How one small charity improved its cyber security

Cyber security is difficult for charities, especially those with limited resources, time, and money. Service delivery and fundraising will always, understandably, come first – though it is worth noting that a cyber attack could compromise both of those priorities, with the potential to disrupt your technology and defraud you of funds.  

In our recent cyber security survey, in partnership with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Avast Business, we found that cyber security was most often listed as the third biggest priority for charities in the UK, but it should not be an afterthought. It should be more like an engine running in the background, ensuring that everyday operations are running as smoothly and as securely as possible. 

Our survey, however, also found that smaller charities are struggling to strengthen their cyber security at the same pace as their larger counterparts. This appears to be partly because they underestimate the threat of cyber attacks and partly due to limited resources.  

More than a third of micro charities told us they believed their operations would be unaffected by a cyber attack. Micro organisations were also less likely to say in our survey that they dealt with sensitive user data – as a result, they did not rank cyber security high in importance.  

Cyber security was ranked as the third biggest priority for charities overall but for micro charities, it was rated sixth behind service delivery, fundraising, governance, IT, and finance.   

Once again, charities should not dismiss the threat that cyber breaches pose to those priorities. The NCSC says in its Cyber Security: Small Charity Guide, “Like businesses, charities are increasingly reliant on IT and technology and are falling victim to a range of malicious cyber activity.  

“Losing access to this technology, having funds stolen or suffering a data breach through a cyber attack can be devastating, both financially and reputationally.” 

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a wealth of free online resources available to charities of all sizes, from information core controls to protect against cyber threats to guidance on the best cyber security software to use

Charities can also access a discount on Avast cyber security software through the Charity Digital Exchange. While smaller charities might think they are not as at risk as the bigger super-majors, with their equally big names, big funds, and big databases, the truth is: a cyber-attack can happen to any organisation.  

The only difference between a micro charity and a super-major when it comes to cyber security is how protected they are.

How Our Special Friends improved its cyber security 

Our Special Friends, a small Suffolk-based charity that promotes, preserves and provides the power of animal companionship, is no cyber security expert. But it does know that it needs to look after it anyway. 

With the help of Avast, and the Charity Digital Exchange, Bil Thorn, administrator at our Special Friends has been able to protect the charity’s devices and keep track of operations, even when volunteers and staff are hotdesking or working from home.  

Avast looks after Our Special Friends’ endpoint protection – protecting each device on their Cloud network to prevent criminals accessing it – and antivirus, scanning and detecting malware before it can do any damage.  

It also monitors all network traffic between devices and the outside world to prevent unauthorised communication, looks for suspicious behaviour in programs installed on devices that may indicate malicious code, inspects both incoming and outgoing emails to ensure they are malware-free – and much more.  

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