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  • Ali Hasany

Basics of cybersecurity for Accountants and Auditors in the age of Digital Transformation

Basics of Cybersecurity - A Hacker trying to hack
Basics of Cybersecurity

If you look into the number of cybersecurity incidents in recent years, you'll see that the question of whether or not you or your business will become a victim of cybercrime is actually one of WHEN.

Accountants and Auditors must learn more about basics of cybersecurity as the number of businesses affected by any type of data breach increases in order to make wise decisions that will secure their firm, identify risks, lessen losses, and create effective disaster recovery plans.

In this blog, I will explain you to the many cybersecurity risks and typical defenses that are in use today. Although it's just the beginning, familiarity with the terminologies, definitions and overarching ideas related to cybersecurity is crucial for the educational process.

Basics of Cybersecurity: What is it?

Cybersecurity is "the process of securing systems, networks, and programs from digital threats," according to Cisco, a well-known global technology giant. These cyberattacks typically try to gain access to, alter, or delete sensitive data; demand money from users; or obstruct regular corporate operations. Considering that there are currently more devices than humans and that attackers are growing more creative, putting into place effective cybersecurity safeguards is extremely difficult.

In this article, I'll introduce you to the most widely used terms and definitions for cyber risk perpetrators, types of cyberattack, malware types, and defensive tactics for lowering the risks associated with cyber exposure.

The day when a company's information technology division only focused on software and technology has long since passed. Accountants and Auditors' responsibilities for ensuring appropriate internal controls over systems and technology are more important to the organization as they develop their roles as active business partners.

Types of attackers


might not have a personal grudge against your business. Their reward is the injection of ransomware into your business or the theft of client information, frequently used to file false tax returns. It's business; it's not personal. W-2 tax forms that have been stolen are selling for between $4 and $20 each record, depending on the overall amount of the victim's earnings, according to a recent analysis by Krebs on Security. Taking into account that even small accounting companies can have more than a thousand W-2s on record. That is a payoff that might surpass what a hacker would make over the course of years of honest employment in their home country—all in a single day.


Because they already have access to your company, this is the most challenging challenge to address. Employees frequently accidentally harm your network or leak information. Occasionally, they will flee with private information to use as a bargaining chip or deliberately damage your network as payback. In one instance, a staff member used the tax information of a well-known client for political gain and posted it online in the open. That business was bought out in a week.

Foreign States:

Given that it is rare that a foreign state will directly target your company, this addition could seem odd. However, the effects of this kind of attack may be widespread. An infamous foreign state attack on Ukrainian networks using the NotPetya malware. Beyond Ukraine's borders, the virus quickly spread and is thought to have cost $10 billion in losses globally. The most well-known casualties of its collateral damage included a British manufacturing, a French construction firm, and a Danish shipping firm.


This subset of hackers has something to prove. Their motivations might range from political to personal to religious to plain spite, among other things. Their attack strategies might include everything from viruses to actual invasions. Due to their organization, hacktivist groups can prove to be a particularly difficult foe. A particularly well-known hacktivist group called Anonymous lacks a defined structure, governing body, and membership. Churches, nonprofits, and even a political candidate's personal email account have been their targets.

Corporate/industrial espionage:

Never underestimate dishonest rivals in a highly competitive market. A brief Internet search can turn up numerous accounts of rivals using every available trick to obtain sensitive information.

Types of Cyber-attacks

Advanced Persistent Threat:

The most dangerous threat a company might encounter is the advanced persistent threat. Your company is the specific target of a hacker who will do whatever to get their way. Due to the time necessary, this form of attack is frequently carried out by large groups or foreign powers, but smaller groups and individuals can still be involved. Your company is likely to experience some level of defense failure due to the ongoing danger and variety of strategies used in these attacks.

Phishing Attacks:

These assaults have a variety of names, including "deceptive phishing," "spear phishing," and "whaling." Whatever their names, they all have a social engineering component in common. The fundamental goal of social engineering is to trick someone into thinking they are someone else, usually a client or a senior employee of the company. Either stealing credentials or transferring money to the criminal's fictitious bank account are the goals.

