Here's Everything Your Nonprofit Needs To Know About Cybersecurity

By Margaret Concannon | June 13, 2023
Margaret is the Content Marketing Manager at Ntiva, and has been a marketer for managed services providers since 2013.

In today's world, cybersecurity is like a superhero - it's needed more than ever.

To keep the analogy going...cyberattacks are like supervillains, targeting organizations of all shapes and sizes, from small businesses to multinational corporations.

Unfortunately, despite their do-gooder status, nonprofits are not exempt from cybercriminals' crosshairs. It's crucial to protect your digital assets from these malicious attacks, and that includes nonprofit organizations.

In fact, they often handle sensitive data and support valuable causes, making them prime targets.

Nonprofit cyber stat

According to a recent Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) study, an alarming 71% of nonprofit organizations reported experiencing at least one cybersecurity incident in the past year alone.

This statistic is a stark reminder of the critical need for robust cybersecurity protection within the nonprofit sector.

In this article, we will delve into why cybersecurity is crucial for nonprofit organizations and explore the steps they can take to safeguard their digital assets.

By understanding nonprofits' unique challenges and adopting proactive security measures, these organizations can continue making a positive impact while protecting themselves from malicious cyber threats.


Why is Cybersecurity Critical to Non-Profit Organizations?

Nonprofit organizations collect a lot of personal and financial data from their donors, volunteers, and employees. They use this information for operations, fundraising, and marketing purposes.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits don’t take adequate cybersecurity measures to protect this sensitive information. This makes them easy targets for cybercriminals.

According to a recent report by Net Diligence Cyber Claims, nonprofits are one of the top five industries that are most targeted for cyberattacks.

Case Study reading

Here are a few reasons why...

First, nonprofits tend to have less staff and financial resources for effective cybersecurity than corporations.

Not only that, they are also more likely to operate on legacy systems that hackers can exploit.

This makes them vulnerable to attacks that can encrypt data or bring down their system for ransom payments.

Additionally, since more and more people are giving online donations and paying for services via digital channels, nonprofits must ensure that their payment processes are secure to avoid being exposed to hacking attempts.

Cybercriminals may be looking for a way to monetize this information or they might simply want to steal information for their own gain.

Most nonprofits depend on a large number of volunteers to conduct their operations. While the vast majority of volunteers are well-intentioned and security-aware, some may not be. They can also be a liability for the organization, as they do not go through the same background checks and training as paid staff members.

Despite the fact that most nonprofits are cash-strapped and are eager to do everything they can to fulfill their missions, this can leave them open to cybersecurity threats.

When a cyberattack happens, it can be extremely damaging to the organization. It can erode trust and lead to loss of support. It can also strain internal resources, which can cause a negative impact on the organization’s service delivery.


Cyber Threats To Nonprofits

Nonprofits do some of the most important work in the world – from helping families through tough times to funding children’s education. However, they also have a lot of sensitive data, making them a target for hackers and cybercriminals.

The good news is that nonprofit organizations and foundations have access to cybersecurity services that can help them protect their networks and information!

In fact, many of these organizations can recover from a cyberattack by having the right preventive measures (see below!) and ensuring they have the proper coverage through insurance.

Some of the most common threats to nonprofits include third-party vendor data breaches, email phishing schemes, and ransomware attacks. These types of attacks can result in the theft of usernames, passwords and personal financial information from employees.

In addition, a third-party data breach can devastate nonprofits that do not regularly back up their information or use a cloud storage service to keep their information safe.

Another common threat to nonprofits is unprotected USB drives. While this may seem like a trivial risk, it can be an effective way for hackers to gain unauthorized access to confidential and sensitive information.

Nonprofits can minimize this risk by only using secure USB ports, not leaving USBs in public areas, and ensuring that staff members regularly change their passwords and update their antivirus software.

Lastly, unprotected laptops can also be a big security risk for nonprofits. Hackers can easily access confidential and sensitive information on a computer by simply plugging it into a public WiFi network.

Nonprofits can minimize the risk of these devices being compromised by requiring staff to keep their laptops protected with strong passwords and by using a VPN when working remotely.


Get Prepared For An Attack With Our Cybersecurity Best Practices Checklist!

Cybersecurity Best Practices

It's clear that investing in cybersecurity is essential for nonprofits to stay secure and be able to continue their valuable work. 

Putting these best practices into place can help protect your organization's assets, safeguard donor information, and maintain the trust of your stakeholders.

Let's dive in and make sure you have all the essential measures in place to defend your organization's valuable assets:

Develop a cybersecurity policy:

Create a comprehensive policy that outlines the organization's approach to cybersecurity. This policy should cover data protection, password management, employee responsibilities, incident response, and remote work/BYOD guidelines.

Download the Guide To Remote Work Security here.

Educate and train staff:

Provide cybersecurity awareness training to all employees and volunteers. Teach them about common threats, such as phishing and social engineering, and how to recognize and report suspicious activities. Regularly reinforce the importance of following security protocols.

Use strong and unique passwords:

Encourage using strong, complex passwords and implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. Discourage password reuse across multiple accounts. Consider using a password manager to securely store passwords.

Keep software and systems up to date:

Regularly update operating systems, applications, and software to protect against known vulnerabilities. Enable automatic updates whenever possible, or establish a patch management process to ensure timely updates.

Secure devices and networks: 

Implement robust security measures for devices (e.g., computers, laptops, mobile devices) and networks (e.g., firewalls, intrusion detection systems). Use encryption for sensitive data both at rest and in transit.

Backup data regularly:

Regularly backup critical data to a secure off-site location. Test data restoration procedures periodically to ensure backups are reliable. This helps mitigate the impact of data loss due to cyber incidents or hardware failures.

Implement strong email security measures:

Use email filtering and spam protection to block malicious emails. Train staff to identify phishing emails and avoid clicking on suspicious links or opening attachments from unknown sources.

Establish an incident response plan:

Develop a clear and documented incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken during a cybersecurity incident. Assign roles and responsibilities, establish communication channels, and define escalation procedures.

Regularly assess and audit security:

Conduct periodic cybersecurity assessments and audits to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Perform penetration testing and vulnerability scanning to uncover potential flaws in the organization's systems.

Partner with a reputable cybersecurity provider:

Consider engaging a cybersecurity provider with expertise in the nonprofit sector. They can help assess the organization's security posture, provide recommendations, and assist with incident response if necessary.

Remember that cybersecurity is an ongoing effort. Stay informed about the latest threats and best practices, and regularly review and update your security measures to adapt to evolving risks.


Understanding Your Organization's Risk

A strong culture of cybersecurity is essential for any nonprofit, and it should include executives, board members, staff and volunteers.

Everyone should understand how important their actions are in keeping the organization safe, and they should be encouraged to report any potential vulnerabilities or risks to their supervisors.

If a nonprofit doesn’t have the resources to employ full-time cybersecurity personnel, they should consider partnering with a managed service provider like Ntiva that can help them assess their current risks and weaknesses and offer recommendations for improvements.

We have a dedicated team of experts who can help your nonprofit organization get the most out of your IT investments — ensuring your technology syncs with your workflow and provides the protection and ease you need to serve your mission. 

Book a consultation today!

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Tags: Cybersecurity