Encryption Tips for CPAs and Tax Professionals


It’s that time of the year again, tax season. Un-arguably the most hectic time of the year for any CPA or tax professional. During this busy season, it is important to remember that the security and privacy of your client’s tax information is of the utmost importance, and securely communicating with co-workers and with clients is a vital part of keeping this information secure. To meet the security needs of your clients and your business, you need a solution that can securely encrypt sensitive emails and attachments. 

This year, tax-refund fraud is expected to soar to a whopping $21 billion, up from just $6.5 billion two years ago, according to the Internal Revenue Service. And the problem, which the IRS admits is growing quickly, is compounded by an outdated fraud-detection system that has trouble identifying many attempts to trick it. The root cause of this fraud is unauthorized access to Federal Taxpayer Information, or FTI, which can be used to file fraudulent returns on behalf of unsuspecting users.

In a rush to get time-sensitive documents out the door, it can be tempting to use traditional email for sending out tax returns and other information. Many professionals have been incorrectly trained to believe that attaching a password-protected PDF or ZIP file is sufficient for protecting thes files from unwanted eyes.  Unfortunately that is far from true.  

Did you know that using an average PC, a PDF document protected using someone’s Social Security Number can be unlocked using freely available software in less than one minute? The technique, known as a Brute Force Password attack, uses a computer to automatically guess every possible password combination.  What’s worse is that these programs make this process simple for non-technical users (point-and-click).  Even if you choose a more complex password that is 8 characters in length and uses both upper and lower case characters, most of these programs can still unlock the password within a matter of hours.  The bottom line is that password protected ZIP or PDF files simply do not provide sufficient protection against unauthorized access in today’s world.  

What about cloud services like Sharefile or Box?

Many firms have opted to use cloud file sharing services, like ShareFile and Box, as an alternative for sending sensitive files via email. While these services do provide more protection than email, there are some caveats that make them potentially risky for storing sensitive taxpayer information. The most notable caveat is that they have full access to your stored files, which means that if someone on their end decides to view your data (or more likely, their systems get hacked) your files are exposed.  You may not think this is likely to happen, but with the rise in recent high-profile data breaches the threat a massive data breach is very real.  

Why you need end-to-end encryption

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) has become the new standard for protecting information from unauthorized access.  With E2EE, only the people communicating can read the messages. No eavesdropper can access the encryption keys needed to decrypt the conversation, including telecom providers, internet providers and the even company that runs the messaging service. Even the IRS has weighed in on the use of encryption for sensitive documents, stating that “In order to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of FTI, data encryption is an essential element to any effective information security system.”  

Here at SendSafely, we've developed an easy-to-use platform that is specifically designed for providing E2EE when exchanging information with people outside of your organization. Our ease of use, combined with an unparalleled level of security, make SendSafely the platform of choice for numerous accounting and legal professionals. SendSafely even provides a convenient Outlook plug-in and Gmail integration that make sending files securely as easy as sending a traditional email attachment.


 SendSafely: Simple to Use End-to-end Encryption for Email and File Transfer 

If you are a real estate professional looking for a simple to use email encryption and secure file transfer platform, consider taking a look at SendSafely. Our enterprise platform integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Exchange and Google Apps for Business.   

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