How to keep your charity’s data safe

26 Jul 2019Advice

With all the attention currently being paid to GDPR – compliance, consent, Data Protection Officers – it’s easy to lose track of the basics of data security. If you’ve made the leap into a more digital retail environment, or are thinking of doing so, you may be concerned to hear that charities are often big targets for cyber criminals. This is because your charity is likely to hold a large amount of valuable data and full records of information can be sold for a pretty penny on the dark web. With only 14% of charities believing they are very well protected against cyber-attacks and data breaches, now is the time to start thinking about your data security strategy. How can you ensure that the data you collect is safe?

1. Ditch the paper forms

While paper forms are still commonplace in many charities, compared to other organisations they are outdated, messy and insecure. Paper records not only take up a lot of storage but are also prone to being left lying around, often get damaged and cannot be backed up without laboriously duplicating forms.

2. Encrypt your data

Whatever system you use to collect data, whether through your POS or via paper forms transferred to a computer, encrypting your data when storing and sending it will give you an extra layer of protection. This ensures that only those authorised can view, edit, sort or send the information on. Good POS systems will encrypt your data automatically!

3. Get good technical support

While many charities cannot afford the latest software or equipment, having a good technical team behind your existing technologies is key to ensuring they don’t become vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Whether a third-party company or an in-house team, your technical support should understand exactly how your system works in order to fully protect it.

4. Keep your system updated

Vulnerabilities are often caused by out of date software or technologies that leave your system open to exploitation. With most updates being free to download, it can be as easy as ensuring you regularly update your system in order to keep it as secure as possible. If you use a managed service, you should also be ensuring they are updating your system for you.

5. Make staff aware of the importance of securing information

A little training for all staff and volunteers goes a long way when it comes to data security. Reminding them not to leave paper forms lying around, to ensure passwords are kept secure, and that data security is a top priority could really help protect you against breaches and attacks.

Data breaches are a risk for any organisation that handles large amounts of data but that doesn’t mean you should be apprehensive about changing to digital processes. In fact, lots can be done to secure your data when it is hosted safely online; the same cannot be said for paper forms. Keeping data safe online is about being vigilant and being aware that cyber security responsibility should be shared by everyone within the organisation.

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