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Accounting Today

The Mother of All Breaches, and other tech stories you may have missed

By February 7, 2024No Comments

(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)


In cybersecurity news, a MOAB (“Mother of All Breaches”) incident was just discovered. Forbes reported that researchers from Security Discovery and CyberNews have indicated that “no less than 26 billion data records” have been leaked — including records from LinkedIn, Twitter, Dropbox, and government organizations. There’s speculation that behind this massive attack is a data broker who could sell the data to other bad actors for sophisticated schemes or targeted attacks. It’s also believed the data was amassed from previous breaches. Researchers are urging the public to be hypervigilant. Adam Pilton, Cybersecurity Consultant at CyberSmart, recommends effective practices such as two-factor authentication. “This is a huge amount of data … we must take action to protect ourselves,” he said. (Source: Forbes)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: If you haven’t received a security audit for your business, then it should be a priority, and if this news doesn’t wake you up I’m not sure what will. Talk to your IT firm.

Tal Mazir of security software and services provider Perception Point detailed five cybersecurity trends to be aware of this year. (Source: Help Net Security)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Mazir says that chatbots that appear to be ChatGPT will be used to craft messages from an “authorized’ sender to achieve serious security breaches like accessing funds or other sensitive data. Deepfakes — up 3,000% — are another tool hackers will continue to use to create counterfeit images or audio to dupe recipients lured by content “virtually indistinguishable” from legitimate data. A third example is the use of SaaS apps to probe and locate weak points in security systems. Mazir’s underlying message is that, with every remarkable advantage of AI, its equally destructive capacity will be exploited.

Drafting emails may soon be prompted by your voice in Gmail. Google Workspace Labs is a program where users can access and test the latest AI-powered tools and offer their feedback. “Help Me Write” is one the tools that can be activated in Google docs and Gmail where the AI will draft content based on certain prompts. The voice feature was discovered on the Gmail mobile app (documented in The SPAndroid blog) where the user tapped the “Help me write” tab that opened a microphone prompt for voice recording. Google hasn’t made an official announcement, but it’s an indicator of upcoming AI capabilities. (Source: Mashable)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: If there’s one thing that separates boomers from younger generations it’s that we tend to talk into our phones when composing messages while younger generations type. I can’t explain this phenomenon because voice transcription has become so accurate and so much faster than typing but I’ll chalk that up to yet another way that we’re just smarter and more experienced! Perhaps being able to talk and use AI to compose better emails will be the tipping point for those younger folks. We’ll see.

Users will find a downward arrow on the toolbar next to their camera or mic button. Once pushed, “More video options” or “More audio options” links are activated. These same settings can be accessed through the “More actions” button on the toolbar. Users will find this as a welcome upgrade from having to navigate through several layers to adjust their mic and camera. (Link: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Cool little perks to help you and your people use Teams better. If you’re not aware of this, you’re probably not aware of a dozen other time-saving practices in Office. Consider training this year.

Microsoft announced its CoPilot Pro premium service for $20 dollars per month. The subscription fee gives users access to features including Microsoft 365 apps — Excel, PowerPoint, Microsoft Teams — with “priority access” to GPT-4. As stated on the Microsoft Blog, it will also be available on iOS and Android. For those who already use Microsoft 365, CoPilot Pro will activate CoPilot in all apps, offering AI-powered capabilities for each. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: CoPilot Pro will help your employees draft better emails, write better documents, create better presentations and take better notes — among other things — which will all combine to making them more productive. My recommendation, if your company uses Office 365, is to lean into this but slowly. There are still many bugs to be worked out. Start with a small group and expand its use. Get training and consultation. But take advantage of these tools, as they’ll significantly help your people get more things done quickly.

Here’s a sample from the five best MacBooks (according to TechRepublic) that will fulfill your business needs: The M2 13-Inch MacBook Air made the list for its high-performing, faster CPU, its light weight — just over two pounds — and its suitability for professionals on the go. If you want a larger screen, the M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro is listed for specs like high-quality display, memory capacity, and its M3 Max chip, which supports its ability to handle a range of complex tasks. The downside is, of course, its price. The M3 Pro 14-inch is a good substitute if you want the same performing power for slightly less. (Source: TechRepublic)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: For the entire list and specs, visit the link above.

Expect to see a peer-to-peer payment system on X sometime this year, as announced on the platform’s blog. Forbes reported that X has “registered to do business in at least 32 states.” Owner Elon Musk has publicly shared his vision of the platform becoming an “everything app” which would encompass a range of financial needs (e.g., checking accounts). No further details were offered by X as to when the payment system will go into effect. (Source: Forbes)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: X’s peer-to-peer system will compete with PayPal/Venmo, Zelle, CashApp and others like it. Many small businesses use these systems to facilitate payments, and X’s jump into the market will help keep costs down and provide more options.

Intuit’s tax-filing software TurboTax announced integration with financial services company Credit Karma and Intuit QuickBooks. Filers can now prepare and submit their tax documentation through Credit Karma’s app without any filing fees (in a limited time offer). Those who open a Credit Karma savings account and deposit their tax refund can receive their refund earlier. For business owners who manage their accounting through QuickBooks, if they opt to file through TurboTax via the QuickBooks Live Tax, they’ll have access to “unlimited expert assistance” to receive the maximum refund each tax season. (Source: Business Wire)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: For small businesses with simple tax structures, this is a great way to not only leverage integration between these three platforms but to complete tax filings affordably. Being a CPA, I’m biased. Businesses always need a good tax advisor to help them with planning and tax minimization strategies, particularly as they grow.

Novo — a platform that provides online business banking — has announced a payroll solution, partnering with payroll infrastructure company Check for “enabling small businesses to manage their finances from a single platform.” The Novo-Check linkage also “reduces administrative burdens but also ensures accuracy and compliance with regulatory standards,” according to the press release. Benefits include built-in accounting, single and multistate payroll, and next-day payments. (Source: Business Wire)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: For years I’ve been predicting (incorrectly) that banks will be buying up accounting software companies and providing a one-stop-shop for their customers. While I’m still waiting for that to happen, it’s encouraging to see more banks — like Novo — partner with accounting and payroll providers to integrate their banking with their recordkeeping and processing.

Ongoing controversies with Elon Musk and the X platform have apparently benefited LinkedIn in the advertising sphere. Big advertisers including IBM, Coca-Cola and Comcast, have jumped ship after Musk made news for using antisemitic language in a post. LinkedIn is seeing a surge in advertising numbers — up to 30% this year. Advertising analysts have drawn a direct line to the ad decline on X — $400 million less per quarter this year. (Source: PYMNTS)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I’m not sure this is great news for businesses. For starters, we don’t need more advertising noise to pollute LinkedIn, which arguably remains the best place for professional engagement among all the social sites. Also, we should be rooting for X/Twitter to thrive because it provides a great alternative to LinkedIn for those businesses that are more suited to the platform — creators, media firms, public relations companies, etc.

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