Last Month to File Taxes – Beware of Cybercrime

The information in a tax return can be a goldmine for cyber criminals, and in the age of electronic filing, or E-Filing, they have a plentiful bounty of prey to hunt. Social security numbers, bank accounts and other normally private financial information can easily fall into the wrong hands if extra care is not taken to secure this important data.

Just imagine finding out someone else already filed your tax return, in your name, and already received your refund, or that your bank account is now empty, or your identity has been stolen and credit cards are out there being used by a stranger under your name – it’s the stuff of nightmares. But there are things you can do to help protect yourself.

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Make sure your system’s software and security are up to date

Just like any cyber attack, hackers typically rely on malware to get their foot in the door to allow them access to your system(s) and data. So it’s essential that precautions you should be using every day to prevent malware from infecting your system(s) are closely followed. The first, and easiest, being to ensure your operating system, software applications and antivirus/antimalware programs are all up to date and working properly. This step alone will protect you from over 95% of the threats out there, and that’s a great start to swing the odds of not becoming a victim you back to your favor. Here is also a breakdown of 7 simple tips to prevent malware infections which are always prescient.

Don’t leave tax information on your system

Permanently storing tax information on your computer or device can open you up to potentially serious threats all year round, especially systems being shared in a household or office environment. You may use that shared system only to visit relatively secure sites, but your kids, for example, may be using it to download games, or music, or to stream video from less than reputable sites, which are often havens for malware delivery. If your tax information is stored permanently on that system, hackers will be able to get to it. So store this kind of information on a USB stick or external hard drive that you don’t keep connected to your system. If you can swing it, keeping an altogether separate system that is only used for banking and other secure transactions is a great move. Those kinds of sites are generally pretty secure, so by limiting your web travels to only those kinds of sites on a separate system will keep it much more secure as well. But you still have to make sure everything is up to date and you still don’t want to leave tax files or account information permanently stored on any device connected to the Internet.

Mobile devices and electronic filing

The same security care must be taken with mobile devices, so keep software and security programs updated. With mobile devices, there is also the added risk of improperly set connectivity settings. Open Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi connectivity can give a hacker easy access while you’re on the go. And again, storing tax information permanently on mobile devices can be a very risky proposition. Those small screens can also make it a lot easier to make mistakes when filing, so watch out; those kinds of mistakes will be all on you.

Protecting tax information on a business level

Business computing environments are almost as unique as fingerprints. So aside from the basics covered above, the best thing to do is have professional cyber security experts, like those at GDF, perform regular threat assessments, penetration tests and application security testing. These will help tremendously in identifying and remediating the weak links in your security posture for significantly better protection year round. GDF’s experts will survey your digital landscape, understand the entire lifecycle of your electronically stored information (ESI), from how and by whom its accessed, where it travels and where it’s stored and even destruction policies and procedures, all with an eye on regulatory compliance issues that may be in play in your particular industry, from financial and healthcare institutions, to retailers and universities and everything in between.

Call GDF today at 1-800-868-8189 for a free consultation with a security specialist that can help tailor professional cyber security solutions and emergency response plans to meet your unique needs.