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Accountants at forefront in cyber fight

Ahead of the Younger Members London cyber security event in February, Philip Doyle explains how chartered accountants are in a unique position to tackle digital business risks.


January 2019

While technology continues to disrupt our world for the better and we become increasingly reliant on it, there is an undertow from the ‘dark side’ that is becoming increasingly prevalent. This has created a new wave of specialisms and the prominence of cyber security as we know it today.

This prominence can be quantified by spending: Gartner estimates that the worldwide spending on information security products and services for 2018 will reach more than $114bn (£89bn), a 12.4% increase from 2017, and the consultancy is also forecasting further growth of 8.7% in 2019 to $124bn.

When we think about cyber security in days gone by, we would be thinking some anti-virus software, but now it’s so much more than that. As cyber crime is quite often financially motivated, we as accountants are in a unique position to understand the ways and means these criminals use to attack individuals and organisations.

Further to this, accountants play a pivotal role in determining or assessing an organisation’s internal controls. These are designed to safeguard an organisation’s assets. For the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities (a responsibility of the directors), it is therefore critical that internal controls factor in the way in which cyber crime is occurring and that management adapt internal controls to reflect their digital business risks in order to prevent and minimise the risk of cyber-attacks.

Also, there is a need to ensure the directors are meeting their duties. Adapting the internal controls to address these risks must be continuous and proactive in order to address the constantly evolving nature of attacks.

While we can build a fort to protect ourselves and our organisations, we are also at the mercy of the organisations and people with whom we interact. For this reason, it is not sufficient to just have internal controls and systems, we must educate internal and external people.

On 12 February 2019, the ICAEW Young Members London group will be holding an event on cyber security: we are encouraging all younger accountants to attend to hear about the risks we face and what you can do to minimise them. Book your free place.

Philip Doyle is Assistant Manager, Audit and Assurance in Mazars, and a committee member of Younger Members London.

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