Cyber security and church are words that you don’t often find in the same sentence. When you think of your church’s data records, images of old-fashioned data cabinets might come to mind.
Many churches, however, have kept up with the progression of the digital age. This means their members and employee records get stored digitally. They also have websites and social media sites. It’s therefore not surprising that many church insurance coverages include cyber insurance.
Why Are Churches at Risk?
A 2021 report from the Australian Financial Review Magazine shows that more than 50% of local businesses were disrupted by cyber-attacks in 2020 -2021. This statistic includes top organisations, start-ups and even churches.
As recent as 2014, the Lutheran Church Australia saw a major data breach that resulted in 1,484 users’ account information hacked and posted to a public site. From a global perspective, it’s no secret that cyber criminals exposed the Vatican to a 5-month long hack in 2020.
With these stats in mind, why are churches at risk? Essentially, churches are businesses. As with other businesses, church data records contain private employee and member information. Hackers use this information to ransom the church, commit identity fraud, and where possible, attempt to steal funds.
Top Reasons Why Cyber Security Is Necessary
If you’re still not entirely convinced that you need church insurance that includes cyber security coverage, consider these three crucial points:
- Cyber-attacks are random. There is no way to predict or anticipate an attack.
- Recent events have shown that cyber-attacks are often aimed at small to medium-sized businesses because those organisations have the most to lose. Cyber security is often the aspect least insured or planned against, especially in smaller companies. This puts churches of all sizes at risk. Only recently the risk to smaller establishments has led to an increase in start-up and Airbnb home insurance coverages around Australia.
- Many churches are creating websites and social media sites to connect with members and to share details of church events. Without the right security in place, this creates an avenue for hackers to access your information.
Expert Tips to Ensure Your Church Cyber Security is Secure
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to ensure your church data remains protected. In addition to opting for a comprehensive insurance cover, consider the following tips to keep your parishioners’ data safe.
1. Ensure Password Security
Ensure that everyone with access to the church data system or website has their own passwords. Passwords must be strong and changed up every few months. Put a policy in place regarding sharing of passwords. Where possible, allow only senior staff to have access to critical information, such as personal details and financial records.
2. Use and Regularly Update Anti-virus Software
Using comprehensive anti-virus software is one of the top ways to deter unwanted access. With a variety of free software options, it’s easy to find a suitable option. Ensure that the software is regularly updated. Additionally, ensure that you perform regular updates on your operating system as well as the program you’re using to capture and store data. It might be necessary to consult an IT professional to get the best security software.
3. Ensure All Devices Used to Access Church Information Have Data Encryption
Most laptops and smart devices are password enabled. That means a user requires a password to access the information on it. Be sure to create your records, websites and social media platforms in a way that requires passwords to access.
4. Perform Regular Data Back-Ups
Backing up your data won’t necessarily prevent a cyber-attack, but it will prevent your data from being lost if the church laptop or computer system is stolen or destroyed in a fire. Schedule regular back-ups.
5. Boost Security with Multi-Factor Authentication
If any of the church computers get stolen, there’s always the risk that hackers may access information. With multi-factor authentication, a secondary device or password is required to access the system. This will ensure that simply stealing the computer won’t give you access to data.
6. Provide Employee Training Regarding Cyber Security
Some churches have dedicated employees while others may rely on volunteers. Whatever the arrangement is, all users with access to the system should undergo training regarding the basics of cyber security as well as password control.
7. Add Software that Filters SPAM or Phishing
Your church email will most likely be on many parishioners’ mailing lists. That said, it’s quite easy to inadvertently receive emails via someone’s computer that might contain a virus. Invest in a software system that filters suspected Phishing or SPAM attempts. Also use UTM firewalls to limit users’ access to potentially harmful information on the internet.
Church data is as important and valuable as the information stored by any other business. Making cyber security a top priority will ensure that your data doesn’t become an easy target for the next big hack. Our list of tips will definitely help get your security on track and give everyone involved some peace of mind!