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cyber security

Know Your Scammers – Cyber Fraud Signs

By | cyber security, Fraud | No Comments

Many of us grew up with Saturday morning children’s cartoons. Is it me, or did every cartoon villain look the same? They always tiptoed towards their intended target and hoisted big empty sacks over their shoulders (the better to cart away their loot!). Everything about them screamed VILLAIN in all-caps. 

Well, of course, it was easy to identify the bad guys in those old cartoons. After all, they were created for children’s entertainment, and kids like things simple. But don’t we all? We all long for it to be easy to identify the ‘bad guys’ out there, and that includes cyber crooks as well as the classic cartoon crooks.

As organizations struggled to cope with the many changes initiated by the coronavirus pandemic, cyber crooks were already on the hunt for their next victim. Many found easy targets among the small businesses, including nonprofits, in turmoil. Without the routine of daily interactionism among employees, easy access to communications to reach fellow workers to ask questions, and looser security among IT networks to enable workers to work from home, cyber crooks didn’t need to tiptoe around in the dark. They acted boldly, and many succumbed to their lures.

Don’t be caught by cyber crooks this year. Know the signs of cyber fraud and protect your nonprofit from the current scams as well as general scams aimed at stealing your data.

Email Fraud – CDC Fake Emails

It was inevitable that criminals found a way to exploit people’s trust in the CDC. One common cyber fraud scam sent emails purporting to be the CDC to organization owners with a link in the email text encouraging them to click for more information.

Savvy recipients spotted several issues with the “CDC” emails that can help you recognize and avoid such phishing emails in the future.

  • Recipients hadn’t contacted the CDC and wondered how the CDC obtained their email addresses.
  • Sharp-eyed people recognized that when they held their mouse over the CDC link, it pointed to another website. 
  • The wording, spelling, and grammar weren’t quite right in the email. It was as if someone had run the text through Google’s translate feature. (Perhaps they had)
  • The email requested personal information to respond, including the recipient’s email address and corporate login information. The CDC wouldn’t ask for that information.

These are all signs of a typical phishing email. Other signs include a generic salutation, fuzzy logos (because they are cut and pasted from the web), or fonts that look odd compared to actual communication from the company, firm, or government agency.

When in doubt, never click a link. Instead, log into a fresh browser screen and visit the site on your own. If there is no message pertaining to the topic of the email, it’s likely it was a phishing scheme.

Specific Nonprofit Risks

As a nonprofit organization, you’re probably soliciting donations online right now to make up for lost revenues from canceled in-person events.

However, constituents are bombarded right now with both legitimate and not-so-legitimate requests for funds from charities and fraudsters pretending to be charities.

How can you help them distinguish between actual charitable solicitations and fraudulent ones?

  • Remind constituents that they can always visit your website and donate on their own – they do not need to do so through the link in your email (a cyber crook would never say this)
  • Through your website, continually offer updated information on funding campaigns, progress towards goals, and financial information
  • Remain transparent with all financial dealings

The key to helping constituents feel comfortable enough to give online is to maintain clear and honest communications about your nonprofit’s finances. Now is the time to offer great transparency into your organization’s finances and to reassure donors at every step of the way that their money is being put towards the work of the organization.

Mitigating Cyber Security Threats with the Right Technology

Awareness and training go a long way to reduce the risk of cyber fraud, especially phishing schemes like the first one we described. Nonprofits can also reduce their risk by maintaining dedicated VPN lines, special inbound connections with encryption that keep their servers secure.

Overworked IT departments, older software, and similar factors can make your nonprofit vulnerable. Close these gaps now before it’s too late. In 2019, data breaches exposed over 4 billion records, and the companies in the thick of such data breaches found themselves embroiled in months of clean-up work. Not all of these companies were big corporations, either. Small businesses and nonprofits are especially vulnerable because cybercriminals know they don’t have a big team of IT professionals on call to handle cybersecurity.

