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cyber security

Tips to Prevent Cyber Crime at Your Nonprofit

By | cyber security, Nonprofit | No Comments

According to Fintech News, cybersecurity attacks have increased 80% over the past year. If you think only big companies or for-profit companies have to worry about cybercrime, think again. Criminals often target nonprofit organizations because they know that many lack the internal IT resources to prevent an attack.

Don’t fall victim to a cybercriminal. Here’s what you need to know to stay protected.

Know the Risks, Upgrade Your Defenses

In order to protect against cyber-attacks, it’s important to know where the potential risks lie in your organization. Common ways in which criminals attack computer systems include:

  1. Unsecured WiFi: Your office WiFi may have strong password protection, but if you allow employees to telecommute, their systems may be open to attack. During the pandemic, many nonprofit organizations allowed their employees to work from home. Some employees have secure networks but not all do. An unsecured WiFi network or one with a weak password is ripe for the picking by cybercriminals who can easily grab valuable passwords and data.
  2. Phishing emails: Phishing emails are disguised to look like they come from a reputable company such as your bank or credit card company. However, when you click on the link, they direct you to a site that captures your login information.
  3. Phishing phone calls: A new angle on the phishing email is the phishing phone call. In this instance, a caller contacts an assistant, usually an executive or administrative assistant, claiming to be from a reputable company and asking for the CEO or another chief executives’ login information. Many assistants have such information handy, especially if they respond to emails or schedule meetings on behalf of an executive. If this sensitive information is given out, the thieves use it to access critical systems.
  4. Trojans, spyware, and malware: Trojans, spyware, and malware can infect a computer just by casually browsing an infected website or accidentally clicking an infected link. They can then be passed along unintendedly to other computers, enabling hackers to access systems or hold data for ransom.
  5. Failing to update software: Software patches, plugin updates on WordPress websites, and similar updates aren’t nuisances. Companies release them to patch known problems in the coding. Failing to update software is like leaving the key under the doormat and hoping a burglar won’t think to look there.

Even if your organization is small, you can still take steps to prevent an attack from any of these areas.

5 Ways to Protect Your Organization’s Data

You don’t need an army of cybersecurity experts to protect your organization’s system. Most nonprofits can take the following steps on their own to greatly lower their risk of cybersecurity issues.

  1. Upgrade security software: Invest in better security software and take the time to update it when prompted by the manufacturer.
  2. Upgrade hardware and software: Older computers and software are more easily hacked than newer products. Set aside budget for updates to your hardware and software each year.
  3. Avoid donated hardware: Although donated computers may be a nice gift, unless you know the donor and can have a security expert wipe them clean, avoid using donated equipment.
  4. Use strong passwords: Insist that all employees use strong passwords, and make sure everyone changes their passwords monthly. Strong passwords typically consist of random arrangements of lowercase and capital letters, numbers, and symbols.
  5. Train your employees: Many cybercrimes occur due to employee mistakes, such as using weak passwords or falling for a phishing scam. Teach your team what to look for to spot phishing emails; misspelled words, blurry logos, company URLs that don’t look quite right. When in doubt, close the email and open up a separate browser to log in and check for messages. Training is often enough to prevent many cybercrimes.

Nonprofit organizations have fewer resources to combat cybercrimes. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take steps to prevent crime. Just as even the poorest homes have locks on the doors to keep thieves out, you can put virtual “locks” on your data.

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.

3 Tips to Improve Website Security

By | cyber security | No Comments

According to Cyber Observer, 68% of businesses feel their cyber risk is increasing. Worldwide, cybercrime is projected to hit $6 trillion by 2021.

If you think you are immune from cybercrime as a small nonprofit organization, think again. Many criminals target small businesses, especially nonprofit organizations, because they know they lack the staff and the resources to front a defense against cyberattacks.

The old truism that the best defense is a good offense holds true with cybercrime as well as in other arenas. Here is your 3-point plan to stop cyber attackers in their tracks.

  1. Use a trusted hosting provider.

It’s tempting to go with the cheapest web host for a recurring expense such as web hosting. However, cheaper hosting companies may not install the best security. Since many attacks occur at the hosting level, choosing the best company you can find is essential.

How do you pick a good host for your website? Look for a site host with the best storage, bandwidth, support, and backups. Having 24/7 support is also essential. If your site undergoes an attack, knowing that someone is available to help is a huge plus.

  1. Install an SSL certificate.

SSL stands for secure socket layer, and it adds the little “s” at the end of the http:// you see at the start of website addresses. What it actually does is protects any information entered into your website by adding a secure and encrypted connection between your browser and the customer’s connection.

Search engines such as Google look for SSL certificates installed in website code as part of their evaluation criteria to gauge the trustworthiness of websites. Google uses it as part of its search engine ranking criteria. For your donors, members, and customers, the SSL certificate adds one more level of protection for their personally identifiable information and payment information.

  1. Update plugins, patches, and code.

You don’t need an IT degree to update plugins, patches, and software code. Most software providers send notices to users when updates are available. Ignoring these because they’re inconvenient can lead to trouble. Often, software companies develop such patches and updates because they’ve discovered loopholes in their code which hackers exploit. By updating known security issues, you’ve added one more defense to your site.

The same goes for plugins which are used on WordPress based websites. Plugins add a wealth of easy customizations to websites built on the WordPress platform which makes them very popular. The flip side is that with this popularity and increased use, comes more opportunities for hackers to exploit plugins as a means of entry into websites. The purpose of updating plugins is the same as updating other software. It closes any gaps and adds better protection.

Other Ways to Prevent Cyber Crime

There are other steps you can take to prevent cybercrime. Educate your team on how to spot phishing scams. These scams are sent via email and try to trick the target of the scam into revealing login information or personal information that can be resold. Many phishing emails appear to come from known entities (like utility companies or well-known name brands like Amazon, Google, or eBay).

Any emails that come without warning and ask users to log into a site should be scrutinized. If you feel the email may be legitimate, close your browser and open it again to the website you wish to log into. Do not click any links in the email.

Such simple steps can save you a great many headaches later. Cybercrime can be a nightmare for a small business and a nonprofit organization. Personally identifiable information can be resold. Each personal record is worth anywhere between $20 and $25 on the black market. To a customer, donor, or member of your organization, however, their personal information is priceless. The resulting firestorm of bad publicity and potential lawsuits can quickly overwhelm a small nonprofit.

Now is the time to prevent cybercrime from harming your organization. What steps will you take to prevent it?

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.

 

 

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 cancelled 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.