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CPAs Say Security is Their No. 1 Technology-Related Priority

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Apr 21st 2015
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Securing the IT environment was ranked as the top technology initiative among CPAs in both the United States and Canada, according to a new report from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

More than 3,300 accounting professionals – 3,061 in the United States and 256 in Canada – participated in the 25th Anniversary North American Top Technology Initiatives Survey, which was released on April 16.

Securing the IT environment has been the top priority in the US portion of the survey for eight of the past 10 years; however, managing and retaining data was chosen as the main technology task for US CPAs in the previous survey. It is believed that security has re-emerged as the top initiative on both sides of the border due to the recent wave of cyberattacks that resulted in the loss of sensitive personal information for millions of North Americans.

“Information security and privacy protection are critical business issues for the smallest startup to the largest global organization,” Joel Lanz, CPA, CITP, chairman of the AICPA Information Management and Technology Assurance section, said in a written statement. “This survey underscores that CPAs are keenly aware they have a unique role to play in assessing and managing tech-related security risks through a business lens for clients and employers.”

About 61 percent of US accounting professionals believe they have properly protected traditional networks and internal servers from external security threats. Nearly 52 percent are confident they have IT security policies appropriate for their industry and company size, and 58 percent believe they can ensure the availability and continuity of IT services.

Forty-two percent of US respondents said they have addressed all relevant threats, including those from emerging technologies, such as cloud, mobility, and social media. Forty-three percent are confident they have properly protected smartphones, tablets, and other devices from a data breach, while almost 41 percent say they can quickly detect and respond in the event of a cyberattack.

To improve IT security, organizations should start with a comprehensive risk assessment of their physical and logical infrastructure, networks, data, and personnel, according to the report. Based on those findings, policies and technologies can be implemented to reduce the risk of cyberattacks, data breaches, theft, fraud, and other threats.

Like other service providers, CPAs in public practice must maintain internal IT security while also working with clients or upper management to ensure the security of all data and communications, the report states.

“Individuals tasked with securing the IT system face a daunting challenge in today’s world full of rapid technological advances,” Frank Colantonio, CPA, CA, CITP, a director with CPA Canada, said in a written statement. “A security breach can trigger unpredictable costs, so it is not surprising to see professional accountants wanting companies to dedicate resources aimed at protection.”

Following are the top 10 technology priorities for US accounting professionals.

  1. Securing the IT environment.
  2. Managing and retaining data.
  3. Ensuring privacy.
  4. Managing IT risks and compliance.
  5. Preventing and responding to computer fraud.
  6. Enabling decision support and analytics.
  7. Managing system implementation.
  8. Governing and managing our IT investment.
  9. Managing vendors and service providers.
  10. Leveraging emerging technologies.

Following are the top 10 technology priorities for Canadian accounting professionals.

  1. Securing the IT environment.
  2. Managing and retaining data.
  3. Managing IT risks and compliance.
  4. Ensuring privacy.
  5. Managing system implementation.
  6. Preventing and responding to computer fraud.
  7. Enabling decision support and analytics.
  8. Governing and managing our IT investment.
  9. Leveraging emerging technologies.
  10. Managing vendors and service providers.
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