By Charles Leaver

Be On High Alert This Tax Season

During the many business seasons that occur each year, it’s important that organizational leaders consider what those time periods mean for their cybersecurity solutions. In retail, for instance, the holiday shopping season may be an ideal moment to capitalize on a spike in consumer purchasing, but it’s also a prime time for hackers to strike and hit pay dirt with customer data. Similarly, with tax season in full swing, business leaders should be wary of any vulnerabilities that could expose their sensitive information as they submit their paperwork to accounting firms and government agencies.

Cybercriminals look to capitalize on tax season
Like just about everything else today, tax returns have gone digital. U.S. residents no longer need to worry about mailing their documents by a certain date because all the relevant information can be submitted over the Internet. Although far quicker and more convenient, this approach also introduces security risks that organizational leaders should be aware of. With so much data on the move and changing hands, there are many opportunities for cybercriminals to access company information.

The U.S. has seen a number of tax-related cybersecurity incidents in recent weeks, raising concerns that hackers are looking to score a major payday this season. For instance, industry experts expect to see cases of tax fraud spike in the wake of the recent Anthem breach. As Forbes contributor Kelly Phillips Erb pointed out, approximately 80 million customers were affected by the breach, exposing a massive stockpile of personal information such as Social Security numbers that could be used to commit tax fraud.

Connecticut’s Department of Revenue Services has already issued an alert to the state’s residents to get ahead of these criminals and file their tax returns before someone else tries to usurp their identity.

Tax software picks up fraudulent activity
Compounding these concerns are the recent security issues experienced by one of the nation’s most popular brands of tax software. Officials with TurboTax identified a rise in cybercriminal activity attached to their product, USA Today reported. Unauthorized users had been leveraging stolen personal information to file fake tax returns with state governments. As a precautionary measure, the company temporarily prevented all users from filing state taxes until an internal investigation could be completed.

Although the criminal activity was ultimately discovered to be unconnected to the TurboTax software itself, the incident demonstrates how difficult it is for cybersecurity experts to prevent instances of tax fraud in today’s climate. Even if there was a critical flaw in the TurboTax software, that probably wouldn’t affect enterprise operations much, since they entrust their tax returns to accounting firms. However, these organizations could also prevent a threat to data security, which is why companies need to stay ahead of the curve and safeguard their sensitive information.

Staying safe on an enterprise level
As large businesses spend the next couple of months preparing their taxes, they likely have large staffs of accountants and third-party firms combing through their financial records. Under these conditions, a cybercriminal could take advantage of the additional attack verticals and access an enterprise’s system without being detected. Once inside, an intruder could access countless files relating to employee records, business documents or financial information.

To stay protected this tax season, business leaders must dedicate themselves to cybersecurity best practices and devise defensive measures that cover their enterprise environments from top to bottom. Traditional tools like antivirus and firewall programs are a good start, but to spot threats that slip through the cracks, organizations will need much more sophisticated solutions. Endpoint threat detection and response is critical here, enabling enterprise security teams to identify suspicious activity that might otherwise go unnoticed. That level of oversight could mean all the difference between a breach becoming a simple nuisance or a large-scale security incident.

Cybersecurity measures have evolved in recent years to keep up with the ever-changing tactics that hackers deploy. Network-level defenses may be able to catch many breach attempts – possibly even most of them. But they won’t be able to prevent everything from getting through. That’s where high-quality endpoint threat detection and response comes into play. By maintaining visibility across an organization’s many endpoints and accurately discerning between malicious activity and something just out of the ordinary, security teams can better defend enterprise data.

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