Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

IRS Training Thousands on Cybersecurity Best Practices with Help from Pell Center Experts

NEWPORT, R.I. – The 2018 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums are currently underway with educational sessions, training, and networking for tax professionals across the country. Hundreds of individual tax preparers attending the Forums are receiving dedicated cybersecurity training thanks to a three-year grant the Pell Center at Salve Regina University received from the American Coalition for Taxpayer Rights (ACTR) to devise and deliver these specific sessions.

Pell Center Senior Fellow Francesca Spidalieri along with cybersecurity and data privacy expert Matt Cullina, CEO of CyberScout, and Linn Freedman, Chair of the Data Privacy + Cybersecurity Team and Partner at Robinson+Cole, carefully developed the dedicated material to help sensitize tax preparation professionals to the most common cyber threats and vulnerabilities in the tax industry. The goal is to raise awareness about best practices and cyber hygiene, and provide resources that tax preparers and small businesses can use to protect themselves and their clients’ sensitive information.

In recent years, individual tax preparation professionals and smaller businesses with tax information have become a more attractive target of data breaches, cyber intrusions, and various takeovers as state tax agencies and larger tax preparation businesses have continued to strengthen their own cybersecurity posture and make it harder for cyber criminals to infiltrate their networks. Indeed, cyber criminals are changing their tactics and targeting individual tax preparation professionals and smaller businesses, often considered the “low-hanging fruit.”

In July 2017, the IRS launched a campaign directed at tax professionals to increase awareness about cyber threats, and provided guidance and resources to prevent phishing scams and develop information security plans. However, recent surveys have shown that less than 30 percent of respondents had a written plan in place or required any mandatory training, demonstrating there is still low awareness and compliance of security requirements in the tax professional community.

“Participants are coming away with a better understanding of how even basic cyber hygiene and effective cyber risk management can protect their businesses from data breaches, fraud, phishing scams, ransomware attacks, and third-party vendor threats,” said Pell Center Senior Fellow Francesca Spidalieri. “The dedicated training sessions we developed are focused on preventing and mitigating cyber threats through risk management, employee awareness and training, security best practices, incident response and business continuity planning, crisis management, fiduciary duty, and legal compliance. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help small proprietors in the tax preparation industry meet this growing challenge and, ultimately, improve the cybersecurity posture of the tax preparation industry as a whole.”

“Cyber criminals are relentless when it comes to targeting taxpayer information,” said Matt Cullina, CEO of CyberScout, an identity and data security provider. “Tax preparers can protect their valuable business and client information from attack with the best practices and access to resources we outline in these sessions.”

To find the next Tax Forum Sessions please visit for more information.


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