Many professional services practice managers, partners or directors are blind to the risks of the modern age. They don’t read reports like Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, which states that more than half of all malware infections hit small practices last year. They don’t realise that this staggeringly high number is only going to continue to climb over the coming decade. They aren’t aware of the statistics in Kroll’s 2017 report revealing that, as of last year, cybercrime has overtaken physical theft as the #1 illicit threat to firms of all sizes.

Many of them are unaware that digital breaches are even a serious risk for small to medium professional services firms, assuming that the high-profile breaches of ASX 500 companies they read about in the news each month are the only kind that ever happen. Few of them know that the cost of these attacks on small to medium professional services firms typically surge far past $1 million, reaching into the stratosphere as practices downtime ticks on and on.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by the National Centre for the Middle Market, these practice managers, partners and directors aren’t reading the writing on the wall. They’re the reason why less than half of midsize professional services firms have an up-to-date strategy to protect them from cyber-attacks. A few of them – about a third – don’t have any strategy in place at all.

But whether they have the most powerful cyber security in the world or are one of the millions of practice managers, partners and directors who simply assume they’re safe, the cybercriminals are coming for them. The difference lies in whether these attacks will bounce off the robust barriers the firm has put in place or destroy the firm from the inside out. Which group do you belong to? The hapless team that can’t imagine they’ll ever be attacked and go under within just a few years? Or the visionaries who can see where the trends are going and put protections in place to secure their futures for the long haul? Hopefully, you count yourself among the second cohort and are doing everything you can to beef up your security long before disaster strikes. Whatever measures you’re putting in place, start with your employees. More than half of all cyber-attacks are caused by the negligence of low-level team members. You may assume that everybody can tell what a phishing e-mail looks like, but you’d be wrong. School your team on the necessity and basics of Internet safety, and you’ll be a big step ahead of most of your competition.

“...cybercrime has overtaken physical theft as the #1 illicit threat to practices of all sizes.”

Of course, even if your employees are the savviest in the world, it won’t matter if you don’t have the proper barriers in place. Skip the bargain-bin antivirus and put your money into solutions that will actually stop the bad guys. It’s not a one-and-done approach; you need a multilayered strategy that closes the gaps as they appear. A little research here can go a long way, but honestly, the best way by far to protect your livelihood is to get a managed IT services provider on board. They’ll proactively check nearly every aspect of your network to ensure that nothing is ever amiss. When old, outdated systems are supplanted by more powerful alternatives, they’ll upgrade them. You can get rid of that nagging anxiety in the back of your mind constantly reminding you that there might be a loophole somewhere in your security.

There are two types of practice managers, partners and directors in the world: those in the know and those stuck in the past. The second group are the heads of those firms you read about collapsing beneath the weight of cyber-attacks, while the first are the successful professional services firms that seem like they can weather just about anything. Which one are you?

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Why? Because as Practice Manager or Director, you are hackers’ #1 target. They know you have access to financials, employee records, firm data and all that juicy customer information — tax file numbers, credit card numbers, birth dates, home addresses, emails, etc.

Don’t kid yourself. Cyber criminals and hackers will stop at NOTHING to steal your credentials. And once they have your password(s), it’s only a matter of time until they destroy your firm, scare away your customers and ruin your professional and personal life.

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