What is social engineering?

Social engineering is a technique used by people to manipulate and deceive others into revealing sensitive information or performing certain actions. It involves exploiting human psychology and trust to gain unauthorised access to systems or obtain confidential data. In simpler terms, social engineering is like tricking someone by pretending to be trustworthy in order to get them to do something they shouldn’t or share private information they normally wouldn’t share with strangers. 

Non-profit organisations (NFPs) can be attractive targets for social engineering attacks for several reasons: 

Why are non-profits targeted?

Valuable Data

NFPs handle various types of sensitive data, including donor information, financial records, and personal details of individuals they serve. Hackers see this data as valuable and can exploit it for financial gain or to perpetrate other cybercrimes, such as identity theft. 

Trust and Goodwill

Non-profit organisations are often viewed positively by the public, and attackers may exploit this trust to manipulate individuals. People may tend to be more receptive and less suspicious when approached by someone claiming to represent a charitable cause or a non-profit organisation. 

High Emotional Stakes

NFPs are often driven by a mission to support a particular cause, and individuals involved may have strong emotional connections to their work. Social engineers can exploit these emotions to elicit responses or actions that they wouldn’t typically engage in under different circumstances. 

Potential Partnerships and Relationships

NFPs frequently collaborate with other organisations, government entities, and community members. Attackers may target NFPs as a stepping stone to gain access to other valuable targets in their network. 

Publicity and Reputation Damage

Successful social engineering attacks on NFPs can result in significant reputational damage, affecting public trust and potentially leading to a loss of donors and supporters. Attackers may leverage this impact to achieve their goals or to tarnish the organisation’s reputation. 

Lack of Awareness and Training

Due to limited resources, NFPs may not prioritise cybersecurity awareness and training programs for their staff. This can make employees more susceptible to social engineering tactics, as they may not be adequately equipped to identify and respond to potential threats. 

In summary

It is crucial for NFPs to recognise the importance of cybersecurity and implement appropriate measures to mitigate the risks of social engineering attacks. This includes conducting regular security assessments, providing comprehensive training to staff, implementing strong access controls and authentication mechanisms, and fostering a culture of security awareness and vigilance throughout the organisation.  

By investing in cybersecurity measures, NFPs can better protect their valuable data, maintain public trust, and continue their important work without interruptions caused by cyber threats. At Hart Square, we can offer a thorough cybersecurity assessment, with clear actionable outcomes. We start by assessing assets and data within the organisation, and the existing approach to cyber risk management. Find out more about our cybersecurity assessment here.  

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