passwords and change them often, and never retain the password provided with a device or new service. Grant access to individuals on your business systems on a need-to-know basis. Use a VPN and work with Information Technology specialists to ensure your system is clean and secure.
Noted IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel, "Tax professionals form a critical part of the defense against identity thieves and scammers. The IRS and Security Summit partners remain vigilant to emerging identity theft schemes and scams, but tax professionals following the steps outlined in the security plan will provide valuable protection to their practices as well as their clients."
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