What Cybersecurity Threats Should Non-Profit Organizations Be Aware Of?

If you lose access to your data, you’re not only leaving your employees and donors at risk for identity theft and/or fraud, but you’re also left at a standstill - unable to operate efficiently until you regain access.

Here Are Cybersecurity Threats All Non-Profit Organizations Be Aware Of

The Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact reported that online giving increased more than 17% between 2016 and 2018 alone. In the non-profit realm, charitable donations are being conducted online more than ever before. If you don’t have the appropriate cybersecurity solutions in place to protect your network, any sort of financial transaction taking place over the internet can leave you at a major risk. Even if you’re not taking financial transactions over the internet, you’re likely still storing a ton of confidential information:

  • Employee records
  • Financial information
  • Donor records
  • Proprietary information

All of your data plays a critical role in your non-profit organization’s success. For instance, accounting information is crucial for budgeting and making informed decisions. Donor information is crucial to determining the effectiveness of any given fundraising campaign or the organization in general. If you lose access to your data, you’re not only leaving your employees and donors at risk for identity theft and/or fraud, but you’re also left at a standstill – unable to operate efficiently until you regain access.

What Types of Threats Can Impact the Integrity, Confidentiality, and Accessibility of Data?

Data is undeniably one of your most valuable assets. When you’re collecting and analyzing data properly, you’re able to better understand campaign performance and donor lifecycles, and most importantly, you’re able to make informed decisions to better achieve your mission. But there are a range of threats that can impact the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of your data, including but not limited to:

  • Phishing attacks wherein cybercriminals use emails to convince employees to send login information, then use this access to gather information regarding financial transactions, and eventually, redirect funds to their own bank account.
  • Ransomware wherein cybercriminals use a variety of methods, such as emails, phony links or malicious websites to gain access to your system, lock down your data via encryption, and demand a ransom fee in exchange for the decryption key.
  • Employee mistakes wherein someone loses a laptop or mobile device that contains sensitive information or sends an email containing sensitive information, and as a result, data falls into the wrong hands.

How Common Are Data Breaches in the Non-Profit Industry?

People Inc. is one of the largest non-profit agencies throughout the state of New York. In February 2019, they discovered a data breach causing the sensitive medical information of current and former clients to be compromised. A staggering 1,000 or so clients were affected in the breach with concerns regarding the following information:

  • Names
  • Financial information
  • Medical data
  • Health insurance information
  • Social security numbers
  • And more

This is only one of many instances wherein non-profit organizations have been breached in the last few years. How did it happen? An email account with a weak password. That’s right… 1,000 or so clients were impacted as a result of a weak password that may have created an opportunity for a brute-force attack. Scary, isn’t it?

What Should Non-Profit Organizations Do to Stay Safe Against Cybercrime?

It all starts with taking the right precautionary measures to minimize the risk of vulnerabilities. Here are a few tips:

  1. Keep your hardware and software up-to-date with the latest patches and bug fixes available to you at all times. Make sure you’re running updated systems that are supported by manufacturers.
  2. Train your employees on best practices in terms of strong passwords that include a mix of letters, numbers, and characters, as well as how to detect and respond to the most common threats.
  3. Review your payment processing system to make sure industry standards are followed, including data encryption and TLS protocols to authenticate transaction parties for optimal protection.
  4. Conduct a thorough risk assessment wherein a third-party can review your environment to look for any sort of weak points or vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals.

BC Networks provides nonprofit IT support wherein we take cybersecurity seriously. We work with non-profit organizations throughout San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area. Call (408) 243-1100 to get started.

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