How to Keep Your Nonprofit's Data Safe
Nonprofits tend to be wary of devoting their limited budget to comprehensive data security. Regardless, taking cybersecurity precautions is essential for a nonprofit's livelihood.
Some hackers may prefer the lucrative nature of hacking large corporations, though others view nonprofits as the perfect victim instead. Nonprofits are more likely to have less rigid security measures in place—something hackers know quite well.
Additionally, many nonprofits have rival causes that may go so far as to hack their competition.
Regardless of whether your nonprofit falls prey to hackers seeking data to monetize or competition wanting a leg up, nonprofits should invest time and resources into preventing cybercriminals from sabotage. Sabotaging of data can lead to a nonprofit's demise.
Several ways to keep your nonprofit's data safe, while keeping in mind the limited budget of nonprofits, include:
Detect Potential Areas of Intrusion
Hackers will need a back door of sorts to sabotage your nonprofit’s information. Similar to how patching up a hole in your house can stop incoming insects, patching up security vulnerabilities can do the same with hackers.
One common area of hacker exploitation is the storage and transfer of personally identifiable information, whether stored locally or in the cloud.
Many businesses have a plethora of information on their employees and customers, including medical information and driver's license information. Hackers can use this information to steal identities. Analyze how and where you store this information immediately.
You can also consider conducting a security audit on your nonprofit's website, which is especially vital if you conduct e-commerce there.
Many nonprofits process event registrations and donations via their website, which, again, can store information hackers can use to their advantage. If someone who donates to your nonprofit finds out their identity is at risk due to the donation, they're likely to lose faith in your organization and stop donating.
Identifying vulnerable storage areas for personally identifiable information, which hackers are very interested in obtaining, is a useful first step for nonprofits to secure themselves.
Consider all the data your nonprofit collects and where you store it, especially whether or not you truly need to retain that much information. An excess of irrelevant information doesn't do anything for a nonprofit beyond opening themselves up to security vulnerabilities.
Rigorously Monitor Third-Party Vendors
Because it's unrealistic for many nonprofits to have a comprehensive IT department to monitor security risks, nonprofits tend to outsource specific security-related duties. An outsourced payroll service, IT consultant or cloud service provider can provide convenience, though nonprofits also need to do their homework when dealing with them.
Ask these third parties the extent of their data security protection and their protocol if they discover a hacking attempt. Planning your engagement with external data experts can help nonprofits clarify whether it's optimal to outsource the security or do it on their own.
Train Your Employees on Cybersecurity
A nonprofit’s employees who are knowledgeable on cybersecurity seems less likely to engage in behavior that results in hacking. Cybersecurity training should range from common-sense best practices—like never opening a link or attachment in your email from an unknown source—to more elaborate protocols regarding data security on your e-commerce platform. Some employees may require more extensive training than others based on their role, with the potential to bring in a data security expert for more advanced training.
Additional, niche-specific training may feel budget-sensitive, though having a staff of security-conscious employees can save ample money in the long run, compared to a hack occurring due to lack of knowledge and foresight. Even basic training in the form of stressing the importance of backing up your data and strengthening passwords can make a big difference.
Identifying potential problem areas, discussing data breach protocols with third-party vendors and embracing cybersecurity-minded employee training can help a nonprofit make significant strides in data security—without sabotaging their limited budget.
Kayla Matthews writes about AI, the cloud and retail technology. You can also find her work on The Week, WIRED, Digital Trends, MarketingDive and Contently, or check out her personal tech blog.