Posts Tagged ‘cybercrime’

Help The FBI Find A Defense Against Ransomware

Monday, September 19th, 2016
Help Fight Ransomware - Ohio CPA Firm

The FBI recommends users consider implementing prevention and continuity measures to lessen the risk of a successful Ransomware attack. Keep reading to find out how you can help the FBI combat the threat of Ransomware.

The FBI recently released a public service announcement urging victims of Ransomware attacks to come forward and report these cyber infections to federal law enforcement. Doing so, the FBI said in a statement, will “help us gain a more comprehensive view of the current threat and its impact on U.S. victims.

Read Also: Could Your Company Be Ransomware’s Next Victim?

A Closer Look At Ransomware

A computer infection that has been programmed to encrypt all files of known file types on your computer and your server’s shared drive and making them inaccessible until a specified ransom is paid; Ransomware is a very real threat to all businesses nationwide. Once a computer is infected, which usually happens once a user clicks on a malicious link, opens a fraudulent email attachment or unknowingly picks up a high-risk automatic download while surfing the web, it’s all but impossible to regain access to the data that has been infected. Upon discovering that your computer has been infected, you have two choices. You can either:

1)     Restore the machine by using backup media, or

2)     Accommodate the hacker’s demands and pay their ransom.

And both options are less than ideal.

What To Do If Your Company’s Network Becomes Infected

Ransomware infections were at an all-time high in the first several months of 2016, according to various cybersecurity companies, and because new Ransomware variants are emerging regularly, the FBI needs your help to determine the true number of Ransomware victims.

“It has been challenging for the FBI to ascertain the true number of Ransomware victims as many infections go unreported to law enforcement,” the agency stated in its recent announcement. “Victims may not report to law enforcement for a number of reasons, including concerns over not knowing where and to whom to report; not feeling their loss warrants law enforcement attention; concerns over privacy, business reputation, or regulatory data breach reporting requirements; or embarrassment. Additionally, those who resolve the issue internally either by paying the ransom or by restoring their files from back-ups may not feel a need to contact law enforcement.”

Read Also: How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

Reporting a Ransomware attack on your company’s network is not only beneficial for you, the information you provide will help the FBI as it works to identify ways to prevent future attacks. Your reports will:

  • Provide law enforcement with a greater understanding of the threat
  • Help justify Ransomware investigations
  • Contribute relevant information to ongoing Ransomware cases

Help Arm The FBI With Information

The recent PSA released by the agency requests that all Ransomware victims reach out to their local FBI office and/or file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Be sure to have the following details available and ready to provide to the respondent when prompted (if applicable).

  1. Date of Infection
  2. Ransomware Variant (identified on the ransom page or by the encrypted file extension)
  3. Victim Company Information (industry type, business size, etc.)
  4. How the Infection Occurred (link in e-mail, browsing the Internet, etc.)
  5. Requested Ransom Amount
  6. Actor’s Bitcoin Wallet Address (may be listed on the ransom page)
  7. Ransom Amount Paid (if any)
  8. Overall Losses Associated with a Ransomware Infection (including the ransom amount)
  9. Victim Impact Statement

The FBI recommends users consider implementing prevention and continuity measures to lessen the risk of a successful Ransomware attack. Click here to read the FBI’s complete announcement.

To learn more about protecting your business from cybercrime, download the free whitepaper, “Cybercrime: The Invisible Threat That Haunts Your Business.”

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Cloud-Based Data Storage Solutions Aren’t Risk-Free

Thursday, September 1st, 2016
Cloud-Based Storage Solution | Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

If you do decide to store your company’s data on the cloud, be sure to thoroughly investigate the cloud environment you intend on using. Then pay close attention to whether their security controls and processes, including rollover sites or backup and testing procedures, adhere to industry standards. It’s also best practice to request a SOC (Service Organization Controls) SOC Report from your cloud provider. Read on to learn more.

I am regularly asked by clients, friends and family whether they should be concerned with storing their data in a cloud-based environment. My answer: Absolutely.

Even though cloud-based data storage solutions are managed by storage and security professionals (at least hopefully), there’s really no way to determine whether their authentication policies and data security procedures are always in line with industry standards. Because I’m acutely aware of these standards and best practices, I would have a hard time entrusting a cloud-based data storage enterprise with copious amounts of my company’s sensitive information.

Download The Free Whitepaper: Cybercrime: The Invisible Threat That Haunts Your Business

At the end of the day, your company’s data and the data you collect is your responsibility. Therefore, your IT team is ultimately responsible for verifying whether it’s properly secured and whether a proper authentication protocol is in place to ensure that those accessing data are approved to do so. When you work with a cloud-based data storage solutions business, your control over data security procedures is significantly limited.

And just because we haven’t heard much about these types of breaches in the past, doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Consider, for example, the latest “mega-breach,” that has affected millions of Dropbox users.

