CPAs select security as top technology priority

By Jeff Drew

Securing the information technology environment once again ranks as the top technology priority for U.S. CPAs.

That’s one of the findings of the 25th Anniversary North American Top Technology Initiatives Survey, released Thursday by the AICPA and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada).

More than 3,000 accounting professionals took part in the U.S. version of the survey, which was conducted electronically from Oct. 14 through Nov. 3, 2014.

Against a backdrop of rising cybercrime resulting in the exposure of personally identifiable information for millions of Americans, U.S. CPAs have moved the protection of IT assets back to the top of their tech priority lists. It’s the eighth time in the past 10 TTI surveys that IT security has been No. 1 on the U.S. priority rankings, though “managing and retaining data” was on the top rung in the previous survey.

This time around, data management ranked second, just ahead of “ensuring privacy,” “managing IT risks and compliance,” and “preventing and responding to computer fraud.”

“Information security and privacy protection are critical business issues for the smallest startup to the largest global organization,” Joel Lanz, CPA/CITP, the chairman of the AICPA Information Management and Technology Assurance (IMTA) Section Executive Committee, said in a news release. “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.”

While aware of the threat posed by everything from lost smartphones and laptops to sophisticated malware delivered over the internet, U.S. CPAs expressed confidence in the ability of their organizations to meet the challenge of safeguarding both IT networks and critical data. Nearly 50% of U.S. CPAs indicated that they were confident or highly confident in their employers’ ability to secure the IT environment. The confidence levels were even higher for understanding regulatory and compliance requirements for the confidentiality of personal information (58%) and having appropriate privacy-related protections in place (60%).

Following are the top 10 technology priorities for U.S. accounting professionals.

  1. Securing the IT environment      
  2. Managing and retaining data     
  3. Ensuring privacy          
  4. Managing IT risks and compliance         
  5. Preventing and responding to computer fraud   
  6. Enabling decision support and analytics
  7. Managing system implementations        
  8. Governing and managing IT investment/spending           
  9. Managing vendors and service providers           
  10. Leveraging emerging technologies        

Note: Due to data collection issues that required resurveying in the United States, the U.S. and Canadian TTI results were gathered several months apart and lack comparability as a result. For full results of both surveys, access the survey reports on the AICPA and CPA Canada websites.

Jeff Drew ( jdrew@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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