Online safety when filing taxes online
With the tax deadline just around the corner, companies submitting their returns online need to address the potential security risks involved.
By Karly O'Brien
Doug Cooke, director of engineering for McAfee Canada, says companies need to know whom they are giving their taxes to.
“A very, very basic thing is making sure you’re working with a reputable company that’s processing your taxes. If you’re working through a website it’s even more important to make sure that there’s an appropriate authentication to that website,” explains Cooke. “So if you’re going to be transmitting that data you should be very careful how it’s being done — probably through some sort of encrypted channel to other vehicles.”
Cooke recommends checking for a brand marker on the website to ensure their servers are properly configured for security.
He also says to never send tax information via e-mail since it will not be encrypted.
For a company to be fully protected from malware, viruses and spyware there should be an education program for employees.
“Tax season is a time when companies have to be aware,” says Cooke. “Part of it is education for their employees and part of it is the system they put in place.”
The goal of scam artists is to catch individuals off guard by sending them tax-related e-mails, and it only takes one click of a mouse to initiate the download of a virus or malware onto your system.
“They may send out spam e-mails where they embed malware, but the spam e-mail [says], ‘Hey, I can do your taxes for $9.99,’” explains Cooke. “Clicking on that link may take you to a website, but it’s probably a bogus website and you’ll get malware on your system.”
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Criminal Intelligence Analytical Unit, identity fraud cost Canadians $15,981,763.45 last year.
Daniel William, a senior spokesperson from the centre, says to watch out for anything that looks too good to be true.
Hackers know their market well, and are aware of what consumers are looking for, says Williams.
“The scammers are certainly willing to fill every niche; where there is a spot for them they will be there,” continues Williams. “If they’re making money at it, I guarantee they will be back.”
Each computer should kept up to date, and have current anti-virus software installed. Additional protection can be provided through an Internet gateway, a firewall and web-browsing protection.
If software patches aren’t updated, it will be easier for scammers to take advantage of a system’s vulnerabilities, Cooke says.
“In past years, [hackers] were working towards getting notoriety. Now it’s changed to a financial motivation, and in that financial motivation some of the virus attacks are very targeted towards specific individuals or groups,” says Cooke. Hackers are known to send out brand-new viruses that anti-virus providers aren’t aware of yet. Moreover, they will target viruses to a small group of people to ensure they remain low-profile.