We all have some physical security in our tax offices. We have locks on the doors. We might have a burglar alarm. But what kind of security should we have for our computers?
In this article we will cover several areas that all tax preparers can easily address in their office.
TaxSlayer recommends that you run Windows 10 Pro as the operating system on your computers. TaxSlayer Pro will run on systems using Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, but Windows 10 has more advanced security features not found in earlier versions of Windows. Also, Microsoft will drop support for Windows 7 in January 2020 and for Windows 8.1 in January 2023.
Windows 10 Pro has some additional features that Windows 10 Home does not. Of interest to tax preparers is the disk encryption offered by the Windows Pro feature called Bit Locker.
Operating System Updates
No matter what supported version of Windows you are running you must keep it updated! The simplest way to do this is to turn on automatic updates in the Control Panel. With this enabled, your computer will check daily for updates needed by your computer and install them in the off hours.
You may see an icon in your system tray that tells you there are updates available. You must get these updates installed at the earliest time that is convenient. Any update labeled, critical or important must be installed. And some of the optional updates may be needed. Look especially for any optional update for Microsoft .Net.
Disk encryption, such as Bit Locker, is used to protect the data stored on your hard drive.
Consider this scenario: thieves steal the computers out of your office. They have just made off with the full name, address, social security number, and possibly bank account data for every one of you customers. This is the holy grail for an identity thief. They also now have your EFIN!
If this computer had the hard drive contents encrypted the thieves will not be able to access it. They must also have your login credentials to access the data on the hard drive. And if they try to remove the drive and place it in another computer all they will see is useless garbage.
Every computer on your network should be running a firewall. Since Windows XP service pack 2, all Windows computers have the Windows Firewall enabled by default. You of course can replace this with a third-party firewall, but the Windows Firewall is more than adequate for most users.
Security software is a generic term for that type of software used to protect your computer. Most of us will know it as antivirus software or anti-malware software. What you need is a security package that protects you from these and any other threats.
Windows 10 ships with a very good security software package called Windows Defender. Another benefit is it’s already paid for!
If you wish to use a different security package, please consult with TaxSlayer first. There are some security software packages that do not work well with TaxSlayer.
Any discussion of security must mention backups. It is vital that you make a backup of your TaxSlayer programs and data and keep it current! Without a good backup you may lose both programs and return data.
We have provided a backup utility in TaxSlayer. It is called the Program Backup Utility and it can be found in the Utilities menu. This utility will back up everything in the TaxSlayer folder to the external media of your choice.
With a backup like this it should be possible to restore your programs and data.
Find a Local Tech
Hopefully you already have a local tech. If you don’t, this would be a good time to find one. A good local tech can be a lifesaver.
This short list of suggestions is the minimum that should be done to protect your business and your customers’ data. Remember we are just a short phone call away. We will gladly discuss this and any subject at 706-868-0985.