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Data

Encrypt an Email and Secure Your Gmail – Tips and Tricks for Email Communication

By | Abila, Accounting, CPA, Data, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

The greatest threat facing the CPA community isn’t legislation or competition. It’s security as it pertains to our technology. CPAs must be cognizant of the latest security measures to protect sensitive, confidential client data. Technology has made it easy to send information to clients with the touch of a button, but where does that information end up – and how long does it remain accessible?

Such considerations are no longer academic questions. Instead, they are essential to running a secure and confident CPA practice.

Email Encryption: Protecting Sensitive Communications

Emails are by far the biggest offender when it comes to potential data breaches. Most email systems aren’t sent using encryption. Because emails are automatically shared across multiple devices these days, your email lives on long after you attempt to retract or erase it. It’s almost impossible to completely erase all traces of an email from hard drives, backup servers, and the recipient’s servers and devices.

The best way to protect emailed information is through encryption. Encryption “locks” messages so that only the recipient can read them. The recipient’s software automatically unlocks the message so that it can be read. If some third-party swoops in and somehow accesses the email, it cannot read it.

To encrypt your email transmissions, you can use a service that includes encryption. Gmail and Outlook are both good, solid email programs that incorporate encryption into their programming. Both services also include cloud storage, spam filtering, and IMPAP/POP support.

The drawback to using these services is that they use their own extensions rather than your company’s extension address. To rectify this situation, you can important Gmail or Outlook messages into Outlook Desktop.

The steps include:

1. Turn on two-step verification: Go to google.com/landing/2step, click the Get Started button, and follow the steps to set up two-step verification. A code is texted to your smartphone, which you enter to verify the account.

2. From your Outlook 2010, 2013, or 2016 ribbon, select File, Add Account to launch the Auto Account Setup screen.

3. Enter your name, email address (Gmail or Hotmail/Outlook.com), and password, and then click Next.

4. Set up a Gmail alias with your company name:

a. Open your Gmail account.

b. Sign in.

c. Click the Settings gear in the top right corner.

d. Choose Settings.

e. Select from the horizontal menu the Accounts and Import tab, Import mail and contacts,

f. Enter the email address you want to use as a Gmail alias.

g. Enter the password, and if necessary, enter the Pop username and Pop server.

h. Click Continue.

i. Sign in to the account you added

j. Open the confirmation message you received from Gmail

k. Click the link in the email to confirm and establish the connection.

l. To complete the setup, change the From line to reflect your newly added alias email address. For more details on how to set up a Google email address alias, visit Google support.

The process to set up Outlook aliases is similar.

1. Open Outlook.com.

2. Click the Settings gear.

3. Select Options.

4. In the Options menu in the left menu pane, select Connected Accounts, Other email accounts.

5. Enter the alias email address and your email password then click OK.

Keep in mind that encryption through Gmail or Outlook only works if both sender and receiver are using the same service. In other words, your message is encrypted only if you are using Outlook and your client is also using Outlook. If only you are using Outlook or Gmail, messages are encrypted on your end, but not the client’s end.

If you’d prefer, a computer consultant can help you set up a secure, encrypted email system for your business. Or make it a rule that confidential information must be delivered in person or via snail mail, rather than through email. If you’d prefer that no one else see your message, a phone call or letter through traditional mail may be appropriate.

We live in an age where technology can make our businesses more productive and efficient. It can also compromise sensitive client data. Fortunately, a few steps are all that’s needed to secure your email information.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Could Your Data Be at Risk?

By | Abila, Accounting, Audit, CPA, Data, Grant Management, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Could your nonprofit associations’ data be at risk? Even with good security, you may still find yourself in the unpleasant position of ransoming your data from an unscrupulous hacker.

New viruses such as the notorious “FBI” virus do not hijack your computer for their own nefarious purposes. Some viruses lock your computer down so that you cannot access any of its information. Instead, once you pay a fee – like a random in a kidnapping – the hijackers ‘release’ your computer.

