More than one in four charities reported a cyber-attack or security breach in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a major study has revealed.

The finding forms part of the sixth annual Cyber Security Breaches Survey, which provides an unrivalled insight into the state of cyber security across the not-for-profit sector each year.

According to the research, over a quarter (26 per cent) of charities in England and Wales have suffered a cyber security attack in the last 12 months.

Phishing attacks – defined as a social engineering tactic in which criminals convince staff to hand over sensitive information – was the most common form of breach, reported by 79 per cent of charities.

This was followed by impersonation, reported by 23 per cent of charities, and malware (including ransomware) by 17 per cent of charities.

However, despite the heightened risk of cybercrime during the pandemic, few charities are advising staff on how to identify and mitigate cyber risks using the latest National Cyber Security Centre guidance.

For example, just 18 per cent of charities have trained staff on cyber security, and even fewer (14 per cent) have tested their staff response in mock phishing exercises.

Furthermore, fewer charities report having up-to-date malware protection compared to last year (69 per cent compared to 78 per cent), as do charities with up-to-date network firewalls (57 per cent compared to 72 per cent).

In addition, just eight per cent of charities have reviewed cyber risks posed by suppliers or partners.

Commenting on the study, Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said the pandemic has taken an unavoidable toll on British organisations, but it “cannot let it disrupt our high cyber security standards”.

“With more people working remotely it is vital firms have the right protections in place, and I urge all organisations to follow the National Cyber Security Centre’s expert guidance so we can build back better and drive a new era of digital growth,” he said.

For help and advice on related matters, please get in touch with our expert charity sector experts.

Categories: Charities