Charities are increasingly becoming targets of cyber-attacks.
These attacks can have severe consequences, including compromising donor information, disrupting operations, and damaging the reputation of the organisation. Unfortunately, many charities make a critical mistake when it comes to IT security, leaving themselves vulnerable to such threats. In this article, we will discuss the number one mistake charities make with their cybersecurity and provide actionable steps to avoid it.
The Mistake: Neglecting Regular Software Updates and Patching
The most common and detrimental mistake that charities make with their IT security is neglecting regular software updates and patching.
Charities often operate with limited resources and staff, leading to overlooked or delayed software maintenance. However, failing to keep software up to date creates significant vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.
Why are Software Updates and Patching Important?
Software updates and patches are released by vendors to address vulnerabilities and fix bugs or security flaws identified in their products. By neglecting these updates, charities leave their systems exposed to known exploits.
Cybercriminals actively target unpatched software, seeking to exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access, steal data, or launch malicious attacks.
How to Avoid the Mistake:
1. Establish a Patch Management Process
- Create a patch management process that outlines the procedures for identifying, testing, and deploying software updates and patches.
- Assign responsibility for managing this process to a designated staff member or IT team.
2. Enable Automatic Updates
- Configure software and operating systems to receive automatic updates whenever possible.
- This ensures that critical patches are applied promptly, minimising the window of vulnerability.
3. Prioritise Security Updates
- Stay informed about security bulletins and advisories released by software vendors.
- Focus on critical security updates that address vulnerabilities with a higher risk of exploitation.
- Regularly check vendor websites and subscribe to their security notification services.
4. Test Updates in a Controlled Environment
- Before deploying updates across all systems, conduct testing in a controlled environment to ensure compatibility and verify that the updates do not introduce any unintended issues.
- Consider implementing a staging environment or pilot group to assess the impact of updates on a subset of systems.
5. Keep an Inventory of Software
- Maintain an inventory of all software applications and systems used within the organisation.
- This inventory should include details such as version numbers, vendor contact information, and update frequency.
- Regularly review and update the inventory to ensure it remains accurate.
6. Educate Staff on the Importance of Updates
- Raise awareness among staff and volunteers about the criticality of software updates and the potential risks of neglecting them.
- Encourage employees to promptly install updates when prompted and provide clear guidelines on how to respond to update notifications.
7. Consider Patch Management Solutions
- For larger charities or those with complex IT environments, consider implementing patch management solutions or leveraging managed IT service providers to streamline the process.
- These solutions can automate patch deployment, ensure consistency across systems, and provide centralised monitoring and reporting.
Neglecting regular software updates and patching is the number one mistake charities make with their cybersecurity. By establishing a patch management process, enabling automatic updates, prioritising security updates, testing updates in a controlled environment, maintaining an inventory of software, educating staff, and considering patch management solutions, charities can significantly enhance their cybersecurity defences.
Regular and timely software updates are a critical component of maintaining a secure IT environment and protecting sensitive data. Remember, investing in proactive software maintenance is a worthwhile investment in the long-term security and resilience of your charitable organisation.
If you need help to implement software updates and patching we are always happy to help.