NewsFlash Aug. 10, 2017

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Don’t Take the Bait, Step 4: Defend Against Ransomware

Internal Revenue Service
IRS Newswire
Issue No. IR-2017-125

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry today warned tax professionals that ransomware attacks are on the rise worldwide as bad actors here and abroad infiltrate computer systems and hold sensitive data hostage.

The IRS is aware of a handful of tax practitioners who have been victimized by ransomware attacks. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently cautioned that ransomware attacks are a growing and evolving crime threatening the private and public sectors as well as individuals.

The “Don’t Take the Bait” campaign, a 10-week security awareness campaign aimed at tax professionals, hopes to increase awareness about these attacks. The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry, working together as the Security Summit, urge practitioners to learn to protect themselves. This is part of the ongoing Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself effort.

“Tax professionals face an array of security issues that could threaten their clients and their business,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We urge people to take the time to understand these threats and take the steps to protect themselves. Don’t just assume your computers and systems are safe.”  

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects computers, networks and servers and encrypts (locks) data. Cybercriminals then demand a ransom to release the data. Users generally are unaware that malware has infected their systems until they receive the ransom request.

The 2017 Phishing Trends and Intelligence Report issued annually by Phishlabs named ransomware one of two transformative events of 2016 and called its rapid rise a public epidemic.

In May 2017, a ransomware attack dubbed “WannaCry” targeted users who failed to install a critical update to their Microsoft Windows operating system or who were using pirated versions of the operating system. Within a day, criminals held data on 230,000 computers in 150 countries for ransom.

The most common delivery method of this malware is through phishing emails. The emails lure unsuspecting users to either open a link or an attachment. However, the FBI also has warned that ransomware is evolving and cybercriminals can infect computers by other methods, such as a link that redirects users to a website that infects their computer.

Victims should not pay a ransom. Paying it further encourages the criminals. Often the scammers won’t provide the decryption key even after a ransom is paid.

Tips to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
Tax practitioners – as well as businesses, payroll departments, human resource organizations and taxpayers – should talk to an IT security expert and consider these steps to help prepare for and protect against ransomware attacks:

  • Make sure employees are aware of ransomware and of their critical roles in protecting the organization’s data.
  • For digital devices, ensure that security patches are installed on operating systems, software and firmware. This step may be made easier through a centralized patch management system.
  • Ensure that antivirus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans.
  • Manage the use of privileged accounts – no users should be assigned administrative access unless necessary, and only use administrator accounts when needed.
  • Configure computer access controls, including file, directory and network share permissions, appropriately. If users require read-only information, do not provide them with write-access to those files or directories.
  • Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted over e-mail.
  • Implement software restriction policies or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers, compression/decompression programs.
  • Back up data regularly and verify the integrity of those backups.
  • Secure backup data. Make sure the backup device isn’t constantly connected to the computers and networks they are backing up. This will ensure the backup data remains unaffected by ransomware attempts.

Victims should immediately report any ransomware attempt or attack to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.IC3.gov. Tax practitioners who fall victim to a ransomware attack also should contact their local IRS stakeholder liaison.


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FICPA Industry Members Participate on AICPA Panel

Three FICPA members discussed top challenges for CPAs in industry during a national conference, AICPA & CPA/SEA Interchange, in July. Karen O’Byrne, CFO/COO at Modernizing Medicine; Lahteefah Parramore, senior director, Global Consolidation and General Accounting at Brightstar Corporation; and Lindsay O’Bryan, senior financial reporting analyst at Tampa Electric Company (TECO) discussed resources and benefits industry members need and how state societies can serve them effectively.
                                                                                            
The panelists answered questions posed by AICPA Director Paul Parks and discussed the ways in which FICPA Director of Business Development Morgan Watson encouraged their participation and involvement with the Institute. They explained how her outreach to them had deepened their knowledge of all the FICPA does on behalf of the profession.

AICPA VP-CGMA External Relations Ash Noah also participated on the panel, sharing insight he’s gained while meeting with industry members throughout the U.S. during the last five years. He and Watson have talked with FICPA leadership and staff about the challenges CPAs in industry face, as well as available FICPA and AICPA resources.

