cyber security for charities

      Mitigating Risk: Guide To Cyber Security For Charities

      Robust cyber security is necessity for all organisations. However Cyber security for charities poses a unique set of challenges: limited financial resources, a typical lack of in-house cyber security expertise, and their attractiveness as a target all increase the risk factor.

      In this guide, we explain the basics of cyber security for charities and explore the methods available for safeguarding against ever-evolving threats.

      Understanding The Remit Of Cyber Security

      Cyber security, in its simplest form, refers to the protection of computer systems and networks from theft, damage or unauthorised access. It encompasses a range of measures designed to secure IT hardware, software, electronic data, and other components of your network, ensuring seamless service delivery without disruptions or misdirection.

      Cyber security for charities is typically focused on preventing malicious attacks that seek to:

      • Gain unauthorised access to computer systems.
      • Infect systems with viruses or malware for data theft or extortion.
      • Deceive users into divulging sensitive information.
      • Overload computer systems or divert data traffic, often with ransom as the end goal.

      Why Charities Need Cyber Security Solutions?

      Charities depend heavily on potentially vulnerable devices for their daily operations, fundraising efforts, and service delivery. Any disruption to the functioning of these devices poses a significant threat to their core mission. Cybercrime is a growing threat, and statistics from the Charity Digital and National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) report, “The State of Cyber security in the UK Charity Sector” and the NCSC “Cyber threat report: UK charity sector” highlight this:

      • 66% of organisations report that a cyber attack would affect their operations.
      • Only 61% have a plan in place in the event of a cyber attack.
      • 78% of trustees are unaware of a cyber strategy within their organisation.
      • Only 5% of charities use comprehensive cyber security software.
      • 64% of charities report their staff regularly using their own devices, vs 45% of businesses
      • 22% of charities have cyber security insurance as part of a wider insurance policy; 5% have a specific cyber security insurance policy. The lower the charity’s income, the less likely they are to have cyber security insurance.

      These statistics reveal that while charities are aware of the cyber threat, many don’t take it as seriously as they should. The consequences of a cyber attack can be devastating, below we explain three common consequences you may run into after a cyber breach:

      Reputational Damage

      Charities rely on trust, and a cyber attack that compromises the data of service users, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders can be immensely harmful to their reputation. The loss of trust can lead to reduced donations, scepticism from service users, a decline in volunteers, and a general reluctance to engage with the charity. Robust cyber security for charities is essential to ensure that all stakeholders and users feel safe working with the organisation, knowing that their data is secure.

      Financial Loss

      Cyber attacks can demand significant financial costs. In 2023, the average cost of a data breach has been approximately £3.8 million, according to IBM’s “Cost of a Data Breach\” report. These costs can manifest in various ways, including theft of financial information, disruption to daily operations, loss of funds and donations, and ransom demands. Small charities are particularly vulnerable, as the financial impact can be existential.

      Legal Consequences

      Data protection and privacy laws mandate organisations to secure personal data. Failure to employ effective cyber security measures in the event of a data breach can result in fines or sanctions, depending on the jurisdiction. This compounds the financial and operational impact of a cyber breach, making it imperative to prioritise cyber security for charities.

      cyber security for charities

      How to Prevent Cyber Attacks

      Whilst cyber security for charities does encompass reactive measures for when issues have already taken place proactive measures are arguably more important. Taking preventative measures is crucial, as it significantly reduces the likelihood of experiencing a detrimental attack that fully halts operations. Here are some steps charities can take to prevent cyber attacks:

      Use Endpoint Security Software

      Protect all computers with endpoint security software, such as Microsoft Defender For Business. This program provides anti-virus and anti-ransomware capabilities, scanning for and blocking malicious files and dangerous websites.

      Turn on Firewalls

      Ensure that firewalls are enabled on all devices. Firewalls such as Sophos XG block unauthorised access to your computer systems and network, helping to prevent cyber attacks. Regularly check to ensure firewalls remain active.

      Employ Password Managers

      Secure passwords are a critical barrier against cyber attacks. Use password manager programs to generate and store complex passwords securely. Password managers automate password entry while requiring users to remember only one master password.

      Opt For Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

      Implement multi-factor authentication solutions such as InTune or Duo to enhance security. These methods add an extra layer of protection, even if a hacker obtains your password, by requiring additional verification steps.

      Keep Software Up to Date

      Cyber security breaches often exploit software vulnerabilities. Regularly update all software and applications to the latest versions, as old versions are more vulnerable to breaches and may not be supported by the provider.

      Stay Alert to Phishing

      Phishing emails account for a significant portion of cyber breaches. Train your staff and volunteers with phishing attack simulations to help them recognise phishing emails and refrain from clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments.

      Adopting Cyber Security For Charities

      Taking cyber security seriously is not an option but a necessity for all organisations. The threats are real, and the consequences of a cyber attack can be devastating. By implementing strong cyber security measures and being prepared to respond effectively to an attack by working with a dedicated partner, charities can protect their operations, reputation, and the data of their donors and beneficiaries.

      Akita is a professional cyber security partner for charities across the South East. Find out more about our services:

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