New Year Ushers in Enhanced Cybersecurity Threats

The new year brings with it an opportunity for a fresh start. From a cybersecurity perspective, a new year is also a typically dangerous time. Cyber hackers and cyber criminals often take advantage of the opening of tax season—January 7 for businesses, January 27 for individuals—to unleash social engineering campaigns. The campaigns can be digital, or phone based. They’re looking to steal login credentials or PII and will stress the need for you to respond urgently to an important communication, typically from your financial institution or accounting firm, about a problem with your account, a law you may have violated, or something else that requires your immediate attention.

As if such risks are not enough to wrestle with, the dawn of 2020 brings with it additional cyber worries rooted in the recently increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The Iranian government suggested its response to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani "concluded" with its January 7 missile launch. But according to The New York Times, cybersecurity experts are picking up on ongoing malicious cyber activity from pro-Iranian forces. And while Iranian cyber capabilities are not on par with those of Russia, China or the U.S., Iran does have the capability to inflict damage via a cyber attack.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which was created through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018, is charged with protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats. The agency’s January 6 Alert AA20-006A "Potential for Iranian Cyber Response to U.S. Military Strike in Baghdad" suggests that employees as well as the IT departments of organizations adopt a heightened sense of awareness and increase organizational vigilance.

What you should do:
*Use known contact methods instead of those provided in an email or voicemail
*Do not open attachments or click links unless you are certain they are from a verified “trusted source”
*Do not divulge sensitive information unless you have verified the recipient
*Be sure to use approved solutions for transmitting sensitive information with clients or third parties

Cyber criminals continue to ramp up efforts to disrupt organizations and their ability to function in a digital society. Organizations must continue to enhance their efforts to keep themselves from becoming victims of cyber crimes.

Attend Our Cybersecurity Webinar
On Wednesday, January 22 join HBK Risk Advisory Services Director Matt Schiavone for our first webinar of 2020, “Security Awareness Programs: What You MUST Know to Protect Your Company & Workforce” at Noon EST. Register for the free webinar here.

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About the Author(s)
Bill is a Senior Manager in HBK’s Risk Advisory Services and works out of the firm’s corporate office in Youngstown, Ohio. He specializes in cyber security, IT security, external IT audit, internal IT audit, IT consulting, software Development, IT governance, PCI-DSS, supply chain, system implementations and e-Commerce and has worked for a wide range of industries, including the Public Accounting field. Bill is a certified public accountant, a certified information system auditor, and a certified supply chain professional.
Hill, Barth & King LLC has prepared this material for informational purposes only. Any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or under any state or local tax law or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding the matter.

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