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Cybersecurity for Armenia’s non-profit organizations: Risks and best practices

Non-profit organizations in Armenia play a crucial role in addressing societal challenges, supporting communities, and advancing important causes. As these organizations increasingly rely on digital technologies to carry out their missions and interact with stakeholders, they face cybersecurity risks that must be effectively managed. Protecting sensitive data, maintaining the trust of donors and beneficiaries, and ensuring the continuity of operations are key priorities for non-profit organizations. Here are some risks they face and best practices to enhance cybersecurity:

Risks Faced by Non-Profit Organizations:

  1. Data Breaches and Unauthorized Access: Non-profit organizations handle sensitive data, including donor information, volunteer records, and beneficiary details. Data breaches can lead to reputational damage, financial loss, and potential legal liabilities. Unauthorized access to this data can result in identity theft, fraud, or misuse of personal information.
  2. Phishing and Social Engineering Attacks: Phishing attacks, where cybercriminals impersonate legitimate entities to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, pose a significant threat to non-profit organizations. Employees and volunteers may be targeted through deceptive emails, fraudulent websites, or phone calls, potentially leading to data breaches or financial losses.
  3. Insider Threats: Insider threats within non-profit organizations can come from employees, volunteers, or contractors who have access to sensitive data or critical systems. Malicious insiders may intentionally compromise security or misuse information. Implementing access controls, conducting background checks, and fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness can help mitigate insider threats.
  4. Weak Passwords and Authentication: Inadequate password practices and weak authentication mechanisms can expose non-profit organizations to cyber risks. Password reuse, easily guessable passwords, or the absence of multi-factor authentication increase the vulnerability of systems and accounts to unauthorized access.
  5. Lack of Cybersecurity Awareness and Training: Non-profit organizations may lack the necessary cybersecurity awareness and training programs for employees and volunteers. Insufficient knowledge about best practices, such as recognizing phishing attempts, using strong passwords, or securely handling data, increases the likelihood of successful cyberattacks.

Best Practices for Non-Profit Organizations:

  1. Implement a Risk-Based Approach: Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities and prioritize security measures based on the organization’s unique needs. Develop a cybersecurity strategy that aligns with the organization’s mission and goals, focusing on protecting sensitive data, ensuring privacy, and maintaining operational resilience.
  2. Establish Strong Policies and Procedures: Develop and enforce cybersecurity policies and procedures that address areas such as data protection, acceptable use of technology, incident response, and remote work. Regularly review and update these policies to reflect emerging threats and changes in the technology landscape.
  3. Educate and Train Employees and Volunteers: Provide cybersecurity awareness training for all employees and volunteers, emphasizing the importance of strong passwords, recognizing phishing attempts, and practicing safe browsing habits. Foster a culture of cybersecurity where individuals feel comfortable reporting suspicious activities or potential security incidents.
  4. Implement Secure Data Management: Securely store and protect sensitive data by encrypting it both at rest and in transit. Regularly backup data and test restoration procedures to ensure data can be recovered in case of an incident. Limit access to sensitive information only to authorized individuals and implement strong access controls.
  5. Use Robust Authentication Measures: Implement strong authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), to protect accounts and systems. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring additional verification, such as a one-time password or biometric authentication, along with passwords.
  6. Regularly Update and Patch Systems: Keep all software, operating systems, and applications up to date with the latest security patches. Regularly apply updates and patches to address known vulnerabilities and protect against emerging threats.
  7. Conduct Security Assessments: Regularly assess the organization’s cybersecurity posture through vulnerability.

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