Why cyber security skills are in demand within accountancy

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Cyber security has shot up the business agenda in recent years, with the Big Four accountants – KPMG, PwC, EY, and Deloitte – now the top cyber security hirers in the UK.

Last year, one in every 17 new KPMG recruits were cyber-related roles, like IT security specialists. And at PwC, cyber experts account for one in 20 recent hires.

So why are we seeing this growth in accountancy in particular?

The growing need to be cyber secure

Indeed’s Bill Richards explains: “By definition, accountancy firms need to store lots of sensitive financial information, and they therefore require robust cyber defences.

“Nevertheless, it’s striking that the Big Four dominate all four top spots in our league table of the UK’s most prolific cyber hirers.”

Cyber security has become a priority for UK companies in general as businesses face more and more costly attacks. Small businesses alone are being hit with an average of 65,000 attempted cyber attacks every day, according to 2018 figures from insurer Hiscox.

As a result, the amount companies are prepared to spend on securing digital systems has increased as well.

Tighter regulations

Tighter regulations are also increasing the pressure on companies of all kinds to be cyber secure.

“General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is forcing companies to look more closely at how they store their data,” said Gavin Cartwright, Associate Partner at EY.

But why are accountancy firms strengthening their cyber security teams at a faster rate than other companies?

The fact they have access to so much data on their clients – and need to be ready should a client be targeted – is one obvious reason.

“Accountants have access to very valuable data – namely their clients’ financial details,” Kolochenko said. “In a way, they are handling other people’s secrets, so the need for security is even greater.”

But according to EY’s Cartwright, that’s not the whole story.

“The Big Four don’t only provide accountancy services,” he said. “While some cyber security professionals are being taken on for internal protection, others are being recruited to provide client consultancy and support services.”

Key takeaways: The accountancy sector is spending more on cyber security at an ever-increasing rate, for a number of reasons:

  • businesses, including small businesses, are facing more frequent and costly cyber attacks
  • tighter GDPR regulations are forcing companies to re-assess and invest more in their data storage and security
  • accountants have access to sensitive client data, so the onus is on them to ensure it is safe and secure
  • cyber security professionals allow firms to broaden their offering and provide cyber security consultancy and support

How to become more cyber security savvy

Cyber security specialists may be leading the fight against digital crime and data theft. But they can’t do it on their own.

You can make a difference by enhancing your digital skills and learning good practise with file management and digital security.

Here are four easy ways to improve your skills.

1. Attend AAT cyber security events

AAT branches often put on events focused on cyber security. Branches running events of this kind over the next few months include those in Merseyside, Glasgow and Shrewsbury. Find one near you here.

2. Research how cyber attacks happen and how they can be stopped

About 80% of breaches are due to human errors, such as employees unwittingly allowing viruses into the system by opening malicious email attachments. If you understand the risks you will be a potential asset to your employer. Read about the dangers here, or try this Government guide.

3. Get up to speed on the cloud

Storing data in the cloud is one of the most effective ways to foil cyber criminals. So why not brush up on your cloud computing know-how by signing up for an online course? You’ll be reducing the risk of a security breach in your current role, and boosting your employability for the future.

4. Stay abreast of cyber security news

Reading accountancy titles such as Accountancy Age or The Accountant will allow you to stay in the loop regarding any recent breaches.

In summary

The need for cyber security specialists in accountancy is growing and will continue as the number of cyber attacks continues to rise.

Employees can also play a part in protecting the organisation by becoming aware of threats and good practice.  This will help your employer and increase your own employability.

Read more on cyber security and digital skills here :

Hack your clients to better security

Cyber security – help yourself, help your clients, help the country

The importance of keeping your cyber security up to date

Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor.

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