FICPA-member panelists Lindsay O’Bryan, Lahteefah Parramore and Karen O’Byrne, along with Ash Noah (left to right), answered questions posed by Moderator Paul Parks (standing) about how state societies can better serve members in industry.


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Regulations Address New Statutory Due Dates For Many Tax Returns

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.
Journal of Accountancy
journalofaccountancy.com

Changes to the due dates and extensions of time to file various tax returns and information returns were implemented in a package of regulations the IRS issued in July (T.D. 9821, REG-128483-15). The regulations reflect statutory changes made by the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, P.L. 114-41, and the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015, P.L. 114-113, which adjusted the due dates of many tax returns to ease tax administration. (For a full description of these changes, see “Next Filing Season Will Be Better: Due Dates Have a New Logical Order” in the August 2016 issue of The Tax Adviser.)

The regulations affect taxpayers who file:

  • Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement (and other forms in the W-2 series except Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings) (due Jan. 31);
  • Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements (due Jan. 31);
  • Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, reporting nonemployee compensation (due Jan. 31);
  • Form 990 (tax-exempt series) (allowed an automatic six-month extension);
  • Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts (automatic 5½-month extension);
  • Form 1041-A, U.S. Information Return Trust Accumulation of Charitable Amounts (automatic six-month extension);
  • Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income (due the 15th day of the third month following the close of the tax year, automatic six-month extension);
  • Form 1120 (corporate tax return series) (due the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the tax year, automatic six-month extension, except for C corporations with a June 30 year end, which have a Sept. 15 due date until 2026, with an automatic seven-month extension);
  • Form 1120-POL, U.S. Tax Return for Certain Political Organizations (automatic six-month extension);
  • Form 4720, Return of Certain Excise Taxes Under Chapters 41 and 42 of the Internal Revenue Code (automatic six-month extension);
  • Form 5227, Split-Interest Trust Information Return (automatic six-month extension);
  • Form 6069, Return of Excise Tax on Excess Contributions to Black Lung Benefit Trust Under Section 4953 and Computation of Section 192 Deduction (automatic six-month extension);
  • Form 8804, Annual Return for Partnership Withholding Tax (Section 1446) (automatic six-month extension); and/or
  • Form 8870, Information Return for Transfers Associated With Certain Personal Benefit Contracts (automatic six-month extension).

The regulations are effective July 20, but reflect statutory changes that were generally effective for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2015.

Sally Schreiber (Sally.Schreiber@aicpa-cima.com) is a JofA senior editor.


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Real Talk About Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain

By Jeff Drew
Journal of Accountancy
journalofaccountancy.com

You've probably heard the chatter. Technology is poised to transform the accounting profession. Artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain are on the verge of automating many traditional core CPA tasks. The profession is at a critical moment, one from which it will emerge in a far different form.

What will that form look like? When will these changes take place? And what should CPAs be doing now to prepare? Those are among the questions addressed during the JofA’s sixth annual technology roundtable, and the answers provided by our panel of accounting technology experts paint the picture of a profession that does not need to be in panic mode, but does need to be learning about and preparing for a tidal wave of technologies likely to reshape the accounting landscape during the next decade.

To read the full article, click here.


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Create a Workplace Where Employees Want to Stay

By Samiha Khanna
Journal of Accountancy
journalofaccountancy.com

As demand for accounting and finance professionals increases, firms of all types are facing competition not only to court top talent, but also to keep it.

This can be especially challenging considering what we know about the rising generation of Millennial workers. According to a 2016 Gallup report, less than one-third of the more than 50 million Millennials in the workforce say they feel engaged at work, and Millennials are less willing to stay in their current jobs than workers from previous generations. That turnover costs the U.S. economy an estimated $30 billion annually.

A lack of engagement is a major contributor to turnover, said Tamera Loerzel of ConvergenceCoaching LLC. Loerzel, a partner with the firm who has coached executives for more than 15 years, provided insights for an audience at the AICPA ENGAGE conference in June. In an interview before her presentation, she offered suggestions for managers to cultivate engagement and keep employees motivated.

