October marks National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and BKR International, one of the top five global accounting associations, is working with noted cybersecurity expert Neal O’Farrell to provide BKR members with news and education focusing on cybersecurity, the association announced on Friday. 

With growing concerns that professional services firms are targeted by hackers in search of client data, there’s a greater urgency to ensure that accountants and their staff are aware of the risks, how to minimize them, and how to respond.

“With an estimated 1,000 reported data breaches in the U.S. in 2014 alone, or nearly three every 24 hours, nearly a billion personal records were stolen by hackers,” said O’Farrell, founder of The Identity Theft Council and security education company Privide, in a statement. “Any firm can be a target.”

As part of their cybersecurity education initiative, BKR members can take part in more than five hours of online cybersecurity education, broken down into short takeaway lessons of approximately 25 minutes each.  Members learn about major threats including data breaches, malware, phishing and identity theft, as well as how to create a simple but comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that will work for even the smallest firm.

“Every accountant has two major security challenges to confront daily – protecting their own firm from cyber threats, and guarding their clients and client data,” stated Maureen Schwartz, BKR International executive director. “Continuing education is the first and best defense, and we’re proud to take a global lead in bringing this critical information to our members and their clients.”  

To support ongoing education, BKR members will also be able to subscribe to a free email alert service for information on the latest threats and technologies, and participate in a private forum where they can learn about security from their peers and from security experts.

“I applaud BKR’s leadership role in addressing cybersecurity,” added O’Farrell. “While many business owners still see cybersecurity as an afterthought, BKR firms recognize that cybersecurity must be made a top priority if they are to maintain client trust.”

“Some business leaders still consider cybersecurity an IT issue rather than a business and brand issue,” stated Schwartz. “They downplay the level of investment they need to make beyond firewalls and software updates. We want to help our members be educated and vigilant.”

For more on BKR International, head to their site here.