How to protect yourself from hacking.

Essay by iamneartou November 2003

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protecting your network

Any computing network connected to the Internet, large or small, is a potential target for electronic break-in, also known as hacking. Accounting firms are particularly tempting targets for hackers, since they handle a great deal of financially sensitive data. Imagine losing half your client's important electronic records -- or even worse, having client financial information fall into the wrong hands. Investing in a reliable firewall is crucial to protecting your network from break-ins, viruses and data loss.

In addition to confidential financial information, accounting firms also maintain a great deal of sensitive personal information about their clients. CPA firms (along with law firms and medical practices) have emerged as prime targets for those wishing to commit identity theft on a large scale. Since CPA firms generally have the social security numbers and other personal financial information of the firm's clients, those wishing to perpetrate ID theft see CPA firms' servers as gold mines.

Accountants are bound by strict legal, ethical, and personal requirements to maintain the confidentiality of their clients' personal information. Accordingly, they need to be particularly concerned about having a good firewall. How would you like to have to contact all your clients and inform them that they need to be on the lookout for someone stealing their ID as a result of your failure to adequately protect their confidential information?

knowing the risks

Many small accounting offices mistakenly believe they are too small or unknown to show up on hackers' radar screens. The majority of network attacks, however, aren't targeted at your company itself -- rather, they are meant to take over a network in order to attack another target. Here are the three main types of attacks:

-"Zombie" attacks: A hacker will use a computer's open port to deposit a small executable file,