Take time now to update your systems, review cybersecurity procedures, and work with a company such as Welter Consulting to prevent cyber fraud. Criminals don’t tiptoe through backyards carrying big sacks like in the cartoons. They sneak in through emails, attack vulnerable software, and look for small businesses unable to fight back. The time to shore up your defenses is now.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

A Telecommuting Cyber Security Checklist for Nonprofits

By | cyber security, Nonprofit | No Comments

Many nonprofits are discovering that telecommuting offers a viable alternative to working in an office. As concerns about the coronavirus continue, more organizations are relying on telecommuting to ensure their operations continue.

Telecommuting offers many benefits, but some drawbacks too. Many organizations worry about cybersecurity in the age of video conference calls, instant messenger conversations, and myriad other cloud-based software that enables people to meet, share, and collaborate on projects.

If you’re among those concerned about security when employees work from home, you’re not alone. We’ve put together a three-point checklist to help you think through all aspects of telecommuting safety. Apply this information to your organization’s telecommuting policies and procedures and safeguard your nonprofit’s data and reputation.

Three-Point Telecommuting Security Checklist for Nonprofit Organizations

There are many areas of concern when employees work from home. Everyone has access to different technology and internet services yet logs into central cloud-based systems. Viruses, hacking, phishing, and other threats remain, while new ones emerge. There is no one size fits all policy for all organizations embarking on a telecommuting program, but there are guidelines you can put into place to reduce the risk of problems.

Below you’ll find three areas to review and address as part of your cybersecurity checklist. For more on this topic, we recommend listening to Cybersecurity Advisory. Working From Anywhere, Rebooting Securely.

1. Review hardware configurations and security settings

Many organizations purchased laptops and other hardware to enable critical employees to work from home. This helped them ramp up quickly and get everyone online, but they failed to review each unit’s software and security configurations. The result: the potential for serious security flaws that offer criminals the opportunity to attack an organization’s critical systems.

To address this issue, have an IT specialist review all of the devices and ensure standard configurations. Install antivirus software and make sure it is run periodically. And create a policy and procedure to ensure that in the future, all hardware purchased meets minimum security standards, and IT reviews them before they are distributed to staff.

2. Bring your own device (BYOD)

As an alternative to purchasing hardware for all employees, some organizations allowed employees to use whatever equipment they had at home to log in to their network and systems. This is called “bring your own device” or BYOD and is common among many companies and organizations.

The problem with implementing BYOD on the fly is that everyone in your organization is connecting with a unique device, some of which may be infected by trojans and malware. Some people may be diligent about running security scans and updating their software, while others don’t know they should be taking such actions. The results could be catastrophic if someone uploads a document infected with a virus or malware.

To fix this problem, make sure that you ask employees to use a VPN to connect to the corporate network. Remind employees to run security checks and update software. Have your technical specialists draft a process by which employees can use their own devices safely. This may include steps taken on the organization-owned hardware and systems to secure sensitive data, upgrading security measures on an organization-wide level, and other steps indicated by your technology team.

3. Temporary changes that (accidentally) became permanent

Many organizations implemented temporary changes to address the confusion of the early stages of the pandemic. These included forgoing required password changes, allowing employees to share logins, and other things that at the time solved problems but now pose a threat to the organization.

The solution is to return to the pre-pandemic best practices and procedures as soon as possible. Speak with your teams and ensure that everyone understands why the changes are implemented and why it is essential to return to “all systems normal” as soon as possible.

Cyber Security Training Remains an Urgent Priority

According to the University of San Diego, phishing attacks have become more sophisticated. Increasing vigilance and protection against all types of cyberattacks is critical.

Many cyberattacks can be thwarted simply by user awareness. That’s where training for your team comes into the picture. Make sure that you frequently offer, uptodate training to remind staff about the many ways in which criminals use the internet to attack and steal data. Update policies that address cybersecurity and offer virtual training to ensure that all staff remains alert to cyber attacks.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.