4 things all nonprofits need to know about network security

Nonprofits face unique challenges when it comes to ensuring network security. Unlike many organizations in the private sector, nonprofits need to create a secure network environment on a tight budget and often without the assistance of a dedicated IT staff. Still, ensuring network security is just as important for charities and other not-for-profit organizations as it is for corporations since they hold onto a lot of valuable data including donor information. With that in mind, here are four important things all nonprofits need to know about network security:

1. Size doesn’t matter

It can be tempting for nonprofits to think that they can fly under the radars of hackers and other cybercriminals. After all, why would hackers target small, not-for-profit organizations when there are bigger fish out there? However, recent reports suggest that nonprofits are just as at risk as any other institution. Take, for instance, the case of the Utah Food Bank, which suffered a breach that resulted in the theft of personal information belonging to more than 10,000 donors.

The reality is, as the Upstate Business Journal noted, that nonprofits are often more at risk due to their small scale of operations. Specifically, they lack the resources and dedicated IT staff often needed to install and maintain security solutions, as well as identify suspicious activity on the network.

2. Breaches are expensive

A single breach can cost any organization a great deal of money, regardless of what sector they operate in. Nonprofits may not have a lot of funds that can be directly stolen by a hacker, but a breach can be costly in other ways. One of the most potent of these is the hit to their reputation and the ensuing fallout. If a charitable organization suffers a breach, and their donors’ sensitive information gets out in the open, people will be less likely to contribute funds to them down the road. This is especially true for organizations that rely on web portals to receive most of their donations. Once that trust is broken, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to restore.

3. Be mindful of compliance issues

In many instances, the cost of a network breach doesn’t end with the loss of donations. Depending on the nature of the affected nonprofit, it may face additional expenditures if it has violated any governmental compliance regulations. For example, the Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, recently agreed to pay a $650,000 settlement following a data breach. In the aftermath of that breach, it was discovered that officials within both organizations had failed to comply with federal security guidelines established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA violations are nothing new to the health care industry, but it’s important to recognize that many nonprofits are held to the same standard of network security.

4. Don’t panic

With all of that said, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for nonprofit organizations when it comes to their network security concerns. By partnering with a reliable and trusted network security provider, nonprofits can ensure their assets are properly safeguarded while keeping things well within their budget. A next-generation firewall, for instance, can defend the network against various types of threats coming in from websites, emails and file downloads. Furthermore, that level of network security enables nonprofit members to use a wide variety of mobile devices and other endpoints on the network without creating additional points of vulnerability.