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Cybersecurity for Nonprofits: Keeping Your Nonprofit Secure

October 18, 20239 min read


Cybersecurity is a vital issue for any organization, but especially for nonprofits. Nonprofits often handle sensitive data such as donor information, volunteer records, financial transactions etc. They rely on online platforms and tools to communicate, collaborate, and fundraise. These factors make them attractive targets for cybercriminals who want to steal data, extort money, or disrupt operations.

We'll cover the main risks to be aware of, and go in-depth on each of these best practices:

  1. Use Strong Passwords
  2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
  3. Watch Out for Suspicious Emails
  4. Use a Secure Fundraising Software
  5. Educate Your Staff
  6. Use a Password Manager

Here are the key takeaways you need to know about nonprofit cybersecurity:

  • Nonprofits face various cybersecurity risks, such as data theft, ransomware, denial-of-service attacks, and website defacement. These risks can have serious consequences for their operations, reputation, funding, and beneficiaries.
  • Nonprofits can protect themselves by following cybersecurity best practices, such as using strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, watching out for suspicious emails, using a secure fundraising software, implementing access management, and educating their staff.
  • Password managers are a tool with one of the best cost-benefit ratios for nonprofits. They shore up security and save time. 

[Table of Contents]

Common Cybersecurity Risks for Nonprofits

Nonprofits face many of the same cybersecurity risks as any other organization, but they may have fewer resources and expertise to deal with them. Some of the most common risks include:

  • Data theft: Cybercriminals may try to access your data, either by hacking into your systems or by tricking you into giving them your credentials. They may use this data for identity theft, fraud, blackmail, or selling it on the dark web.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your files and demands a ransom to unlock them. If you don’t pay, you may lose your data permanently. Ransomware can affect your computers, servers, cloud storage, or even your website.
  • Denial-of-service attacks: A denial-of-service attack is when a cybercriminal floods your website or network with traffic or requests, making it slow or unavailable. This can affect your online presence, reputation, and ability to serve your beneficiaries.
  • Website defacement: Website defacement is when a cybercriminal alters your website’s appearance or content, usually with malicious or offensive messages. This can damage your credibility and trust with your audience.

These risks are even more critical for nonprofits that must secure their internal data and that of donors and volunteers. If you suffer a data breach or a cyberattack, you may face legal liability, regulatory fines, reputational damage, loss of funding, and loss of trust. You may also jeopardize the safety and privacy of the people you serve.

That’s why it’s essential to take cybersecurity seriously and implement measures to prevent and mitigate these risks. Here are some best practices to follow.

Cybersecurity for Nonprofits: Best Practices to Follow

Cybersecurity may seem daunting or complex, but it doesn’t have to be. There are some simple and effective steps you can take to improve your security posture and reduce your exposure to cyberthreats. Here are some of them:

Use Strong Passwords

Passwords are the first line of defense for your online accounts and devices. They should be long, complex, unique, and hard to guess. A strong password should include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and spaces. It should also avoid common words, names, dates, or phrases.

For example, a weak password would be something like password123 or nonprofit2023. A strong password would be something like !4nPr0f!t$3cur!ty@2023.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an extra layer of security that requires you to enter a code or use a device in addition to your password when logging in to an account. This way, even if someone steals or guesses your password, they won’t be able to access your account without the second factor.

You should enable 2FA for all your online accounts that support it, especially those that handle sensitive data or transactions. You can use various methods for 2FA, such as SMS codes, email codes, authenticator apps, or hardware tokens.

Watch Out for Suspicious Emails

Email is one of the most common ways that cybercriminals try to trick you into giving them your data or access to your systems. They may send you emails that look legitimate but contain malicious links or attachments that can infect your device with malware or direct you to fake websites that ask for your credentials.

These emails are known as phishing scams and they can be very convincing. They may use logos, names, addresses, or other details that mimic those of legitimate organizations or people you know. They may also create a sense of urgency or curiosity to make you click on their links or attachments.

