As an accountant, it’s your responsibility to protect your customers’ personal information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. The FTC Safeguards Rule requires businesses to identify and assess the risks to customer information in their possession and to design and implement safeguards to control those risks. In this blog post, we’ll explore what it means to design and implement safeguards and provide some tips on how to do so effectively, including hiring a Certified Safeguards Technology Provider.
What are safeguards?
Safeguards are the measures you put in place to control the risks identified through your risk assessment. These safeguards can be administrative, technical, or physical in nature, and they should be designed to protect customer information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.
Administrative safeguards are the policies and procedures that govern how customer information is handled. Technical safeguards are the tools and technologies used to protect customer information, such as firewalls, encryption, and access controls. Physical safeguards are the measures used to protect the physical access to customer information, such as locks and security cameras.
Tips for Designing and Implementing Safeguards
Designing and implementing safeguards can be a complex process, but there are some key steps you can take to ensure that you’re doing it effectively:
- Identify the risks: The first step in designing and implementing safeguards is to identify the risks to customer information in your possession. This may involve conducting a risk assessment or hiring a professional to do so.
- Determine the appropriate safeguards: Once you’ve identified the risks, you need to determine the appropriate safeguards to control those risks. This may involve a combination of administrative, technical, and physical safeguards.
- Develop policies and procedures: Administrative safeguards are an essential component of your information security program. You should develop policies and procedures that govern how customer information is handled, including who has access to it, how it’s stored, and how it’s disposed of.
- Use technology to protect customer information: Technical safeguards can be an effective way to protect customer information. This may involve using firewalls, encryption, access controls, and other tools and technologies to prevent unauthorized access to customer information.
- Implement physical security measures: Physical safeguards are also important. This may involve securing the physical location where customer information is stored, using locks and security cameras, and limiting access to authorized personnel only.
- Train employees: Your employees are the front line of defense against data breaches and other security threats. You should provide them with training on your information security policies and procedures and ensure that they understand the importance of safeguarding customer information.
- Monitor and update your safeguards: Designing and implementing safeguards is an ongoing process. You should regularly monitor your safeguards to ensure that they are working effectively and update them as needed to address new risks or changes in your business operations.
- Qualify your vendors: Make sure that the organizations you are working with have their own policies and procedures in place. A majority of data breaches happen from third party infiltration. Some recent examples would be LastPass and Target.
- Have Physical Safeguards: Locks, file cabinets, whatever is necessary to keep physical documents out of the hands of others. Even one lost record could be detrimental to a company’s reputation.
- Document Retention: Follow GAAP principles on how long you need to hold on to documents and destroy when they are no longer necessary. Many financial returns you are required to hold on to for seven years. Our guide has all of the types of data and the retention listed inside.
- Cyber Insurance: Work with a qulaified provider in case of a breach. This can save you tens, hundreds, of thousands of dollars. Even millions! Nothing is 100% and cyber insurance helps fill the gaps.
Hiring a Certified Safeguards Technology Provider
One effective way to ensure that you’re designing and implementing effective safeguards is to hire a Certified Safeguards Technology Provider. These providers have been certified by the PTIN Security Group to help businesses comply with the Safeguards Rule.
Certified Safeguards Technology Providers have the knowledge and expertise to help you design and implement effective safeguards that meet the requirements of the Safeguards Rule. They can provide you with a comprehensive assessment of the risks to customer information in your possession and recommend appropriate safeguards to control those risks.
In addition, Certified Safeguards Technology Providers can provide ongoing support and guidance to ensure that your safeguards remain effective and up to date. They can also provide you with training and education on the latest trends and best practices in information security.
Designing and implementing effective safeguards is an essential part of complying with the FTC Safeguards Rule. By following these tips and hiring a Certified Safeguards Technology Provider, you can become compliant with the new regulations.
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