The Dropbox Breach

According to reports, more than 68 million Dropbox user accounts and associated information, including user names and passwords, were discovered online. The company said Dropbox user information stolen by hackers and distributed via the Internet was the result of a previously disclosed data breach from 2012. Unfortunately, the company and the company’s users are still being hurt by this attack. In response, Dropbox said in a statement that it was forcing password resets.

“We’ve confirmed that the proactive password reset we completed last week covered all potentially impacted users,” said Patrick Heim, head of trust and security for Dropbox. “We initiated this reset as a precautionary measure, so that the old passwords from prior to mid-2012 can’t be used to improperly access Dropbox accounts. We still encourage users to reset passwords on other services if they suspect they may have reused their Dropbox password.”

Protect Your Data To Protect Your Company

Most professionals in the data security field – including myself – believe that any and every site can be hacked. Therefore, in an effort to protect our companies and the businesses and individuals we serve, our goal is to provide comprehensive cybersecurity education to all employees while striving to be aware of all data security issues that may have occurred. Hopefully we will know about any data breach long before cybercriminals have a chance to post information on the Internet or before our businesses are notified of an issue by the FBI or Secret Service.


Want to know why data security professionals say that your company’s employees are your weakest link? This video highlights a common security breach method used by hackers to gain access to your company.


You can take a proactive stance against cybercriminals with the following data security protocols.

  • Don’t just install a firewall, constantly monitor your firewall. Your IT team can constantly monitor your company’s firewall through the use of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) or Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) programs. You can also work with an external service provider to provide this essential service.
  • Passwords are powerful, protect them. Require your employees to use complex passwords to log onto your company’s network and change those passwords regularly. Secondary authentication is also important to use wherever possible.
  • Don’t wait for disaster to strike – actively defend your company. Routinely test the access controls of your employees. Not all employees require access to all company data. Instead, only grant access to the data your employees need to do their jobs.
  • Educate, educate, educate. It seems like there are new phishing attempts, ransomware attacks and malware issues every day. But just because you hear that they are happening doesn’t mean your employees are aware. Make sure you keep your employees up to speed. Doing so may just stop them from clicking on a potentially dangerous email.

If, for whatever reason, you do decide to store your company’s data on the cloud, be sure to thoroughly investigate the cloud environment you intend on using. Then, pay close attention to whether their security controls and processes, including rollover sites or backup and testing procedures, adhere to industry standards. It’s also best practice to request a SOC (Service Organization Controls) SOC Report from your cloud provider.

At the end of the day, all you can do is take ownership of your data and be proactive when it comes to verifying the safety and security of your organization’s data. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia)

For more tips and insight to help keep your company safe from cybercriminals, listen to episode 41: “the hacked & the hacked nots” on unsuitable on Rea Radio.

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How To React To A Data Breach

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
Data Breach | Columbus Cybersecurity Series | Ohio CPA Firm

Would you be able to effectively manage the fallout of a data breach? If you aren’t sure, keep reading.

It was 2013 when a medium-sized library in Ohio found itself in the midst of a data breach that would later serve as a powerful case study warning against the very real threat of electronic fraud. While originally developed by the Ohio Auditor of State’s office as a tool for government entities throughout the state, Cash Management 240: Financial Fraud – A Case Study, has found usefulness beyond just the government sphere.

Leaders of not-for-profit organizations and for-profit business owners would also find value in this resource, which outlines:

  • the events that resulted in the occurrence of the data breach,
  • the reaction of entity officials during and after the breach was detected, and
  • the short- and long-term outcomes that resulted from the breach.

While I strongly recommend that you read the entire case study, I provide a brief overview of the story below.

How would you respond to a data breach?

Library officials were notified of the occurrence of fraudulent activity impacting the entity’s checking account in March of 2013. According to the bank, the fraudulent activity appeared to be limited to three transactions, totaling $144,743. Fortunately, bank officials were proactive in their efforts to recall the transactions.

In an effort to avoid further fraudulent activity, library officials decided to disconnect the accounting workstations from the entity’s network and proceeded to contact their technology vendor, who advised the library proceed with reformatting both accounting workstations immediately. Soon thereafter, library officials contacted the local police station to report the incident, closed the entity’s existing bank accounts and opened new ones, and notified employees of the data breach as well as the board of directors.

Due to the nature of the breach, it didn’t take long before the Ohio Auditor of State’s office and the FBI were notified of the incident as well. And, in an effort to try and reclaim some of the money that was stolen, a claim was filed with the entity’s insurance carrier. Finally, the library’s bank was able to successfully recover $54,910 of the amount that was stolen. In 2014, when the case study was released, the library was still in the process of negotiating with the bank regarding $89,833 that was still missing.

So, what do you think? Would you say that the library officials were effective in their management of the data breach? What would you do if your company or nonprofit found itself in a similar situation?

