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News

The global ransomware cyber-attack on 12 May affected at least 250,000 computers across circa 150 countries by exploiting known vulnerabilities in older versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems. The fact that the attackers targeted mostly hospitals and government agencies may bring some misplaced comfort to the owners of Irish SMEs. The cyber-criminals took aim at large public entities so they clearly have no interest in the operations of mid-sized, Irish entities, right? Wrong. If cybercrime is a new family of crime, then ransomware is the latest terrifying addition to the clan. Barracuda, a leading technology security provider, see ransomware as the number one IT security challenge facing organisations in 2017. In real terms, the reported incidence of ransomware attacks increased by approximately 300% between 2015 and 2016. So, what exactly is ransomware? Put simply, it is a subset of malware which the criminals use to locate and encrypt your most critical data. They then offer to provide a key to unlock your data if a ransom is paid within a specified time frame. It’s a very simple business model. The FBI has indicated that over $200 million was paid in such ransoms in Q1 of 2016 alone, and this is probably only a fraction of a larger sum due to the understandable under-reporting of the crime. In an age where business is becoming increasingly dependent on technology, the likely disruption to customers, the potential financial cost, the possible reputational damage and the regulatory ramifications of a potential data breach (GDPR is on its way!) arising from such an attack has sparked a significant increase in information security spend by many organisations as they seek to defend themselves in the face of ever increasing cybercrime. Hence, we are locked in a new race where resourceful public and private entities try to stay one step ahead of the faceless cybercriminals who reinvest the ransoms paid to stage their next attack. In such a scenario, small and medium businesses who do not have the technical or financial resources to protect themselves, as effectively as their larger peers, become an easy, accessible target for those engaged in what is the scalable, profitable and borderless ransomware business. So, how does an Irish SME protect itself from becoming the next victim of ransomware? Here’s an eight-step checklist which SMEs can adopt to mitigate the risks posed by cybercrime: Keep software updated, since updates often include security patches. Last’s week’s attack, in common with almost all such instances, exploited known vulnerabilities; Educate all staff, on a recurring basis, regarding the risks and how to protect themselves and the business. Many cybercrimes are predicated on anticipating or influencing user behaviour; Force the use of strong passwords, which are regularly updated, for all applications, not just key applications such as banking or invoicing; Use up-to-date security solutions including anti-virus, firewalls, intrusion detection, and threat detection. Figures published by Osterman Research Inc. show that three sources combine to account for some 83% of all ransomware malware entering organisations being email (31%), email attachments (28%) and websites/web applications excluding email (24%); Never click on links to banking sites in emails or texts. If in doubt, call the bank directly; Treat mobile devices the same way you would treat computers; they are equally, if not more, vulnerable to attack; Ensure your files are backed up regularly and reliably. You may lose data at any time not only as a result of crime; and Get professional, external advice to improve your security. Conducting a risk assessment is a sensible first step. You cannot eradicate the risk of falling foul of a cyber attack but let’s all work to make it more difficult for the bad guys. Terry McAdam FCA is the Consulting Partner in RSM Ireland.

May 20, 2017
Press release

Dave Wehner, Global Chief Financial Officer at Facebook Inc was the guest speaker at the inaugural Chartered Accountants Ireland Leadership Symposium held in Dublin today (Tuesday 23 May).  Speaking to a select audience of 200 senior Chartered Accountants and business leaders this morning, Mr Wehner talked about the driving forces behind the continued success of Facebook which now has a community of almost 2 billion users worldwide. He underlined the importance to Facebook of its Dublin operations, which now employs over 1,800 staff and includes its global finance function. Mr Wehner was joined by executive leadership coach Ian McClean who presented on effective leadership skills and performance enhancement through people management. Shauna Greely, president of Chartered Accountants Ireland who hosted the event, said: “We are honoured to welcome someone of the calibre of Dave Wehner to speak with us this morning. Dave gave us an unique glimpse inside the workings of one of the most renowned, successful and fastest growing organisations in the world today and gave our members and guests a sense of the challenges and successes of the CFO function in Facebook. "Like me, I am sure that everyone in attendance came away with simple yet valuable insights that can be used in our day jobs so that we can be more effective partners with our businesses.” Ends Reference:  Bryan Rankin, Marketing Manager, Chartered Accountants Ireland – 087 2047905 Notes for editors: Photos of this morning’s event were issued to national picture desks this morning and are available from Bryan Rankin, above or download from Flicker/Chartered Accountants Ireland.  Chartered Accountants Ireland is Ireland's largest and longest established professional body of accountants founded in 1888. The Institute currently represents 25,500 members around the world.

May 23, 2017
Press release

Shauna Greely has been elected Chartered Accountants Ireland’s first female president in over thirty years. Her appointment comes at a time when female participation in the profession has strengthened significantly with the Institute’s most recent student intake showing a 50/50 split. Addressing the Chartered Accountants Ireland AGM in Dublin today (Fri 19 May), the new president drew attention to the advances made by the Institute since 1983 when a woman last held the office. Shauna Greely said: “40% of our members are women, and we have strong female representation on our Council, Institute Committees, and on our District Societies. I am heartened to see that our student intake level is now approaching parity, but there is still much work to be done. One of my objectives over the coming year will be to help strengthen the diversity of participation in Institute structures.” Shauna Greely begins her term as president at an important juncture for the profession in Ireland. Chartered Accountants Ireland has been a principled voice on issues impacting its membership, including Brexit, taxation policies, and education. The new president also highlighted pensions and ethical standards in the “not for profit” sector as other areas of focus for the Institute during her term. Highlighting the important role that Chartered Accountants have to play in upholding ethical standards and good governance, the president said: “Integrity and ethics are right at the core of what it means to be Chartered Accountants. The charity and “not for profit” sectors have faced unprecedented challenges in recent times. The need to support this sector has never been greater.” “Chartered Accountants have to take a leadership role when it comes to professional standards, and, in the year ahead, we will be developing many important initiatives to further this,” she concluded. Shauna trained in KPMG, Dublin and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1995. She spent a number of years with Merrill Lynch Capital Markets Bank before joining Ulster Bank Group in 1999 and is currently Finance Business Partner with responsibility for projects and strategic cost management.  Feargal McCormack, Managing Director of PKF-FPM was elected Deputy President. Conall O'Halloran, Partner and Head of Audit KPMG, was elected Vice-President. ENDS Notes for Editors Shauna has over 20 years’ experience in the financial services sector.  She qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1995 and has been a Council member since 2012. She has served as Deputy President since May 2016.

May 21, 2017

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