To avoid falling victim to phishing scams, you should always check the sender’s email address carefully and look for any spelling or grammar errors in the message. You should also hover over any links before clicking on them and see if they match the expected destination. If you’re not sure about an email’s authenticity or legitimacy, don’t open it or reply to it. Instead, contact the sender directly using another channel or report it as spam.

If you do get breached, read our guide on the subject here

Use Secure Fundraising Software

Fundraising is a core activity for most nonprofits, and it often involves collecting and processing personal and financial data from donors. This data needs to be protected from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.

That’s why you should use a secure fundraising software that offers features such as encryption, compliance, backup, and audit. Encryption is the process of transforming data into an unreadable format that can only be decrypted with a key. Compliance means that the software follows the relevant laws and regulations for data protection, such as GDPR or PCI DSS. Backup means that the software creates copies of your data and stores them in a safe location in case of loss or damage. Audit means that the software keeps track of who accesses or modifies your data and when.

By using a secure fundraising software, you can ensure that your donor data is safe and that you meet your legal and ethical obligations.

Implement Access Management

Access management is the process of controlling who has access to what data, apps, software, and services within your organization. It helps you prevent unauthorized or unnecessary access to your resources and reduce the risk of data leakage or misuse.

To implement access management, you should follow the principle of least privilege, which means that you should only grant access to the minimum amount of resources that each user needs to perform their role. You should also regularly review and update your access policies and permissions, and revoke access from users who no longer need it or who leave your organization.

Access management also involves using tools such as single sign-on (SSO) and password managers. SSO is a feature that allows users to log in to multiple apps or services with one set of credentials, instead of having to remember and enter different passwords for each one. Password managers are tools that store and manage your passwords securely, so you don’t have to remember them or write them down.

Educate Your Staff

One of the most important aspects of cybersecurity is human behavior. Your staff are the ones who use your systems and devices, and they can either be your greatest asset or your weakest link when it comes to security.

That’s why you should educate your staff on security best practices and how to recognize and avoid common threats. You should also create a security culture within your organization, where security is everyone’s responsibility and not just an IT issue.

You can use various methods to educate your staff, such as training sessions, webinars, newsletters, quizzes, or simulations. Wizer Training is one such tool. You should also provide them with clear guidelines and policies on how to handle data, devices, passwords, emails, and incidents.

Use a Password Manager

As we mentioned earlier, passwords are essential for securing your online accounts and devices. However, managing passwords can be challenging and time-consuming. You may have dozens or hundreds of passwords to remember and enter for different apps or services. You may also have to change them frequently or share them with others.

That’s where a password manager can help you. A password manager is a tool that stores and manages your passwords securely, so you don’t have to remember them or write them down. It also helps you create strong passwords for each account and autofill them when you log in.

TeamPassword is a password manager designed specifically for teams and businesses. It allows you to store and share passwords with your colleagues easily and safely. It can autofill to the hundreds of websites you use everyday with its extension, available for all major browsers.

TP extension in action GIF (video) (1...

How TeamPassword Can Help You Secure Your Nonprofit

TeamPassword is a frictionless, easy-to-use password manager with discounted pricing for nonprofits. Here are some of the key features and benefits of TeamPassword:

  • Security: TeamPassword uses industry-standard encryption to protect your passwords and data. It also offers enforceable 2FA, SSO, activity logs, admin and member permission levels, and more.
  • Simplicity: TeamPassword is easy to use and set up. You can create groups for different teams or projects and add users with a few clicks. You can also import or export passwords from other sources or formats.
  • Integration: Use browser extensions and mobile apps to access your passwords from anywhere.
  • Support: TeamPassword offers live support Monday through Friday. You can contact us anytime via email or chat if you have any questions or issues. We also offer discounts for nonprofits. 

TeamPassword can help you secure your nonprofit by making password management easy, fast, and convenient. You can save time and hassle by storing all your passwords in one place and accessing them with one click. You can also improve collaboration by sharing passwords with your team members securely and efficiently.

If you want to learn more about TeamPassword’s features and benefits, check out our website here. If you want to see how TeamPassword works in action, sign up for a free trial.

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