Payroll Security: Best-Practices For Protecting Your Data

Ensuring payroll security is more important than ever before. Data breaches are increasingly common, so you must protect your employees’ sensitive financial information, like salaries and tax details. Protecting your payroll directly affects the trust and morale of your employees, and maintaining a positive business reputation is closely linked to payroll security in 2024. 

Protecting payroll is crucial for keeping business operations running smoothly, avoiding disruptions, and preventing insider threats. Upholding privacy standards shows commitment to respecting employees’ privacy rights, while proactive security measures help avoid expensive investigations and legal actions after a security breach.

We’ve outlined the best practices for payroll security in 2024, as well as the most common payroll threats to be aware of. Read on to find out why safeguarding your payroll is crucial for the success of any business.

Author: Simon Bradbury, Global Payroll Consultant and CEO
Last updated on: 04/04/2024

Why payroll security matters 

Prioritising payroll security measures is essential to safeguard your employee information, ensuring data integrity and preventing identity theft. 

A secure payroll system acts as a protective barrier against fraud and unauthorised access, protecting your business’s reputation and financial stability. Making payroll security a priority is not only crucial for legal compliance but also important in creating a risk-free work environment for your employees.

Most common payroll security threats in 2024

Phishing attacks

Deceptive emails or messages aiming to trick employees into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords. 

In a payroll phishing attack, an employee might receive an email appearing to be from their company’s HR department or payroll provider. The email could mimic the organisation’s branding and contain urgent language, claiming there’s a critical issue with the employee’s payroll or tax information.


Malicious software that encrypts files, demanding a ransom for their release, which can impact payroll systems.

Ransomware locks the payroll database, making it impossible for authorised users to access. This includes confidential employee details, salary information, and other payroll data.

Data leakage

Data leakage is the disclosure of sensitive payroll information, either on purpose or accidentally. 

This can include the unintentional sharing of confidential data through actions such as sharing information without authorisation, mishandling sensitive documents or unintentional data breaches. 

Not updating your payroll software

If you don’t regularly update your payroll software, you are at risk of unauthorised access, data breaches, and changes to its functionality. You must update your software regularly to reduce the risk of these issues, and to enhance your overall system security. 

Outdated security measures

Using outdated security measures exposes your payroll system to potential risks. Without up-to-date safeguards, you’re placing your business at risk of unauthorised access, data breaches, and changes to system functionality.


Failure to comply with payroll security regulations poses a significant threat. Non-compliance can lead to legal consequences and reputational damage. 

Following data protection regulations and staying informed about the latest security requirements is crucial for maintaining a secure and compliant payroll system. 

Here are three non-compliance issues that risks your payroll security: 

  • Lack of encryption
  • Delayed software updates
  • Not following payroll regulatory guidelines 

Best-practices for payroll security

We’ve rounded up the best-practices that will keep your local or global payroll secure, compliant, and error-free. 

Data encryption 

Make sure you protect sensitive payroll data to protect it from unauthorised access, especially when transferred over networks. You should apply end-to-end encryption throughout its entire lifecycle, from storing to payroll testing

Regular payroll security audits

Don’t underestimate the importance of regular payroll audits. These should identify and access any payroll fraud risks, and help to promptly address any issues. Regular audits ensure that your data remains compliant, too. 

Employee training 

One of the best ways to protect your payroll against fraud is by training your employees on cyber security awareness. They should all be able to recognise phishing attempts, use secure passwords and follow security protocols. 

Multi-Factor Authentication 

Implement multi-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security, requiring users to verify their identity before accessing payroll systems.

Up-to-date payroll software

Keep payroll software and systems compliant by regularly updating them. Ensure they meet all required industry standards and your data is protected. It’s also important to offer your team regular training for your payroll software, so they can quickly identify any errors. 

We’ve rounded up the best and largest payroll software providers for 2024. 

Limit access

Your employees should only have access to payroll data if it’s needed for their everyday tasks. Review the access list regularly and remind your team to update their passwords and authentication. 

Regular monitoring 

You may find it useful to implement real-time monitoring of payroll systems to detect unusual activities or unauthorised access. Monitoring helps identify potential security incidents and enables a quick response.

Backup and recovery 

Regularly back up payroll data and ensure that backup systems are secure. Establish a robust data recovery plan to minimise downtime in case of a security incident.

A payroll data recovery plan is crucial for ensuring business continuity in the event of unexpected incidents or data loss. This should include:

Data Backup Procedures:

Specify how and where your payroll data will be regularly backed up. Establish a schedule for automated backups to ensure the most up-to-date information is available for recovery.

Encryption Protocols:

Implement encryption measures for both stored and transferred backup data to enhance security and protect sensitive information from unauthorised access.

Responsibilities and Roles:

Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of individuals involved in the data recovery process. This includes designating who is responsible for initiating the recovery, testing backups, and communicating with relevant stakeholders.

Frequently asked questions about payroll security 

What is payroll security?

Payroll security involves protecting payroll data from unauthorised access and fraud while ensuring compliance with regulations. 

It includes implementing measures such as robust authentication, encryption, and regular monitoring to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of payroll information.

Why is payroll high-risk?

Payroll is high-risk due to the significant financial transactions involved, making it an attractive target for fraudulent activities. Its complexity and the sensitive nature of payroll data increase the potential for errors and security breaches.

What security measures might be appropriate when processing payroll?

When processing payroll, it is crucial to implement security measures such as strong authentication and encryption to protect sensitive financial data. Regular monitoring for unusual activities and restricting access will improve your security. 

Read Our HR & Payroll Guides Here:

Payroll RFP Guide 2024

IR35 Guide To Off-Payroll Working Rules

How Much Does It Cost To Outsource Your Payroll? 

Find out more about how we can help you by calling Global HRIS today on +44 161 317 2903 or get in touch through our website.
Contact Us