Faced with the growing variety of cyberthreats today, nonprofit organizations realize the importance of implementing robust security measures. But without a clear understanding of their vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors, nonprofits won’t have a complete picture of their security posture and what measures are required to improve it. Going in blind when developing a security strategy will only lead to disaster for the organization’s bottom line and data integrity.
Nonprofit organizations need to know how their current cybersecurity posture holds up against real attacks, and the only way to evaluate this safely is through penetration testing.
How does penetration testing work?
In a penetration test, ethical hackers (also known as white hat hackers) employ various techniques to exploit vulnerabilities, just like real attackers would. They may perform an initial scan of the organization’s network and systems to identify potential targets, then use a combination of social engineering scams, password cracking, software vulnerability exploits, and other methods to gain unauthorized access. Some may even run simulated malware attacks to test the organization’s reactive capabilities. The ethical hacker will then document their findings and provide professional recommendations to the organization to improve their security posture.
Depending on the contract between the nonprofit and the security company, there are different levels of access granted to the ethical hackers. This can range from external-only testing, where only public-facing systems are evaluated, to full-scope testing, where all systems and networks are included.
Nonprofits can also choose to provide information about their systems and networks upfront or leave it up to the ethical hackers to discover them during the testing process. Penetration tests can be conducted in a controlled environment or spontaneously without prior notice to the organization, simulating a real-life cyberattack scenario.
5 Reasons why penetration testing is vital for nonprofits
Given the growing sophistication of cyberthreats and the potential consequences of a successful attack, penetration testing can be an invaluable service for nonprofits. Here are five key reasons why nonprofit organizations should consider penetration testing:
1. To uncover system vulnerabilities before cybercriminals do
The main goal of penetration testing is to scour computer systems, company policies, and processes for any weaknesses that hackers may exploit. By conducting simulated attacks, ethical hackers can reveal potential entry points that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. This allows nonprofits to proactively address these threats before cybercriminals can leverage them.
2. To create more effective security strategies
Penetration testing isn’t just about finding vulnerabilities; it also helps nonprofits evaluate the effectiveness of their security measures and strategies. These tests help organizations find security gaps, evaluate staff responses to threats, and assess readiness for a real cyberattack.. This valuable feedback allows nonprofits to refine and improve their security processes and make their defenses more resilient.
3. To focus security spending
Many nonprofits don’t have the budget to invest in comprehensive security measures, which makes them an attractive target for cybercriminals. Fortunately, penetration testing is a cost-effective way to pinpoint critical security vulnerabilities and create targeted strategies to fix them.
For instance, if a penetration test reveals that the nonprofit’s email system is particularly vulnerable to phishing attacks, the organization can prioritize implementing additional security measures for emails instead of investing in expensive solutions for every potential vulnerability.
4. To reduce data breach occurrence and associated costs
The cost of addressing security vulnerabilities is significantly lower than the costs of a data breach. For one, the downtime caused by a successful breach can result in major productivity and financial losses for nonprofits. The recovery can also be a lengthy and costly process, especially if the source of the breach is particularly sophisticated. Additionally, nonprofits risk losing their funding if donors and stakeholders lose trust in the organization’s ability to protect sensitive information.
In fact, the average cost of a single data breach can cost as much as $4.45 million. Meanwhile, penetration tests and smart cybersecurity risk management cost only a fraction of that amount, making it a worthwhile investment for nonprofits.
5. To maintain regulatory compliance
Nonprofit organizations can be subject to various regulations concerning the protection of sensitive data. Certain nonprofits that process healthcare or financial information may have to comply with regulations, such as HIPAA or GDPR. Falling short of these regulations can lead to hefty penalties, lawsuits, and reputational damage.
By conducting regular penetration testing, nonprofits avoid potential violations by fulfilling their regulatory obligations. It also demonstrates to stakeholders that the organization is taking proactive measures to protect sensitive information and to maintain a secure environment. And in the event of a breach, having a history of proactive security measures can help mitigate reputational damage and maintain customer loyalty.
Varsity Tech understands the unique security challenges and financial constraints of nonprofit organizations. Choosing us for your cybersecurity needs means you’ll benefit from our thorough penetration testing services and advanced security solutions. Call us now to identify any vulnerabilities lying dormant in your organization’s systems, networks, and policies before they turn into catastrophic cyberattacks.