Would it surprise you to learn that the number of online records that have been hacked through the first six months of 2017 surpasses the total number from last year? Not only is that true, but the actual number of hacking incidents being investigated by security experts this year is also more than double the rate for the same period in the three years spanning 2013-2015.
Among the most often hit victims are small company HR departments, payroll service providers, and state employment agencies. Growing numbers of scammers are targeting these organizations in order to get Social Security and W-2 information to perpetuate tax return fraud.
Dallas-based payroll provider BenefitMall, like others in the industry, is alarmed by the statistics. They say that the data should be a wake-up call to payroll service providers about their need to abide by the strictest cyber security standards. Security should be the number one priority of every payroll company.
Phishing for Data
Companies vulnerable to cyber-attacks face two profound problems. First is the human factor. Unfortunately, phishing scams still rank among the most successful ways to gain access to information. Scammers send phishing e-mails disguised to look like legitimate communications from banks, employers, and even the government. Unsuspecting recipients do not know how to identify such scams, so they unwittingly provide the key information scammers need to steal data.
The second problem is one of outdated software. This is an especially difficult problem for HR and payroll departments still using legacy software that could be upwards of 5 to 10 years old. Unfortunately, cybercrime is a continually evolving enterprise that can quickly surpass the security efforts taken by software developers that do not have the resources to keep up.
BenefitMall says that one way that small and medium-sized businesses could fight cybercrime is to transition their payroll to an online provider with a demonstrable record of safety and security. Of course, it behooves online payroll providers to make sure their software is secure and up-to-date. They should also be training their employees in how to identify and avoid phishing scams.
Escalating Costs of Cybercrime
It is easy for small business owners to read a report like this and brush it off in the knowledge that they have not been affected by cybercrime. But to do so is to take unnecessary chances. Why wait to be victimized before doing something to prevent future attacks?
Cybercrime is a growing problem worldwide. It has been estimated that the total cost to businesses over the next five years could be upwards of $8 trillion. In addition, some 34% of American companies acknowledged some sort of security breach in 2016. That number is likely higher due to some companies not reporting their breaches for fear of damaging their reputations.
The implications of the most recent cybercrime data should be very clear. First and foremost, companies of all sizes need to constantly evaluate their online security so as to make any necessary changes as soon as a need is identified. As for small and medium-sized companies still handling payroll in-house and with legacy software, it is time to seriously consider shifting to an online payroll solution from a reputable provider.
Until we learn from the past and implement solutions for the future, cybercrime will continue to be a problem. It does not have to be a problem for payroll. If employers and payroll service providers are willing to make a concerted effort to maintain the security highest standards, the number of successful scams perpetrated against them will fall.