Brute Force Attacks:

Attacks using brute force: These lack finesse and nuance. All of it comes down to raw computational power. These assaults frequently try to guess every combination of a password until the hacker is able to enter your system. This kind of assault could be difficult or reasonably simple, depending on the length and complexity of your password requirements. BetterBuys estimates that it would take a brute force attack around 0.29 milliseconds to break a seven-character password like "abcdefg." A 12-character password, by contrast, would take about 200 years to crack.


Despite being a relatively new attack type, the consequences of cryptojacking should not be ignored. Cryptojacking is the act of a third party accessing a company's computer network or website in order to mine for digital currency. Due to the significant use of their computer resources to aid in the commission of the crime, this may not only result in higher utility expenses but also unstable computer systems that make it harder for employees to complete their everyday jobs. Companies need to be aware that the prevalence of these incursions varies along with the prices of different cryptocurrencies. Additionally, because of their concentrated processing capacity, huge firms are considerably more likely to be the target of such schemes.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks:

There are two variations of this type of attack. The first requires being beside the target physically. In this kind of assault, the hackers get in through a router that is not properly secured. Once within the victim's network, the attacker can use a variety of tools to act as a go-between for sent data such banking information and login passwords. The second kind of man-in-the-middle attack uses infected websites or email attachments to introduce malicious malware into a company's computer system. The hacker can then have log-in passwords and other sensitive data delivered back to them on a regular basis using malware like a keylogger.

Zero-Day Exploits

These are vulnerabilities that, as their name implies, are unknown to the security community until they are widely exploited. The biggest risk posed by these attacks is that there is now no effective response against them. In other words, it's unlikely that this kind of attack will be stopped by your IT expert or any other IT professional in the globe. Your incident response strategy is your strongest line of protection. Firms should be aware that many of these threats rely on widespread IP address scanning. Attacks against a company can come from anywhere in the world and can be indiscriminate, with little to no retribution from the legal system or law enforcement.

Type of Cyber-Frauds

Push Payment Fraud Schemes:

This particularly nefarious fraud tries to trick clients of the company into sending money to fraudsters by pretending to be the company. This is frequently accomplished through real-time payment techniques or by creating phony websites that appear to have been created by the company.

Forms of Malware (Cyber attack software)


Given this name for their capacity to infect other computers, viruses depend on human interaction in order to proliferate. The user may frequently be unaware of their existence. Viruses are frequently spread using USB devices and malicious email attachments.


Unlike viruses, worms may spread without human interaction. Once a computer has been infected by a worm, the worm uses the resources of the host computer to propagate to other computers on the network or even the Internet. This malware's capacity for autonomous replication is what makes it so hazardous. The "Iloveyou" worm is infamous for attacking and infecting millions of computers worldwide in a single day. The worm would replace several file types when the user opened the email attachment, and it would then distribute copies of itself to each contact in the user's Microsoft Outlook file. As a result, it is thought that one in ten computers worldwide became infected, causing damages of up to $15 billion.


According to Greek history, trojans deceive users about their true intentions. This is frequently done by clicking on false adverts or email attachments like spreadsheets. Once activated, a trojan gives the hacker access to the user's private data, including passwords, banking information, and personal details.


A subcategory of trojan known as ransomware has damaged businesses, hospitals, and most infamously, the Atlanta, Georgia, government in 2018. The way it works is by encrypting files and then requesting a ransom, frequently in bitcoin. Initially, this kind of virus had weaknesses that experts could use to figure out how to stop it from working and retrieve files. The ransomware coders' drive to produce ever-more-effective software has increased as a result of the cash windfall. Reports now indicate that the ransomware is infecting backups and employing greater levels of encryption to coerce a payment by the afflicted organization, as opposed to the malware's historical tendency to start infecting files right away. Utilizing unencrypted backups is frequently the most effective reaction to a ransomware incident.This is one reason that firms should take a serious look at the periodicity, security, and breadth of their backup information.


