Cybersecurity threats are pervasive, with the potential to upend business operations, undermine credibility, and substantially impact profitability.

The age-old analogy of a chain only being as strong as its weakest link certainly holds merit in this paradigm. Employee vigilance is sacrosanct in the ongoing efforts to secure online communications. Top-tier network security and innovative IT systems must work in concert to ensure organizational stability.

A full complement of technical and non-technical measures combined with effective security policies and efficient payroll processing practices is necessary to avoid the types of cybersecurity breaches that recently occurred in Tallahassee, Florida. This unconventional attack resulted in the theft of an estimated $500,000 from the city's human resource department. After the dust settled and bewildered officials tallied up the losses, the security breach netted $498,000.

E-mail indications confirm the breach took place overseas. A third-party vendor ostensibly hacked into the city's payroll services, causing the direct deposit paychecks to be rerouted elsewhere. This theft has served as a wake-up call to city officials. With the help of law enforcement authorities, the city has recovered an estimated $125,000 of the stolen funds and detectives are working to pursue the cybercriminals.

How Did The Security Breach Take Place?

Nefarious activity often emanates from hacking into the account of an official whose email addresses can be accessed and intercepted. It is being reported that a Dropbox link was used in a phishing scam from the e-mail account of Reese Goad, the city manager of Tallahassee. The link contained a virus that allowed the hackers to infiltrate the payroll network and unleash havoc.

Security breaches such as these are designed to trick recipients into revealing usernames and password combinations to hackers on a database. Such breach taking place from outside the United States is indication enough that the payroll network infrastructure was severely flawed.

Eynat Guez, CEO of global payroll provider Papaya Global, remarks that "...too many companies and public sector bodies have insecure payroll processes, using email to transmit sensitive data." This was clearly one of the weak links in the security network.

Security infiltrations are often difficult to identify. IT professionals routinely stress that telltale signs of such events are difficult if not impossible to pinpoint. A security breach could be indicated by a hanging webpage, a slow browser, an odd e-mail, a delay in a PDF file or word file opening, and so forth. As soon as the breach has occurred, malware, adware, viruses, keyloggers, Trojans, and ransomware can infect the entire infrastructure. Unfortunately, government departments are not immune to these invasions.

Security Breaches Plugged With Automated Global Payroll Systems

Back in March 2019, a Thomasville school was targeted in a payroll attack. The hackers attempted to get away with $2 million. Many similar incidents have occurred, several of which have been foiled, but not without substantial reorganization and disruption.

Payroll management and security have come under the spotlight in recent times, particularly companies that conduct business operations in multiple locations, presenting opportunities to hackers to infiltrate the gaps in the payroll process. Traditional models of processing payroll have proven inefficient, ineffective, costly, and laden with security challenges.

Companies are turning to transformative solutions which manage their entire global payroll process automatically. Given that payroll systems necessarily deal with sensitive details, it certainly pays to adopt watertight payroll systems to prevent future cyber breaches.

Clearly, transmitting sensitive data via e-mail and excel is a no-no. It's crucial to be able to efficiently monitor and track all payroll activity to ensure maximum compliance. Automated systems have the flexibility to meet the needs of a large, global workforce, whilst maximum privacy controls, full transparency, and automation are necessary to maintain the integrity of a company's payroll management department. Anything less is simply inviting security breaches.

The internet is awash with instances of payroll processor data breaches. In 2009, a Minneapolis payroll processor suffered a security breach where the personal data of some 27,000 customers were leaked. In 2018 alone, an estimated 1,700 hacking instances were reported across the United States, compromising over 170 million records.

Payroll breaches are particularly important since they often result in identity theft, massive debt, and lawsuits against companies. While employees are often the main culprits when it comes to security breaches, automated payroll systems can certainly plug the holes.

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