Nonprofit organizations are normally engaged in noble work to help their communities and others, however, this does not give them any special protection from the dangers of cyberattack. Unfortunately, because of certain characteristics and behaviors of nonprofits, they can be more at risk to data breaches and malware than a typical small business.
In this blog post, we will look at five reasons your nonprofit organization may be vulnerable to a cyberattack, and we will discuss some actions that your organization can take to help reduce the risk.
A smaller cybersecurity and IT budget
One of the key ways for an organization to protect against cyberattacks is to invest in updated software and hardware and the latest antivirus tools, as well as in training methods and resources for their staff. In comparison to private corporations, small nonprofit organizations usually do not have as high a percentage of their budget to invest in these areas. For example, nonprofits generally focus a larger percentage of their operating budgets on marketing and communications to reach prospective donors and current members, which leaves less of the budget to devote to their IT needs.
As a result of having less resources to spend on cybersecurity, nonprofit organizations have increasingly become a more tempting target for cybercriminals. Statistics bear this out, as many hackers will logically follow the path of least resistance and try to exploit targets with weaker cyber defenses.
Solicitation of online donations
One of the main activities of many nonprofit organizations is soliciting donations to continue their mission and broaden their impact. As a result, nonprofits are constantly striving to make donations as easy as possible for prospective donors. To facilitate a smooth donation process, nonprofit organizations usually have a variety of online portals open to donors, who are operating a variety of smart devices. Simply put, the more network connections that are open to the public, the greater the chances of damaging data breaches.
Frequent use of E-newsletters and Emails
Another main activity of most nonprofit organizations is communicating with their current members and prospective donors and members. With the frequent use of emails and the regular distribution of e-newsletters, your nonprofit will be exposed to a large amount of legitimate and unscrupulous email communications. Cybercriminals are constantly developing new phishing techniques and other email scams targeted at your nonprofit’s employees and volunteers, and they must be prepared to face this threat.
Use of volunteers
Another area where nonprofits differ from small businesses is their frequent use of volunteer staff to contact potential donors and serve current members. This can be especially threatening for your small nonprofit when your volunteer staff has access to your organization’s network, but they are not well-trained in proper cybersecurity email and internet protocol.
Staff not practicing good Cyber Hygiene
Another negative feature often related to a lack of resources devoted to IT and training is having too many full and part time staff members that are not trained and drilled in practicing good cyber hygiene. As we have discussed many times on this blog, the weak point of any organization’s cyber defense is always its employees. This weak point only becomes more exposed when employees are not well-trained in effective email and internet behavior to help prevent cyberattacks.
How your Nonprofit can Overcome these Challenges and Protect Itself against Cyberattack
Despite these significant challenges, there are some concrete ways your nonprofit organization can enhance its cyber defenses. In addition to standard cybersecurity best practices such as limiting the number of employees with access to sensitive data, using password protocols, and eliminating outdated and duplicative applications, your nonprofit can follow the methods described below to best protect itself from a cyberattack.
Take advantage of free resources available
The first step of your organization should be to take the time to access free resources that will help you assess your current cybersecurity vulnerabilities and assist you in planning how to improve your cyber defenses. For example, the National Council of Nonprofits website has a comprehensive list of public and private resources to support your cybersecurity efforts. They provide links to helpful federal government websites as well as useful tools from private companies including templates and checklists that will help you in this important process.
Target investment toward better IT assets and cybersecurity training
Although it is understandable that every budget dollar is crucial for your small nonprofit organization, the importance of investing resources to obtain and maintain high performing IT assets cannot be understated. This is also true for the attention to staff training in proper email and internet behavior. Even though the cost of achieving these objectives may be relatively high, the cost of a data breach to your operations and to your organization’s reputation would be significantly higher.
Train volunteers like your staff
For those volunteers that have access to sensitive internal or external information, your organization must train them as carefully as your own staff regarding proper email and internet behavior and the handling of sensitive information. Even though volunteers may not be as personally impacted by the results of a data breach, your organization must impress upon them the devastating potential consequences such an event would have on your organization’s mission.
Get Help from an Experienced IT Support Partner
The last and probably most important recommendation we can make regarding how to best protect your nonprofit from cyberattack, is to get assistance from a reliable IT Support partner like Network Depot. Your trusted IT partner will have years of experience working with nonprofits and will have the expertise to assess your current vulnerabilities. After completing an assessment, they will work closely with your organization to obtain, implement, and execute the most effective IT software applications and hardware that will optimize your cyber defenses. Your IT Support partner will also be able to provide guidance on how to keep your staff and volunteers trained in the most effective internet and email behaviors.
By following these recommendations and working closely with a reliable IT Support partner, your nonprofit organization will be able to maintain the highest level of cybersecurity while keeping your focus on achieving your worthwhile objectives.