If you think this can’t happen to you, think again. What used to be a threat to major targets such as large corporations or government organization is now a threat to anyone at any time. In fact, smaller nonprofits may be targeted more frequently than larger ones because small organizations do not have the means to fight back when they’re the victim of crime. Criminals such as data hijackers look for easy targets or organizations that do not have the financial resources to fight back. Any organization is at risk.

What Is Data Hijacking?

The best prevention against data hijacking is awareness. It’s important to understand what data hijacking looks like and how to prevent it from occurring.

Data hijacking occurs when a computer program called ‘malware’ enters your system. Malware means malicious software. A specific type of malware called “ransomware” enters your system through an infected email or computer virus. Most often, users inadvertently click an email link or download software containing the malicious program.

Ransomware installs on the end users’ computer and encrypts the data on the target computer so that it can no longer be read. The encryption is so sophisticated that only the operator of the program has the key that unlocks it. Hijackers demand payment for the data ‘key’ that un-encrypts or unlocks the data.

How Ransomware Gets Past Security

There are many ways in which data hijackers bypass your organization’s secure to target your computers. One common way is to clone an executive or CEO’s email address or LinkedIn profile. They then use the fake profile to send an email with a link to people in your company. They often target top executives but anyone can be targeted.

Once the link is clicked, it downloads the ransomware and locks the target computer. A message appears on the computer screen demanding payment to release the computer. Hijackers often request payment in bitcoin, an untraceable digital currency that’s easy to convert into cash.

Even after paying the ransom fee, there’s no guarantee your computer will be released. In some cases, the hijackers themselves are unable to decrypt the computers after payment is made to them. In other cases, the hijackers simply disappear with your money – and your data is lost forever.

Preventing Data Hijacking

The best way to combat data hijacking is through prevention. The following steps should be undertaken to protect against lost data from data hijacking:

1. Be vigilant when screening your emails. Do not click on links within emails unless your are absolutely certain it’s from a known sender. The same goes for attachments which can also harbor viruses and malware.

2. Keep your computer programs updated at all times. Patches and updates protect against various forms of malware, including ransomware.

3. Backup your data frequently. Store it on the cloud as well as in storage devices NOT connected to computers or the internet.

4. Use firewalls to segment company data. This way if part of your network is affected by ransomware, you may not lose all of it if some is protected behind a firewall.

5. Block pop ups and disable macros in key programs, which are often used to distribute malware.

If you suspect that your company’s cybersecurity has been breached and ransomware or malware has been launched, disconnect your computer from the internet as soon as possible. That may prevent the malware from downloading entirely or from infecting others.

Next, contact Welter Consulting. We can help you with both the immediate problem and creating a long-term strategy to protect against viruses, malware, and ransomware.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services to help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Blog #4

Switching from On-Premise to Cloud Solutions: The Experts Weigh In

By | Abila, Accounting, Data, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

By now you’ve probably read quite a bit about the benefits of switching from on-premises to cloud-based solutions. Forrester research reports that 50% of companies plan to increase their cloud spending in the next 12 months. About 92% have prioritized cloud computing as a new initiative in the next 18 months. Cloud computing isn’t the concept of the future; the future is here, and most companies will run at least one or more cloud-based software programs within the next year

As you consider switching all your software to the cloud, you may have questions. What do you need to know to make the transition? What benefits will your organization obtain from the switch? Is the cloud a better solution?

Five Big Benefits of Cloud-Based Systems

Consider the following  five benefits of cloud-based systems and how they may impact your organization.

  1. Obtain a clear picture of financial information: Quickly view the entire financial picture for your nonprofit organization. Cash flow, membership dues, sales from products, event/conference income, and much more can be reviewed easily and quickly. Information from multiple departments feeds into one system to provide a comprehensive big-picture view of the financials for your organization.
  2. Decreased reliance on spreadsheets: Many nonprofits still use spreadsheet-based accounting. Spreadsheets offer a simple method for running basic accounting information but lack the sophistication of combining information into one easily accessible location. Spreadsheets tend to be finicky, with formulas and formatting that can be tricky to use. And one small data entry error on a spreadsheet can lead to multiple problems later. Cloud computing reduces these chances. Reports can be run directly from cloud-based systems without fussing about formatting.
  3. Enhanced visibility: Cloud-based systems enhance and increase visibility of data across all parts of the organization. Everyone shares their information in a cloud-based system, with access available to all departments and team members.
  4. One data source: On-premises software can lead to multiple versions of the same document. Chasing after the latest version and reconciling changes can take a great deal of time. Cloud systems always provide the latest reports and information.
  5. Integrate office processes: Cloud systems integrate front and back-office operations into one system. You’ll no longer need to maintain separate systems for both.

