How Nonprofit Cyber Attacks Really Happen


We live in a digital world, and the reality is that no one is entirely safe from a cyber-attack. Nonprofit organizations develop with an interest in doing good work for the community, in serving others and providing for the greater good, but even nonprofit organizations can fall victim to cyber-attacks that can put their financial security and the privacy of their clientele and donors at risk.

There are amazing benefits that come from living in this digital age. The interconnected nature of our society and the ease at which any organization can reach their audience and engage with the community is unprecedented. But this very interconnectedness may be exactly what is putting so many organizations at risk. Unfortunately, many non-profit groups often have limited budgets and have to choose between allocating funds to community projects or to designate funding for things like cyber-security. Cyber-attacks may feel like an abstract threat until the attack actually hits home, and the results can be absolutely devastating from a financial and public relations perspective.

Nonprofit cyber-attacks are far more common than you may think. Whether the intent of the attack is to gain information or to hack into financial accounts, typically the attack originates from one of a few vectors. Often, these attacks are coordinated through email scams, including “spoofed” emails that are clearly from someone you do not know, but which ask for personal information or request that you follow a link to engage in some sort of medical transaction.  These may be the easiest to prevent against, but some attacks are a bit more difficult to identify and therefore may leave you more susceptible to fall for the attack.  

One of the most difficult email attacks to prepare for is a phishing email. These emails are expertly designed to look as if it was sent out by a vendor that you are familiar with, and have components that are similar to what the actual agency you are familiar with may include in their correspondence. These emails typically contain supposedly important files that you need to open, such as bank transactions or contracts, but when you open them the attachments imbed dangerous content onto your computer or mobile device that corrupts security protocols and provides hackers with important information. In extremely advanced situations, hackers may send more insidious malware that can actually provide remote access to hackers who are offsite, which means that hackers can do more than access information from your computer, they can actually use your computer to access more pivotal data within the organization.

Many non-profit organizations think that they are not a target for cyber-attacks because they are working in such a specific area, often outside of the larger money-markets. However, every nonprofit organization has its donors, and donors have other resources that hackers want access to. The majority of cyber-attacks can be mitigated through the use of updated software. Don’t leave your organization at risk. If your computer malware software is out of date, it is time to update it immediately.

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