Top tips for defending your charity against cyber attacks

With recent events, cyber security has been dominating headlines and reminding businesses and charities alike what a serious issue it can be. The attacks can be completely random, happening at any time.

Comic Relief, one of the UK’s biggest charities, is a prime example of how even experienced organisations can be vulnerable.  so staying alert is the first and best preventative method.

Rather than panic, we reckon the best thing to do is turn to a concise online guide of ways to stay safe from cyber attacks. That’s where we come in! In this article we’ll run through some common concerns charities run into and how to stay protected.

Invest in high quality malware protection

It’s been over 6 months since ThirdSector published their report exploring how prepared charities are against cyber attacks.

A not-so-great revelation from that report was that only 14% of respondents claimed to feel confident in their cyber security, with 54% specifically in doubt about it.

This issue is luckily one of the most straight-forward to avoid. There is tons of malware protection software available on the market; it’s simply a case of finding one that’s right for your organisation. Some of the biggest contenders include:

  • Symantec (available on tt-exchange from £4)
  • Bitdefender (available on tt-exchange from (£48 for 10 users)
  • AVG (offering basic cover free of charge)

These are all well-known and trusted brands that offer affordable cover from varying types of malware. If you want to read more about how Symantec specifically works, check out our past article.

Though the paid options offer a slightly higher level of protection, the choice is mostly down to preference and organisation size as these systems run in the background. Bitdefender, for example, have multiple licensing plans that offer cover for 10, 25 or 50 users.

Alternatively, Symantec offers small-business cover  on a ‘per user’ basis; a popular choice due to its flexibility of adding or removing users freely.

Update your systems to ensure they’re still supported

If you read much beyond the headline of the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack, you’ll know that the the targets were those with the most vulnerable IT systems. A big part of this vulnerability was a result of out of date software.

Many of the systems running Windows XP or had expired security software in place. Both your operating system and malware protection software needs to be up to date to reduce this vulnerability.

As with our first tip, this one is equally straight-forward to implement. The worry for many charities is no doubt the expense. Fortunately, OS upgrades and renewable malware protection (as said above) are both available via the tt-exchange programme. With the low cost, organisations don’t have to worry about breaking the budget simply to keep covered (although even at full price it’s still worth it).

On tt-exchange, the OS Upgrade gives you the option to upgrade to various different editions, from Standard to Enterprise! So regardless of what edition you currently have, you will be able to update your system if it isn’t already.

Make sure your employees and volunteers are aware

30% of charities believe they don’t have an effective process in place for raising staff awareness of cyber security.

It can be difficult, particularly when you have employees and volunteers who work remotely, to keep everyone clued up on data-security procedure. As long as they know the essentials though, you can keep your organisation’s information a whole lot more secure.

We’ve published a whole separate article on the risks and precautions of BYOD policy which touches on the virus-protection side of things. You can check that out here.

There are some simple facts that employees should be aware of and how to implement them:

  • Avoid any unfamiliar or uncertain sites – If the web address looks like something to be weary off, it’s always good to err on the side of caution. This is particularly relevant when using a Windows operating system as unfortunately these are the easiest to plant viruses on by keeping most doors unlocked.
  • Make sure all workers have foolproof passwords – It’s can be a right pain when you get asked during account setup to have countless complexities included in your password, but it does help! A strong password significantly reduced the threat of hackers, and when there is large amounts of sensitive data on your devices, it’s crucial
  • Don’t be afraid of the cloud – This isn’t necessarily to reduce risk, but there is a common stigma that the cloud is unsafe in comparison to your desktop. The cloud is beneficial for safety and recovery as the data doesn’t rely on your device functioning correctly.
  • Again, have effective malware protection – Even if your device is pretty good at keeping viruses away (as Macs famously are, for example), additional malware protection is a great insurance policy for if organisations do surf unfamiliar sites.

Be prepared if that worst case scenario does happen

This one isn’t a preventative measure, but it sure is a relief when you know all your crucial information is safely backed up.

Going back to old-school methods, physical external hard-drives are still pretty popular for personal data. As soon as your organisation gets a little bigger though, this can get quite costly and inadequate.

Storing information in a cloud-based system is an easy way to help you sleep easy. This way you know if something happens to your device, or you are working from somewhere else, you aren’t stuck with nothing.

Beyond that, it means that if your device comes under threat and the worst case scenario of your files being wiped happens, you have duplicates online. Some examples of cloud-storage systems include Dropbox and Box (which is available as a donation on tt-exchange).

Additionally, there is also software available that focuses on recovering files in these worst case scenarios.

A prime example is Veritas Backup Exec. This software takes snapshots of your files even as they are being edited so that they can be restored from a given point of your choice. Backups can be scheduled to happen as frequently or infrequently as you need with a monitoring system that allows you to manage it all from one place. To find out more about Veritas’ product, take a look here,  or to go directly to tt-exchange simply follow this link.


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