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Friday News Roundup June 19, 2020: MNP hires Wernick, Ransomware hits Toronto accounting firm, AI white papers and more

A quick roundup of accounting profession news from the past week

Author: Colin Ellis

TORONTO – Here’s a new Canadian Accountant feature, where we recap some of the accounting-related news that we were not able to report on during the week: 

MNP LLP hires Michael Wernick

Homegrown Canadian accounting firm MNP has hired Michael Wernick, the former Clerk of the Privy Council of Canada, as a senior strategic advisor associate. Wernick, who retired in 2019, after a 38-year career in the federal public service, will serve as an advisor to MNP’s public sector engagement teams.

Wernick is best known to Canadians for his role in the SNC-Lavalin affair. Testifying twice before a House of Commons justice committee, he maintained a vigorous defence of the Liberal government, and resigned in March 2019, saying there was "no path" for him to have a "relationship of mutual trust and respect" with opposition party leaders. He served in many senior positions over four decades, including deputy minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, before his appointment to the Privy Council.  

Wernick served as Clerk of the Privy Council from 2016 to 2019 and joined the Ottawa office of MNP as a senior strategic advisor associate on retainer in May 2020. The news was not made official until published in the Ottawa Business Journal and Consulting.ca this week. Wernick’s Wikipedia entry was also updated with the news yesterday. 

Toronto accounting firm hit by ransomware attack

IT World Canada reported this week that a Toronto area accounting firm was hit by a ransomware attack. Canadian Accountant was also informed of the news but was unable to corroborate the report. The attack was carried out by the REvil/Sodinokibi ransomware threat group; the group has now posted file shots of stolen data, including a list of the accounting firm's clients, on its “Happy Blog” website. While IT Canada did not name the accounting firm, “because it hasn’t confirmed the breach of security controls,” several other IT and cybersecurity websites posted screenshots of the ransom auction.

"This is obviously extremely concerning as the information could be used to commit a myriad of crimes — identity theft, spear phishing, BEC scams, etc.," stated Brett Callow, a threat analyst with Emsisoft. "Incidents such as this are, for the most part, avoidable — or, at least, the scope of attacks can be limited." Callow's advice for firms includes: using multi-factor authentication everywhere it can be used, including on internal admin accounts; limit admin rights; disable remote desktop protocol (RDP) if not needed and lock it down if it is; secure other remote access solutions; patch in a timely manner; disable PowerShell when not needed; assume that perimeters will be breached and ensure the tools and processes are in place to monitor for indications of compromise; and conduct security awareness training on an ongoing basis.

Canadian Accountant has already written and posted several articles on cybersecurity risks to the accounting profession during the current pandemic. We recommend that all sole practitioners and accounting firms are aware of the risks: 

AICPA, CPA Canada partner on AI audit white papers

The national governing bodies for the Canadian and U.S. accounting professions have teamed up to produce two new white papers on artificial intelligence (AI). The two publications, “A CPA's Introduction to AI: From Algorithms to Deep Learning, What You Need to Know,” and “The Data-Driven Audit: How Automation and AI are Changing the Audit and the Role of the Auditor,” are aimed at audit professionals and others seeking information on how AI will evolve the role of the auditor as well as the audit itself. 

Both papers are available free of charge at cpacanada.ca/aiandautomation

Accounting firms join Canada’s top SME employers for 2020

Congratuations to three small and medium-size accounting firms who were included in Canada’s Top Small and Medium Employers 2020, an editorial competition that recognizes exceptional small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across Canada. The competition is limited to private-sector commercial organizations with less than 500 employees worldwide. Non-profit organizations are not eligible. 

The three accounting firms are:

Fuller Landau LLP, Toronto. Accounting; 125 employees. Recognizes exceptional performance and achievement through a number of initiatives, such as its unique Longevity Awards.

Noseworthy Chapman Chartered Professional Accountants, St. John’s. Accounting; 55 employees. Introduced a unique annual paid leave policy to redefine and bundle paid vacation, sick and personal leave time.

PSB Boisjoli LLP, Mont-Royal, Que. Accounting; 205 employees. Focuses its charitable efforts on environmental initiatives, underprivileged families, mental health and youth. 

Colin Ellis is a contributing editor to Canadian Accountant.

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