Well, according to the FBI, the library could have handled the situation better. For example, the library should have not reformatted the workstations. The FBI and local police force should have been contacted immediately. And finally, the entity should have followed all instructions mandated by the bank to eliminate the possibility of such fraudulent activity.

Since it’s 2013 data breach, the library:

  • Is now required by the bank to follow the ACH Originator Agreement.
  • Has designated one stand-alone PC to be used for online banking.
  • Has requested online access from only one IP address
  • Has purchased a cybercrime policy.
  • Revisited its banking RFP to include a section regarding online banking security minimums.

Do you have a plan to help deter cybercrime?

The above scenario is just one of the countless cybercrimes that occur every day and every type of businesses, entity and organizations are being impacted. If you don’t have a plan in place to help prevent cybercriminals from infiltrating your network and stealing your data for financial gain, or a strategy to recover once a breach has been identified, you are in a very vulnerable position.

I believe that in order to protect against a cybercrime attack, it’s important to be armed with as much knowledge as possible. On Sept. 7, 2016, FBI Agent David Fine will be the featured presenter of part two of the Columbus Cybersecurity Series. During this portion of the presentation, attendees will hear real-life examples of attacks on businesses, including what schemes are prevalent today. Audience members will also discover the very real impact these attacks have on companies and what they can do to deter an attack from occurring in their own business or organization.

The Columbus Cybersecurity Series is free to attend, but registration is required. You can RSVP here.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

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Business Podcast Heats Up In July

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Regular listeners of unsuitable on Rea Radio already know that the summertime lull had no effect on the show’s quality. July has been an entertaining and informative the month for the Rea & Associates’ podcast. From discussing the many reasons American consumers should support locally-owned businesses (Self-Reliance: Made in America) to this week’s episode about cybersecurity concerns, (The Hacked & The Hacked Nots) featuring Rea’s own Joe Welker, CISA. Listeners also got a spoonful of crisis communication advice and insight from Denny Lynch, Wendy’s former senior vice president of communications (The Infamous “Finger In The Chili” Incident) and then learned that LLC’s, C-Corps and S-Corps were not created to be equal in the world of entity structure (Maximize Your Equity: Maintain The Right Business Entity) form Gene Spittle, CPA, PFS, CGMA. In short, there was literally something for everybody to listen to and enjoy.

Want to hear what you’ve been missing? Check out this month’s episodes below.

Happy listening!

Episode 38: Self-Reliance: Made In America

Long days, vacations, barbecues, baseball … what’s not to enjoy about summer?! It’s also the time of year when we celebrate what it means to pursue the American dream. And, for many, this dream materializes in entrepreneurship and, going a step further, buying American-made products as a way to support a strong domestic economy. Kyle Stemple, CPA, CGMA, principal and director of manufacturing services at Rea & Associates, talks about the value of “buying American,” and the direct impact consumers have on America’s marketplace and the quality, customer service and product support we receive from domestically-run businesses.

Episode 39: The Infamous ‘Finger In The Chili’ Incident

Remember the time America began checking their Wendy’s chili for rogue fingers? Denny Lynch does. As the senior vice president of communications at the time of the crisis, Denny and his team was not only responsible for helping disprove the claim, but to maintain the brand’s image and reputation as one of the nation’s premier fast food restaurant brands. On episode 39, “the infamous ‘finger in the chili’ incident,” Denny and Mark discuss crisis communications and why clear, consistent internal and external communication strategies are critical when businesses have to protect their brands from unforeseen crisis situations.

Episode 40: Maximize Your Equity: Maintain The Right Business Entity

How much thought did you put into how your business would be structured. Did you consider whether economic conditions would be more favorable if your company operated as a LLC (Limited Liability Company), C Corp or S Corp? Were the tax implications weighing heavily on your mind as you wrestled with this important decision? Your business’s structure is not a decision to be taken lightly and Gene Spittle, CPA, PFS, CGMA, a principal at Rea & Associates, will tell you why on this episode of unsuitable on Rea Radio.

Episode 41: The Hacked & The Hacked Nots

Lack of cybersecurity training has left companies nationwide vulnerable to the ever-growing and constantly changing threat of cybercrime. On episode 41 “The Hacked & Hacked Nots,” we learn why many companies are incorporating third-party software to monitor and protect their firewalls to determine which sites are safe and which ones should be avoided at all costs to help protect you from cybercriminals. Joe “Captain Data” Welker, CISA, Rea & Associates’ IT Audit Manager, joins us once again to give listeners some valuable insight into current cyber hacking and internet threats and what we can do to keep ourselves, and our businesses, safe. You are not gonna want to miss this episode!

If you like what you hear, subscribe to unsuitable on Rea Radio on SoundCloud or iTunes or sign up to receive weekly email alerts when new episodes drop.

