NEW YORK/TORONTO (April 16, 2015) – Professional accountants in both the United States and Canada say preventing security threats is their top technology-related priority.
Most CPAs believe they are doing a good job of meeting security challenges relating to traditional networks and servers for their firms, clients and employers, according to the 25th Anniversary North American Top Technology Initiatives Survey, jointly conducted by the American Institute of CPAs and Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada). However, concerns remain about mobile device vulnerabilities and sophisticated, persistent cyber threats.
Safeguarding information technology (IT) assets has been the top priority in the U.S. survey for eight of the past 10 years, but was displaced in the previous survey by “managing and retaining data.” With several widely publicized cyber-attacks that resulted in the loss of sensitive personal information for millions of North Americans, the category has reemerged as the top initiative on both sides of the border.
Nearly half of U.S. survey respondents are convinced they’re taking the right steps to secure the IT environment, with 47 per cent saying they are somewhat confident to highly confident about meeting that task. Still, that’s down slightly from the previous survey.
“Information security and privacy protection are critical business issues for the smallest startup to the largest global organization,” said Joel Lanz, CPA, CITP, and chairman of the AICPA’s Information Management and Technology Assurance section. “This survey underscores that CPAs are keenly aware they have a unique role to play in assessing and managing tech-related security risks though a business lens for clients and employers.”
This is the second joint technology survey by the two organizations. Turning to the Canadian respondents, 68 percent expressed confidence about tackling IT security—up 12 percentage points from the previous survey—although those results were collected before some of the more notorious data breaches.
“Individuals tasked with securing the IT system face a daunting challenge in today’s world full of rapid technological advances,” says Frank Colantonio, CPA, CA, CITP, and a director with CPA Canada. “A security breach can trigger unpredictable costs so it is not surprising to see professional accountants wanting companies to dedicate resources aimed at protection.”
In addition to security, “ensuring privacy” was another category that climbed the rankings since 2013 for both the United States (No. 3, up one spot) and Canada (No. 4, up from No. 6). A solid majority (58 percent) of U.S. CPAs say they have a good understanding of the regulatory and compliance requirements on confidentiality of personal information, and 60 percent say they have appropriate privacy-related safeguards in place.
In Canada, meanwhile, three out of four accounting professionals are confident they have the right privacy safeguards and controls in place.
North American Top Technology Initiative Rankings
Some 3,061 accounting professionals participated in The 25th Anniversary Top Technology initiatives Survey, which was conducted electronically from Oct. 14, 2014, to Nov. 3, 2014, in the United States. Some 39 percent of U.S. respondents work in public accounting, 36 percent in business and industry, with the balance coming from the nonprofit, consulting, education, government and other sectors. Most held senior positions in their firms or companies.
A total of 256 accounting professionals participated in the Canadian portion of the survey, which was conducted from Feb. 7, 2014, to March 14, 2014. Almost half (46 percent) of Canadian respondents work in business and industry, 16 percent in public accounting, 14 percent in government, with the balance in consulting, nonprofit, education and other sectors. Most held senior positions in their firms or companies.
The two components of the North American survey were conducted at different times because of data collection issues that led to a resurveying in the U.S. Because of the time gap, the U.S. and Canadian survey results should not be relied upon for direct comparisons.