Cyber attacks – what charities need to do

Charities should be aware of “WannaCry” and “Petya”. These are the cyber attacks that have brought organisations to a standstill recently. Many charities are not investing in adequate levels of cyber protection. The Charity Commission has warned that charities could be at risk and should be vigilant. Further Matthew Hancock the digital minister has said charities “must do better” to protect sensitive information they hold as it emerged that many smaller organisations rely on external IT providers to protect their data.
Data protection legislation requires that for every charity that controls personal data, for example information about staff or donors, “appropriate technical and organisational measures must be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data”. A cyber-attack will usually result in unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data. So charities need to take steps to resist cyber-attacks in order to comply with the law.
Technical measures include use of appropriate antivirus software, software updates and patches.
Organisational measures include raising awareness amongst staff and keeping working practices under review. Typical areas of vulnerability are:
 Mobile and remote working. A range of measures can be taken to minimise the risk involved in working remotely. For example, charities can keep the amount of data stored on a mobile device down to the minimum necessary to carry out the required business activity.
 Passwords. With individuals now expected to maintain numerous separate passwords, requiring users to regularly change their passwords is now considered to be potentially counterproductive. Password rules are necessary, but they should be simple and easy to follow.
 Email. Training to help staff to spot increasingly sophisticated phishing and spoofing, and avoid clicking on links or attachments, can reduce the risk of malware being introduced into systems.
Being the victim of a cyber-attack can be very unfortunate. But those organisations that have not taken appropriate technical and organisational measures to guard against these attacks will still be accountable for the loss. Staff must receive adequate training to deal with online attacks.

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