Animal Welfare Organizations provide vital services to communities across the country, striving every day to make the world a better place for neglected animals. A mission they could not fulfill without the help and support of a dedicated team of volunteers and financial supporters. Even though they operate on a much smaller budget than larger corporations, their access to confidential information makes animal welfare organizations a prime target for cyber-criminals.

While it is natural to think that small animal welfare organizations would be at the bottom of these criminals’ target list, limited resources makes them more susceptible to an attack. One of the common cyber criminal activities that spiked in 2018 before beginning a slow decline is ransomware attacks.

What is a Ransomware Attack?

Ransomware is a type of malware that hackers use to infect a device or website and hold the information hostage. To regain access to their information, the victim has to pay a ransom for the cyber-criminal to release it.

The most common way for a cyber-criminal to infect computers with ransomware is by using a phishing scam. Phishing scams occur when these hackers send emails to volunteers or employees at the animal welfare organization. Unlike regular spam, these emails are disguised as being sent from somebody the individual should trust. The emails include attachments, and when the volunteer or employee opens the attachment, it releases the malware onto their computer.

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Even though cyber-criminals seem to get smarter every day, there are some steps animal welfare organizations can take to minimize the threat of an attack.

  1. Always install updates on computers and software to prevent any “holes” in the program or device. Failing to install updates promptly makes it easier for cyber-criminals to hack into the system.
  2. Require any downloads or program installs to be approved by a designated IT volunteer or resource. This assures the wrong types of software (i.e., malware) are not downloaded by mistake.
  3. Install antivirus software that includes malware protection on all devices.
  4. Train volunteers on how to identify phishing scams.
  5. Create an acceptable use policy for the organization’s devices and require all volunteers to sign and acknowledge the expectations.
  6. Backup programs, files, and systems at least weekly to not lose any crucial information.

The best way to protect an animal welfare organization from the aftermath of a ransomware attack is to buy the right insurance now. Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program can help you find cyber liability insurance to protect your financial well-being.