Although it doesn't cause as much immediate harm as other types of malware, spyware got its name from the fact that it allows one person to spy on another. Some companies now lawfully deploy spyware to keep tabs on their workers' activities while they're on the job. Keyloggers are a special type of spyware that can be very harmful to a business. A full social security number is frequently entered by accounting firms into their tax software, which then redacts all but the final four numbers. Every keystroke is recorded by keyloggers, and they frequently take screenshots whenever a new program is launched. This data is then regularly transmitted back to the hacker for review. In such a case, an unassuming accountant or data entry operator would be providing not only every social security number to a hacker, but also the username and password to their tax software.


Reputable bots are employed to carry out specified tasks automatically. An appropriate illustration would be opening your Internet browser each time you turn on your computer. Hackers naturally prize this kind of authority and can use a bot to carry out directives without the user's awareness. These bots can be used to spy on users, steal sensitive information, or assemble a virtual army of computers to launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against other networks.


A rootkit is a piece of software that enables remote access to a computer by an outsider. IT specialists commonly utilize legal rootkits to remotely access staff PCs to diagnose issues or update software. Naturally, hackers treasure this same remote access because they may use it to steal data directly or to set up a variety of different malware.

Defensive Measures

Employee Training:

Employee training can take many different forms, despite not being very high-tech. These can include unstructured conversations at company-wide meetings, computer-based training that is tracked, and phony phishing emails. Since people are frequently the weakest link in any security design, this control is essential and should be on priority basis.


The most typical software that will be installed on every company's computer is anti-virus and anti-malware software. In essence, it seeks to identify and eliminate offending software. These programs have evolved to fend off viruses, worms, rootkits, keyloggers, trojan horses, adware, and other widespread exploits as threats have grown.


These make a duplicate copy of the data you now have on your machine in another location. This process can be completed using a variety of techniques, including full, incremental, differential, and mirrored backups. Regardless of the mechanism employed, businesses should be aware of the periodicity, or frequency, at which backups are being made. Anything fewer than daily backups is probably not enough.

User Permission Segmentation:

This restricts a person's access to only the functions necessary for their employment. Usually, this is done following a fruitful audit of user entitlements. This might limit how far a dangerous virus can travel within a system right away and help with compliance with various regulatory standards.

Data loss prevention (DLP) software:

DLPs are used to monitor covered data in order to find potential breaches. It can then alert users to any unlawful access to or transmission of that data. Sensitive is crucial for organizations that manage personally identifiable information (PII), personal health information (PHI), or payment card information (PCI), as a DLP can be set up to recognize this data.


In general, firewalls guard against outside Internet access to the company's internal network. This is often accomplished by utilizing a defined set of security rules to inspect data coming from or going to the company's network. Hardware, software, or both can be used as a firewall.


System failures or intrusions are mostly sought after by intrusion detection systems (IDSs), which offer an automated review of logs and events. In turn, the IDS notifies staff members of potential events so that a prompt response can start.

Similar to the aforementioned IDS, intrusion prevention systems make an effort to proactively stop or prevent intrusions. IPSs and IDSs are commonly combined to create an Intrusion Detection and Prevention System since they are similar to one another (IDPS).


Software that combines security information management (SIM) and security event management is known as security information and event management systems (SIEMS) (SEM). This control's objective is to offer real-time examination of system events as they are occurring. They will include alarms that are set off automatically or by specified inputs.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):

This kind of security measure aims to employ several different factors to confirm a user's identity. They typically need to combine what the user knows with something the user has in order to be useful. For instance, a person might use their cellphone to authenticate the login request and know their username and password.


This security measure makes electronic data unusable or unreadable to unauthorized parties in order to protect it. Businesses have the option of encrypting their systems at different architectural levels and using various encryption techniques.

Vulnerability Scan:

Third parties search for security holes by automatically scanning and probing networks, systems, and applications.

Penetration Testing:

As it tries to exploit the system being evaluated, penetration testing is often a significantly more complicated procedure than vulnerability detection. One of the most underutilized security measures, physical penetration testing aims to prevent unwanted parties from accessing data. A vendor might try to get beyond standard security measures including locks, biometrics, card readers, and physical obstacles.

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