On-premises solutions have many drawbacks. Not only do they lack integration and visibility, but they need updates. Updates must be performed individually on each piece of equipment. Cloud solutions update automatically so that the latest version is always running.

The Main Difference Between On-Premise and Cloud Solutions: ROI

Lastly, the biggest difference between cloud-based and on-premise solutions is the ROI.  With cloud solutions, efficiency increases immediately after adopting the cloud. The system gains in value with a positive ROI as it saves time and money elsewhere in the organization.

Not so with on-premise systems. Such systems begin losing ROI from the moment they’re installed. With constant updates and upgrades, purchases of special hardware and equipment to run them, and salaries for people to maintain them, these systems increase in cost and decrease in ROI.

Clearly, the winner is the cloud. With so many organizations adopting cloud-based solutions and more nonprofit software offered via the cloud, it’s time to make the leap to the cloud.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you improve and grow your accounting practice. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Apps that Make Accounting Easier

By | Accounting, Data | No Comments

While you’ve probably downloaded plenty of apps for your personal smartphone, there’s a wealth of apps for accountants and accounting support staff that can make everyone more productive. These include apps for communications, file sharing, and note taking that enhance all areas of your practice.

Charlie: Prepare for Client Meetings

Preparation before an important client meeting helps you learn more about who you’ll meet with and how you can build rapport. Knowing that your client likes golf, you can schedule a golf outing, or at least have some news from the world of sports as an icebreaker for the meeting.

Charlie, a free app, does this homework for you. Charlie scours the web to find out more about people you’re meeting with and prepare a report with publicly available information. It can tell you which mutual friends you have in common and items of interest that make it easier to begin conversations with new clients. Charlie is currently available for iOS only.

Skype Your Next Meeting

Perhaps you’re traveling and need to meet with your team to brief them on the results of an important client meeting. Or your assistant needs to work with a freelancer on the design of a new brochure for your accounting office. Skype is the app of choice for many people. It features video, audio, and text-only messages, allowing you to choose the level of contact you wish for your meeting. Calling within the Skype network (a “Skype to Skype call”) is free no matter where the two parties reside; there are charges for calling from Skype to a landline. The charges vary according to location. Skype can be used on any smartphone, tablet or computer. It is free to download and use.

Sweeten Your Cloud Storage with SugarSync

SugarSync brings cloud computing to a new level. This app backs up all of your files so that you can access them remotely. Unlike DropBox and other file-storage or cloud-based sharing sites, you don’t have to upload the files; SugarSync does it for you. And it keeps them in the same configuration you had them on your main device. SugarSync is available for Android and Apple devices.

Noteworthy: Notability

If you or other members of your team take a lot of notes during meetings, Notability may be an appealing tool. This app lets you scribble notes on your smartphone as if you were using a pen, and you can also type notes into Notability. Use it to take notes during meetings, calls, or simply while working on accounts. It’s a great tool for everyone in your accounting office.

Notability may be downloaded for Apple devices from Ginger Labs.

Explore Other Apps

Don’t forget to explore other apps for your accounting practice. If you’re on social media such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, there are convenient apps you can download to your smartphone that enable you to check and respond to messages, post images and content, and update your account. Many clients use social media to communicate with their accountants and it is helpful to be able to respond quickly via this channel if someone communicates with you.

Calculator apps are plentiful, but these newer apps can help accountants be ever more productive than ever before. Notetaking, cloud storage, communications and meeting preparation apps can help you become more efficient and benefit your accounting practice.

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. Check out our complete listing of free webinars on nonprofit technology. We offer software and services that can help you improve and grow your accounting practice. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.