Cyber Threats in the Nonprofit Sector: What You Need to Know

Cyber Threats in the Nonprofit Sector: What You Need to Know


In a world increasingly driven by technology, cyber risks have become a formidable adversary for organizations across all sectors. However, when it comes to cyberattacks, one sector stands out as a prime target – nonprofits. We’ll delve into the why and how of cyber risk management for nonprofits, exploring the challenges you may face and solutions to protect your mission-driven work.

The Alarming Statistics

The 2022, FBI Internet Crime Report paints a grim picture of the cyber threat landscape. The FBI receives an average of 652,000 complaints per year, resulting in an average loss of a staggering $27.6 billion annually. It’s important to note that these numbers only represent reported cases, making the actual figures likely much higher. Among these reported incidents, five categories loom large: False Tech Support, Extortion, Non-Payment/Non-Delivery, Personal Data Breach, and Phishing.

Nonprofits: Rewards and Risks

Nonprofits are guided by the principle of making a positive impact on society, driven by passion and purpose. While rewards in the form of meaningful change are at the heart of your existence, risks are ever-present. Most organizations often operate on tight budgets, have minimal staff, and may grapple with limited resources. This combination of factors creates vulnerabilities that cybercriminals are keen to exploit.

Nonprofit organizations are no strangers to complex issues, but cybersecurity adds a new layer of complexity. Limited financial resources, reliance on volunteers and transient staff, and a strong focus on mission-driven activities often take precedence over tough cybersecurity measures. This can result in insufficient funding and expertise dedicated to implementing advanced security protocols, regular training, and system updates. As a consequence, your organization may find itself more exposed to cyber threats and data breaches, jeopardizing your operations and the trust of your stakeholders.

So, what can nonprofits do to safeguard digital domains and protect vital work?

Want to learn more? Download our whitepaper “Cyber Risk Management in Not-for-Profits”

The Path to Cyber Resilience  

Raise Awareness: The first step in mitigating cyber risks is to educate everyone within your organization. Ensure that both your staff and volunteers are aware of common threats like phishing attacks and the importance of strong, unique passwords. 

Invest in Training: Provide cybersecurity training to your staff and volunteers. Equip them with the knowledge to recognize and respond to potential threats. Regular training sessions should be part of your organization’s culture. 

Implement Strong Password Policies: Enforce strong password policies and multi-factor authentication for all accounts. Weak or reused passwords are a common entry point for hackers. 

Regular Software Updates: Keep all of your software and systems up-to-date to patch vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals often exploit outdated software. 

Backup Data: Regularly back up critical data to offline or cloud storage. In case of a cyberattack, having a clean copy of data is crucial for your recovery. 

Network Security: Consider partnering with managed security and IT services like Rea’s Managed Security and IT (MSIT) to ensure your network is securely operated, allowing your team to focus on the nonprofit’s core mission. 

Incident Response Plan: Develop a clear incident response plan to swiftly address any cyber incidents that occur. This plan should outline steps to take in the event of a breach, including communication protocols. 

Nonprofits play a vital role in society, and their missions are too important to be compromised by cyber threats. While the challenges are significant, a proactive approach to cybersecurity can help you continue your invaluable work. By investing in education, training, and technology, nonprofits can build resilience against cyber risks and protect the communities they serve. 

If you’re part of a nonprofit organization, take the first step today in enhancing your cybersecurity. Evaluate your current practices, consider partnering with our cybersecurity experts at Rea, and prioritize the safety of your digital assets. Your mission deserves nothing less. 

By Steve Naughton (Wooster office)