You see, payroll processing and the handling of related data must be confidential, and it must remain so. Bank account and routing numbers, home addresses, social security numbers, pay rates or wages, and even performance data can all be incredibly damaging in the wrong hands. They must not ever be compromised, because it can spell disaster not just for the employees or individuals involved, but your business, as well.
It doesn’t help that cybersecurity has become one of the biggest issues in the current landscape. High profile data breaches and hacks are happening every day, with sensitive information being stolen in massive increments. In 2016, reported data breaches increased by 40%. Throughout 2017, hacks affected many brands like Arby’s, Verifone, Saks Fifth Avenue, FAFSA, Chipotle, Gmail, DocuSign, Verizon and the whopper, Equifax. Out of that list, you should be most concerned with the Equifax hack. No matter how egregious the breach - it could have easily been prevented - if a major credit reporting bureau can be hacked, then you certainly can.
So, what can you do to protect yourself, your employees and personnel, and all that sensitive data related to payroll?
Educate and Train
You likely have security policies and procedures in place to help protect sensitive data coming to and transferring from your network. But there’s one weak link in that chain and it’s not your anti-virus, anti-malware, or logging tools; it’s the users themselves. You must be sure that the rules and guidelines are followed by everyone.
The best way to ensure such a thing is to invest in the education and training of your personnel and core audience. Definitely spend time training payroll employees on proper use of the systems, and security protocols.
This may seem unnecessary and costly, but it’s definitely warranted. Human error accounts for 52 percent of the root cause of security breaches, compared to technology errors, which only accounts for 48 percent.
It is especially true of external devices or platforms such as the web, mobile and apps, and even email. For example, protecting payroll information and encrypting data can be handled swimmingly by your company and systems, yet a user could be the one to do the damage, unknowingly.
Know Your Partners, Establish Trust
It’s more than likely you’ll outsource the management of your payroll. That’s perfectly fine, and may even be a better idea because third-party organizations often have more bandwidth to handle the necessary security measures. They specialize in security and protecting assets, so they have updated software, premium tools and systems, and more.
But you don’t want to assume this is true. Do the research and get to know your partners before entering into an agreement. Make sure they have the necessary equipment and software. Make sure they have a proper team of professionals to support their products and services. Read testimonials and check-in with other clients and customers to see if they’re satisfied. More importantly, ensure that you can trust who you’re allowing to handle and protect your payroll systems, and information.
Apply Updates As Soon as Possible
At times it can seem like a hassle, but applications, operating systems, and deployed tools all receive updates for a reason. New features and added support is great, but a lot of times updates come with some major vulnerability and security patches too. That’s why it’s pertinent that you always apply updates to your payroll system as soon as possible.
Running older versions of software can cause several issues, namely creating glaring gaps in data storage and retrieval, and opening up potential holes or avenues of attack - or leaving them wide open if they already exist.
The good part about this is that payroll tech vendors usually facilitate and handle the update process themselves, but if that doesn’t apply in your case, then make sure you’re the one to handle those updates sooner rather than later.
Require Password Changes
Passwords are finicky, and most people don’t know how to use them properly, at least not so they’re secure. Worse yet, a lot of people tend to use the same passwords or phrases across various devices, platforms, and accounts. This could mean that a completely unrelated account is breached, yet hackers gain access to payroll systems simply because of a mirrored password.
Deploy a policy that not only requires your users to come up with strong passwords, but that they change said codes on the regular. Follow the FTC’s guidelines to prevent fraud and security issues.
Avoid Paycheck Fraud
Finally, ensure that you - or your provider - has the proper high-security checks and printing security in place. This is even more important if you’re outsourcing your payroll process. You may think all the dangers lie with digital-based information, but that’s not necessarily true. Payroll checks, for instance, are printed and transferred to employees, whether through the mail or on-site drops. Those checks then need to be cashed, and properly stored or disposed of. Along the way, any of that information exchanging hands can be compromised.
You need to be sure that, at least on your hand, the security policies and protections are acceptable and upheld.