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  • Simon Lister, Director, VSL Learning

Why Charities Must Train Their Staff & Volunteers in Cyber Security

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

In today's digital age, cyber threats are everywhere. From multinational corporations to individual users, everyone is at risk. Surprisingly, one of the most overlooked sectors vulnerable to these threats is the charitable sector.

Charities in the UK, like many organisations globally, are heavily reliant on digital platforms and technologies to execute their missions, manage donations, and communicate with supporters. This makes them a prime target for cyber attacks.

Here's why UK charities, in particular, need to train their staff and volunteers in cybersecurity.

1. Increasing Cyber Threats

Over the past few years, there has been a notable rise in cyber attacks targeting charitable organisations, with a quarter of charities reporting cyber attacks within the last year. Cybercriminals are exploiting the sector's often limited resources and lack of expertise in cyber defence.

By not equipping their people with the necessary knowledge, charities are inadvertently exposing themselves to threats like ransomware, phishing, and data breaches. According to a study by IBM, human error is the main cause of 95% of cyber security breaches. In other words, if human error was somehow eliminated entirely, 19 out of 20 cyber breaches may not have taken place at all!

2. Holding Sensitive Information

Charities often handle a wealth of sensitive information, including the personal and financial details of donors, beneficiaries, and volunteers. If this data were to fall into the wrong hands, it could lead to identity theft, fraud, and other damaging consequences. Ensuring staff and volunteers understand best practices for data handling and protection is paramount.

3. Reputation and Trust are on the Line

For many charities, the trust of their supporters is their most valuable asset. A single cyber breach can erode this trust, impacting the organisation's reputation and its ability to gather support in the future. Avoiding such incidents is crucial to maintain the public's faith and ensure the ongoing success of their mission.

4. Financial Implications

Cyber incidents can lead to significant financial losses. This can be in the form of direct theft, ransom payments, or the costs associated with recovery and mitigation. For charities, which often operate on tight budgets, these financial setbacks can be crippling. Investing in cybersecurity training now can prevent much higher costs down the road.

5. Regulatory Compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other legal frameworks place specific requirements on organisations, including charities, to protect personal data. Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines and legal consequences. Training staff and volunteers ensures that charities meet these regulations and avoid potential legal pitfalls.

6. Digital Transformation in the Charitable Sector

As charities increasingly embrace digital platforms and tools to engage with supporters, manage operations, and deliver services, the digital attack surface expands. Training in cybersecurity becomes not just an optional extra but an essential component of this digital transformation journey.

7. Empowering Employees

By providing cyber security training, charities empower their staff and volunteers to become the first line of defence against cyber threats. Knowledgeable workers can recognise suspicious activities, handle data responsibly, and respond effectively to potential threats, reducing the likelihood of successful attacks.

In Conclusion

Cybersecurity is not just the realm of IT professionals or large corporations. Charities, given their unique challenges and responsibilities, must recognise the importance of this issue. Investing in cybersecurity training for charity workers is not just a matter of protecting data – it's about safeguarding the charity's mission, reputation, and the trust of countless supporters.

Every charity, irrespective of its size or mission, has a responsibility to ensure the digital safety of its operations. In a world where cyber threats are only increasing, being proactive and educated is the best defence.

Find out more about how our non-technical online Cyber Security Awareness eLearning training can significantly reduce the risk of your charity being the victim of a successful cyber attack.

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