Six Most Common Cyberattacks Every Nonprofit Must be Aware of

  • 20 February 2019
Six Most Common Cyberattacks Every Nonprofit Must be Aware of

Six Most Common Cyberattacks Every Nonprofit Must be Aware of

When data breaches at fortune 500 companies make headlines nonprofit organizations may tune out - thinking that they do not possess information that can make them potential targets for a cyberattack. Well, the cyber threat is very much real. In the last few years, there have been major cyberattacks in the not-for-profit world. In June 2018, a fraudulent campaign was launched by attackers asking for donations on behalf of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. The American Museum of Natural History, NYC was a victim of a cyberattack in 2015. An email phishing scam lured an employee to make an erroneous wire transfer of almost $3 million.

Data Breach, Facebook, Data Security, Data Exposure, Yahoo, Quora

Fig 1: Major data breaches in the last 5 years. Highlighted in yellow is the number of accounts compromised. Source: Multiple*

A NetDiligence Cyber Claims Study ranked nonprofit organizations as a top-five affected industry. Not only is an organization’s financial information at risk, but also the financial and/or personal information of its donors, employees and clients. Therefore, now more than ever it is imperative, for nonprofits to educate themselves about cybersecurity and develop an organizational strategy to prevent any kind of cyberattack.

Different types of Cyber Attack that are commonly used by hackers to target nonprofits:

Cyberattack, Spyware, Malware, Cyberthreat

1)     Malware

"Malware" is short for malicious software which may include spyware, ransomware, viruses, trojans, and worms. It breaches a network through a vulnerability, typically when a user either downloads an email attachment or clicks on a dangerous link that installs risky software.

2)     Phishing

Phishing is an increasingly common threat. It is the practice where a hacker sends fraudulent email or text or instant messages to get victims to share their personal information. It basically steals sensitive data like Social Security Numbers, credit card details or login information.  

  • Deceptive Phishing – The most common type of phishing scam is Deceptive Phishing.Users receive an email message, claiming to come from recognized sources, asking to re-enter sensitive information or to make a payment.

  • Spear Phishing – This is a more targeted and personalized phishing scam. Users receive emails which are customized and look legitimate. They may carry information such as name, position, company, work phone number etc in an attempt to trick the recipient into believing that the sender is trying to help them out. Especially on social media platforms like LinkedIn.

  • Whale phishing – Also known as whaling is a form of phishing scam aimed specifically at CEOs or high-value targets. Many of these scams target board members

  • Pharming - Similar to phishing, pharming sends users to a fraudulent website that appears to be legitimate. However, in this case, victims do not even have to click a malicious link to be taken to the bogus site. Attackers can infect user’s computer and redirect the user to a fake site even if the correct URL is typed in.


3)     Denial-of-Service attack

This attack is designed to flood systems, servers, or networks. It directs traffic to a website or raises so many requests to a database that it uses all the resources and bandwidth, making them unavailable to anybody.

4)     Man-in-the-Middle attack

This attack is also known as eavesdropping attack. Attackers insert themselves secretly between the user and a web service they’re trying to access. They then can filter and steal data. For instance, an attacker might set up a Wi-Fi network with a login screen designed to mimic a hotel network and as soon as a user logs in, the attacker may steal the information, such as a banking password, that user sends on that network.

5)     SQL injection

Structured Query Language (SQL) injection is a practice of inserting a malicious code into a server that uses SQL and forces information out of it.

6)     Day-Zero exploit

This attack occurs when a network’s vulnerability is announced but a patch or solution is yet to be implemented. Attackers sneak-in during this window of time.

How to detect if your computer has been affected by a malware?

  • Computer is very slow or haphazardly shuts down, fails to start up or crashes frequently
  • Internet speed is affected due to increased data traffic from unknown programs
  • Unwanted programs have been installed or new files can be seen in different folders
  • Increased display of unwanted promotional pop-ups in the browser or new toolbars added to it
  • Programs crash or are faulty. For instance, an antivirus program is turned off or a firewall is deactivated.

Overlooking some of these irregularities on your computer may have dire consequences such as Identity theft, fraud, extortion, instant messaging abuse, website defacement, and breach of access.

“One of the main cyber-risks is to think they don’t exist. The other is to try to treat all potential risks. (Fix the basics, protect first what matters for your business and be ready to react properly to pertinent threats).” ― Stephane Nappo, IBFS Global Chief Information Security Officer & Board advisor at Societe Generale

Please share this blog with others and make them aware of these Cyberattacks. Tell us in the comments below if your organization has been a victim of Cyberattacks.

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