April 22, 2024

By Sean Arakawa, Senior Manager, Information Technology and Jason Chong, Chief Information Officer

We’ve all done it – a slip of the finger here, a mad rush to get things done there, and all of a sudden, errors are introduced. It’s all part of the busy-ness of business and life. However, in this digital age, sometimes small errors can result in big headaches and too much time spent undoing even the slightest mistake.

Here are some quick steps to take to mitigate against “the little things” that can happen to any of us:

Step 1 – Use a secure online client portal to transfer confidential and sensitive material, if one is available

Many accounting/professional services firms (as well as other businesses and organizations) set up secure online client portals to exchange sensitive information. Because a client portal provides a layer of security, using it to communicate on any sensitive topic is the better alternative vs. email.

If no portal is available or your provider is unable to offer a safe way to send information, then Step 2 is in order.

Step 2 – Take 15 seconds

As in, take 15 seconds to review your email recipients – is the domain in the email address correct? Do you have the correct “Robert” or “Mary?” Most of the time, incorrect email information will kick back to you. But what if the information is off but it’s sent to an existing domain, just not the one you intended? For example, a common mistake that impacts us is when someone types our domain as clarknumber.com (unrelated to us), not clarknuber.com.

At best, the unintended recipient is understanding and alerts you of the error, and everything is good. However, if you happened to attach sensitive information, your privacy and security risk just went up tenfold.

Step 3 – Periodically check and clean out your contact list

Most of us have old or incorrect email addresses in our contact list that keep auto-filling, thereby perpetuating the error. In the event that you have an incorrect email address that could potentially be diverted elsewhere, take a few moments to delete that email address. Usually all it takes is a right click/delete; however, you could reach out to your IT department for the appropriate protocol for your email app.

Step 4 – Keep an eye out for old-school scams

It seems like digital scams/phishing tactics are getting more and more sophisticated by the day. However, don’t count out the old-school scams. For example, if you get a hard-copy invoice that:

  • looks legitimate but the company is unfamiliar or, if familiar, the invoice usually comes digitally and not hard copy
  • asks you to pay to a different account or via a different method

Sometimes there are clear signs that something is up. Rely on the rule of verifying via telephone before acting. Ignore the phone number provided on the invoice and look up the official phone number with the official spelling of your provider. A quick call to the appropriate department will clear up any confusion.

Another old-school scam is instilling a false sense of urgency to get recipients to act quickly without thinking. These types of messages will typically include some sort of immediate penalty to further urge recipients to feel pressured to act. Any unexpected messages you receive claiming to be urgent need to be scrutinized and validated or avoided entirely.

Step 5 – Be aware of new-school scams that apply old-school tricks

As communications increasingly move to newer channels like SMS-texting, the same old-school tricks are being applied (for example, the sense of urgency, looking legitimate but asking for personal information/reverifying personal information). Text communications are typically less secure and harder to verify than email communications. It is recommended to verify the information on validated platforms such as the business’ website and not directly via the content of the text message

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once said that the little things are infinitely the most important. When it comes to keeping your information secure, a few moments of attention to the little things will go a long way.

Do you have questions of how your company can further enhance its IT security systems? Contact us and we’ll be happy to start a conversation.

© Clark Nuber PS, 2024. All Rights Reserved.

This article contains general information only and should not be construed as accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should engage a qualified professional advisor.