Why Nonprofits Might Be at Higher Risk for Cyberattacks?

nonprofit team

Did you know that hackers can penetrate 93% of all organizational networks? That includes nonprofit organizations, which are increasingly under attack from cyber threats like ransomware and data breaches.

Nonprofits handle sensitive data — and a single breach could take the entire shoestring operation offline. Learn what a cyberattack means for nonprofits, why nonprofits are a common target, and how your nonprofit can address cyber threats.

The consequences of nonprofit cyberattacks

Cyberattacks are a huge strain on any organization’s internal resources. They bring for-profit corporations to their knees, so a cyberattack can be devastating to a scrappy nonprofit. In fact, the average cost of a single data breach is $4.62 million, which is a sum that can cost nonprofits big time. 

If your nonprofit suffers a cyberattack, you’ll experience consequences such as: 

  • Data loss: Hackers will steal sensitive personal information not only from the people you serve, but also from your employees and donors. This can cause tremendous harm to personal safety and destroy your nonprofit’s hard-earned reputation.
  • Disruption: Ransomware was 57 times more destructive in 2021 than it was in 2015. These threats are becoming more advanced, which means they have the capacity to stop your organization from doing the important work you were called to do.
  • Regulatory action: Your nonprofit could be on the wrong side of the law if you experience a data breach. If you’re supposed to follow data protection requirements, you could face penalties and fines as a result of a cyberattack.

It’s easy for nonprofits to assume they’re covered until the unthinkable happens. That’s why it’s better to strengthen your security right now. You can’t prevent every attack, but you can limit the severity of these attacks by taking nonprofit cybersecurity seriously.

Why are nonprofits at a higher risk for cyberattacks? 

Cyberattacks are a growing threat to all organizations, but nonprofits are at a higher risk. It might seem cruel, but hackers specifically target nonprofits because they often have:

  • Limited resources: Nonprofits don’t always have the resources to assess their risk levels or proactively invest in IT. Nonprofits sometimes assume they don’t have the financial resources to invest in IT, so they might consider security as a low-level priority — when in reality, it needs to be the top priority. 
  • Low staffing: Huge enterprises can afford to hire robust IT departments, but many nonprofits operate with a skeleton crew. Twenty-six percent of nonprofits have open job listings for up to 29% of their jobs, which means staffing is a big challenge. This means they often don’t have internal IT resources to assess their risk level, which makes nonprofits a prime target for hackers.
  • Minimal security awareness: Just 26% of nonprofits actively monitor their network security. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a tempting philosophy, but minimal security awareness opens an organization up to attacks. By not understanding the risks of minimal security, nonprofits further open themselves up to cyberattacks.

How should nonprofits address cybersecurity? 

It’s easy to overlook cybersecurity if it isn’t your strong suit, but cybersecurity has to be a priority for nonprofits. When your mission and livelihood are at stake, security is no laughing matter. With cyberattacks increasing, nonprofits can protect themselves with these three approaches:

Train staff 

Did you know that 59% of nonprofits don’t provide any regular cybersecurity training? Since human error is the most common cause of data breaches, it’s critical that all nonprofit staff understand the basics of cybersecurity. 

Train both new employees and tenured employees on a regular basis. They should know cybersecurity basics like: 

  • Creating strong passwords
  • Locking their devices when they clock out
  • Spotting and reporting phishing attempts

Conduct risk assessments

What’s your current risk level? Without an assessment, it’s tough to understand where your nonprofit’s defenses need the most protection. Since 70% of nonprofits have never run a vulnerability assessment, it’s no surprise that they’re the frequent target of cyberattacks. 

A professional risk assessment is useful because it identifies weak spots or blind spots in your security infrastructure. For example, if you realize that any device can connect to your network, that could open you up to an IoT-driven attack.

It’s a good idea to follow a professional framework for your nonprofit cybersecurity assessment, too. Follow a professional cybersecurity framework to make sure your nonprofit is protected at every turn.

Mitigate risks

You can’t prevent every cyber threat, but you can mitigate your risk. Follow these tips to make sure your nonprofit cybersecurity isn’t falling short:

  • Secure data: Are you protecting your data? Personally identifiable information (PII) comes with additional protection rules, so make sure you’re following the law according to the data you’re storing. Compliance organizations will often tell you the best ways to secure your data, too. 
  • Check third-party security: If you hired a third-party vendor and they have access to your data or systems, that’s a security risk. Make sure your vendors practice cybersecurity best practices to minimize your threat exposure. If you’re required to follow HIPAA, you can implement Business Associate Agreements to hold vendors accountable for security.
  • Create cybersecurity policies: Just 20% of nonprofits have policies in place to address cyberattacks. Create internal documents that tell your team not only the best practices for protecting the nonprofit, but what to do in the event of a breach. When seconds count, you’ll be glad to have a readymade playbook on hand.

How can Dice help? 

The thought of a nonprofit security breach is alarming, but you have so many resources at your disposal to make sure your organization is protected. 

Dice Communications has worked with nonprofits of all sizes, customizing a cybersecurity approach that best fits each nonprofit’s needs and budget. We frequently help nonprofits with: 

  • IT consulting, where our friendly staff jumps in to answer your questions. 
  • IT assessments to benchmark your security, so we can see exactly where your infrastructure needs more support. 
  • On-site IT support — without the cost of hiring full-time staff.
  • Disaster recovery planning.

Cyber threats are always lurking, but your nonprofit won’t be an easy target with the right IT setup. See how Dice can help your nonprofit maximize security.

Because they’re easier to execute today. Cyberattacks have increased because more organizations are embracing technology without proper protections.

Nonprofits are the most affected by ransomware. Hackers frequently go after nonprofits’ personally identifiable information (PII), credit card numbers, and employee data.

Yes. Hackers target nonprofits specifically due to their often lax security structures and limited resources to prevent attacks.

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