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Recent data indicates that hacking attempts have now increased to one happening every 39 seconds. That’s an average of 2244 hacking attempts happening every single day. Unfortunately enough, hackers don’t really make a distinction between for-profit and nonprofit organizations. They are after your data and you have got plenty of it. Both cyber crimes and especially ransomware attacks have been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic. We have seen a lot of high-profile cybersecurity attacks and compliance breaches this past year using ever-evolving techniques and causing more widespread damage than ever.

In such a scenario, not paying attention to your organization’s security posture can be fatal. However, in the case of non-profits, cyber security remains a huge potential liability as recent data indicates that only 26% of nonprofits use round the clock surveillance and monitoring of the network environments. 56% still don’t use multifactor authentication and most worryingly, 59% are yet to provide any cyber security training to their staff members on a regular basis. When it comes to being prepared for security incidents, nearly 70% of non-profits have never done a full vulnerability assessment to understand their risk exposure and only 20% have an incident response policy in place.

Keep in mind that this kind of vulnerability exists despite the fact that nonprofits are required to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS or PCI) framework in order to accept online payment methods. Non-compliance with PCI can attract serious penalties as credit card data must be processed and stored responsibly. This compliance regulation ensures that any company accepting payments via credit card must ensure that data is being processed and stored in a responsible way. But quite apart from the threat of penalties, it should be part of the ethical philosophy of non-profits to deal with the data of their donors, staff, and volunteers in the most secure way possible. This requires non-profits to adopt a data-first approach to all of their cybersecurity policies in order to safeguard their data. Nonprofit IT Services Vermont is a great resource to get started with improving your security posture.

Reasons Why are Nonprofit Organizations Remain a Top Target

Multiple (Volunteer) Access

Due to the very nature of the operations of any non-profit organization, the management is typically lax in providing network access to non-employees. Unfortunately, this tends to create a ripple effect of potential vulnerabilities throughout the organization’s network.

Lack of Basic Security Measures

cybersecurity for nonprofitsNonprofit organization typically has to make do with a lot less when it comes to achieving their objectives. This typically translates to security posture taking a backseat in favor of more pressing needs. But ignoring basic security measures can put your organization at unnecessary risk for cyber attacks that can cripple your entire operations for good.

Nonprofits have Limited Resources

Having a good security posture typically requires significant investment. Most non-profits operate on limited resources where the pressing need of core agendas and programs nearly always triumph over the seemingly long-term needs of security.

Outdated Technology

Limited budgets also result in nonprofits often working with outdated technology that are often rife with vulnerabilities and lack critical security features.

Ignorance or Lack of Awareness

Security is not the first thing on their mind when it comes to nonprofit organizations. Unfortunately, it’s often not even the last thing. Due to the lack of funds and resources, many organizations don’t even consider themselves a potential target for hackers. Others don’t realize how far reaching the impact of a breach can be and neglect to take steps in time.

Inadequate Storage Systems for Donor Data

Despite the massive amount of data collection that nonprofits typically do (including financial data), most are yet to even start using CRMs for responsible storage and processing of donor data.

Powerful Ways to Prevent Cybersecurity Attacks on Nonprofits

Here are the best practices of cyberSecurity for Nonprofits that can improve a charity’s security posture. The nonprofit industry should adopt such tactics to protect donor data.

Limit access to sensitive data

The longer the link of people that can access your information and donor data – the more vulnerable you are. The best way to defend your data is to manage permissions and monitor access closely. Permissions should only be given on a need to know basis. Moreover you should make it a part of the organizational culture to use good password hygiene, store passwords securely, and try to use multi-factor authentication.

Upgrade your hardware & software

The word ‘upgrade’ immediately brings to mind significant investments. However, with a little bit of creativity and knowledge, you can always find free/ open source software and hardware that is still more secure than the current setup you are using. Keep in mind that your aim is to lower your risk profile while still maintaining enough functionality and flexibility for your day to day operations. You could also choose to opt for the services of a managed service provider who typically offer industry-leading hardware and software at flexible and predictable rates.

Reduce the information a threat actor could steal

Having a data retention policy is not just an added burden when it comes to responsible data management. Purging emails and files periodically can help you avoid a lot of grief in case of a successful breach. While the impact of any breach will be negative, at least he will stop the hackers from gaining access to decades of stored donor data. Reducing the extent of data you store can make your storage more cost efficient, easily manageable and most importantly, lower your risk profile.

Restrict Private Devices

While you may implement BYOD in device management out of sheer need to optimize costs, remember to ask employees to only access sensitive data when they are using officially recognized devices or are logged into the company’s network. Encourage or implement encryption of private devices if employees are using the network remotely.

Strengthen Authentication

Maintaining good password security is one of the basic steps of strengthening authentication. This includes using complex password formats, not repeating passwords and changing them on a regular basis. Using a password management system can you be a way to automate this. Try to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for added protection to authenticate users.

Data backup

Having your data security backed up and available in the case of an attack can truly be a lifeline for many organizations. At the very least, you should back up your data on the system that’s not always connected to your official network. It would be even better to store it in a server offsite. Secure data storage is often subject to strict regulations and you should check relevant laws and compliance frameworks to safely store your data.

Data backup

Having your data security backed up and available in the case of an attack can truly be a lifeline for many organizations. At the very least, you should back up your data on the system that’s not always connected to your official network. It would be even better to store it in a server offsite. Secure data storage is often subject to strict regulations and you should check relevant laws and compliance frameworks to safely store your data.

Risk Assessment

Effective risk assessment helps you understand and address your vulnerabilities on a priority basis. IT Support Vermont can help you with detailed nonprofit risk assessment.

Have a data security program

A data security program typically involves user awareness, training, processes, and setting up an incident response plan. If you do not possess the requisite knowledge to do this in house, consider reaching out to IT Outsourcing Vermont.

Steve Loyer

Steve Loyer

With over 25 years of sales and service experience in network and network security solutions, Steve has earned technical and sales certificates from Microsoft, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Citrix, Sonicwall, Symantec, McAfee, Barracuda and American Power Conversion. Steve graduated from Vermont Technical College with a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technology.