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Last Minute Tax Tips, Financial Stress and Cybercriminals …

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

April’s Top Posts Had Readers On Edge

So our month was pretty intense … how was yours? The good news is that we made it through another tax season, the bad news is that business owners are clearly still on high alert due to continuous influx of hacker activity. Take a look at our top five blog posts in April for some useful tips and insight you can use all year long.

Top 5 Blog Posts For Business Owners In April

  1. Can A Cybercriminal Crack Your Company’s Network? Small and midsize businesses are not immune to becoming the target of a crippling cyberattack and without the proper procedures in place business owners risk the very real threat of a large-scale assault on their company’s data. Would you be able to recover if your organization was attacked?
  2. How Flexible Is Your Company’s Management Style? Never before has the American business owner had to manage a workforce consisting of employees whose ages span five generations. And because each generation is unique, your company’s leadership team is left with the impossible task of adopting a management style to accommodate an incredibly diverse workforce. Keeping reading to learn more.
  3. What Tax Liabilities Accompany Inherited Real Estate? So you just inherited some real estate. You’re probably now wondering – is this a blessing or a curse? From the tax perspective, of course. And that’s a good question to ask. Just because you inherit something doesn’t mean that you’re free and clear of any potential tax liabilities. Depending on how you use the property and if you sell it will determine if you have a taxable situation. So here’s what you should know about taxes and inherited real estate. Read on to learn more.
  4. Increased Financial Stress Hurts Your Company’s Bottom Line Earlier this month, in a proclamation that reiterated the importance of equipping everybody with the “knowledge and protections necessary to secure a stable financial future for themselves and their families,” President Obama declared April to be National Financial Capability Month. While the timing of the proclamation makes this a great time to raise general awareness about the importance of financial fitness, businesses have a great opportunity to educate their employees about the importance of financial wellness all year long.
  5. How Can You Track Use Tax in QuickBooks? Now that you have filed for use tax amnesty and are all set up with an account, how are you going to track it daily going forward? If you use QuickBooks, the answer is as simple as 1-2-3.

April was great, but we are excited to see what May brings. More tips for business success? More financial news and updates? Personal finance advice? Of course! Stay tuned.

Don’t want to miss a post? Make sure you have subscribed to our blog so you don’t miss a single post.

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Phishing Scam Is A Threat To Ohio Businesses

Monday, March 28th, 2016
IRS Phishing Scam - Ohio CPA Firm

You can take a proactive stance when it comes to protecting your company from these scams by encouraging your employees to pay close attention to emails that request sensitive information, such as the names of employees, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and/or salary information or copies of employee’s W-2 information.

The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) is echoing phishing scam alerts made by the IRS earlier this month in an effort to protect businesses and employees state-wide from identity theft and tax fraud.

Read Also: Payroll, HR Departments Targeted By Cyber Criminals

According to ODT, payroll and human resources offices at companies nationwide – including some in Ohio – reportedly received emailed requests that appear to be sent from a high ranking member of the company’s management team requesting confidential payroll data. While the emails appear to be legitimate, they are actually being sent by cybercriminals who are looking to fool employees into sending them detailed payroll and W-2 information. The imposters then use the information to file fraudulent tax returns.

“The scam has worked on more than 30 companies resulting in the theft of W-2 tax information for thousands of current and former employees,” ODT’s news release states. “The W-2 form contains an employee’s Social Security number, salary and other confidential data. This information enables thieves to create a realistic looking, but fraudulent tax return requesting a tax refund that is then filed with Ohio or other states, and the IRS.”

The frequency of tax fraud and identity theft continues to increase at an alarming rate. This tax season alone, the IRS reported an approximate 400 percent increase in phishing and malware incidents – a surge that was addressed back in February.

“If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Everybody has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”

You can take a proactive stance when it comes to protecting your company from these scams by encouraging your employees to pay close attention to emails that request sensitive information, such as the names of employees, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and/or salary information or copies of employee’s W-2 information. You can also let them know that they should never send sensitive information until a conversation takes place, either in-person or over the phone, with the member of management seeking the information. You can also check out the information provided here for general insight from ODT that could be used to help your employees identify phishing attempts and email scams.

If your Ohio business has been the victim of or experienced this or any other type of email phishing scheme, contact ODT immediately at 800.282.1780 to protect against potential tax fraud and safeguard Ohio taxpayer dollars.

Those who are interested in learning more about the increasing threat of cybercrime should check out The Columbus Cybersecurity Series. Presentations are scheduled to take place throughout the year and will focus on ways to help business owners learn more about cyber threats. The first installment is scheduled for Wednesday, April 6. The event is free but registration is required to attend. Attendees will walk away with new insight into these attacks as well as tips and advice that will help you protect your business.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want to protect your employees from identity theft and tax fraud or need help recovering? Check out these articles:

How Can You Protect Yourself From Tax Fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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