To read the full article, click here.


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OneSource: Your Home for Jobs, Talent and Classifieds

OneSource is your home for job listings and classified ads tailored to the accounting and finance profession. Stop wasting time digging through spam and unqualified candidates on the big sites!

With OneSource, you can:

  • Find and post jobs and internships
  • Digitally promote job openings through video messaging
  • Access career resources and helpful tools
  • Find or list office space for sale or rent
  • Find or list practices for sale or merger

Create your profile today to get started.

Access OneSource
Ask Us: Member Service Center (800) 342-3197x1 | (850) 224-2727 | membership@ficpa.org


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Accounting & Business Show
Sept. 27-29, 2017
Ft. Lauderdale or Online

 

 

Registration is open for the 2017 Accounting and Business Show at the Broward County Convention Center. This show hits the mark with up to 21 hours of CPE offered through more than 70 breakout sessions and six hands-on interactive technology workshops.

Enhance your skills through this Show’s six technology workshops sponsored by ScanWriter. Quickbooks, Social Media and Excel are skills you need to master. This is your chance to receive one-on-one instruction from the experts. Space is limited, register early!

Hands-On Technology Workshops

  • Quickbooks Beginner
  • Quickbooks Advanced
  • Using Social Media to Grow Your Brand and Your Business
  • Navigating the Social Security and Medicare.gov Websites
  • Excel Beginner
  • Excel Advanced

Register now and save – Member: $499 • Non-member: $554.

Learn More
Ask Us: Member Service Center (800) 342-3197 | (850) 224-2727 | CPEevents@ficpa.org


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University of Florida Accounting Conference (20.5 CPE)
Oct. 5-7, 2017
Gainesville or Online

 

 

We’ve planned an agenda that’s jam-packed with the latest updates and skills training for the profession, and you won’t want to miss our keynote: AICPA Chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, CPA, CGMA. Earn up to 20.5 CPE credit hours with us in Gainesville or join the Simulcast for up to 16.5 hours of online CPE.

Ellison-Taylor will share her insight into the profession through an AICPA Update, emphasizing the importance of preparation, anticipation, accountability and “taking bold steps” for a bright future. See why Big Data, cybersecurity and assurance and advisory services are her emerging issues of choice.

This conference also features a FASB Update from Harold Monk Jr., CFE, CPA; a Not-for-Profit Update from Cheri Swain, CPA, CITP; a Peer Review Update from the FICPA’s own Paul Brown, CPA CGMA; and so much more.

Those who’ve attended know this is more than a conference – it’s an experience! Register to attend in person by Sept. 4, 2017, to save $55 with the early-bird price. First-time attendees can save $100 with promo code NEWUF17,* and young CPAs can save $150 with promo code YCPAUF17.**

Register to Attend in Person | Register to Attend Online
Ask Us: Member Service Center (800) 342-3197 | (850) 224-2727 | CPEevents@ficpa.org


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Tech Tip
How to Find Your Device Mac Address

www.groovypost.com

We live in what experts describe as an IP (Internet Protocol)-based society. This means everything is connected, not just your smartphone, camera, smart watch and traditional computing devices. Potentially, anything and everything – from your dog’s collar to your refrigerator – now is an Internet-connected device you can monitor and manage, all from your web browser.

Part of the magic behind IoT (Internet of things) is unique identifiers which enable everything on the planet to communicate. There is a network address which is assigned to every computing network device. Unlike an IP address, it’s assigned at manufacturing and never changes. This is called a MAC address.

MAC stands for Media Access Control. This unique identification is the physical address for your Ethernet or Wireless adapter burned into the actual hardware at the factory. The address format is the same for all network adapters – a set of hexadecimal digits.

There are multiple ways to find your MAC address depending on the type of device you’re using.

To read the full article with images, click here.


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In Memoriam

John Brannan – July 31, 2017


Look for the next issue of FICPA NewsFlash Aug. 24, 2017.

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