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Shepherding the Flock Away from Cyberattacks

February 8, 2021 jill Blog
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By Matt Olphin

We have exited a year that has become synonymous with change, and while its end came with a brief sigh of relief, the events of 2020 will continue to challenge and change how many worship centers operate for the foreseeable future.

Faith communities have been creative in their determination to worship at a time when social distancing was needed. Live-streaming services, virtual events and digital donations have helped congregations stay connected.

However, while the Internet has allowed people of faith to “gather,” it’s also a means for bad-faith actors to prey upon houses of worship and their members.

According to Cybercrime Magazine, 90% of hacks occur through phishing scams. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, phishing works by the hackers assuming a different identity (such as your bank, your doctor or even your pastor) fin order to get the user to click on a link or hand over personal information.

More than 854,000 confirmed phishing sites were reported in Q1 of 2020, a third of which were spurred by the pandemic, according to Cyber Defense Magazine. As businesses and organizations moved to remote work, hackers seized the opportunity, sending more than 18 million malware and phishing emails daily.

Phishing scams can range in sophistication. While many can easily be spotted as fakes, others require a closer look. Training your staff and members on how to spot phishing scams can help protect your entire worship center. On the flipside, simple human error can lead to computer viruses, stolen donor data or even ransomware.

Here are some red flags to be aware of when it comes to email phishing:

  • You do not recognize the sender or the sender is using an unfamiliar email address. For example, someone claiming to be your treasurer sends you an email from a misspelled address. Look carefully—sometimes things are off by a single letter, number or character.
  • The email asks you to click on a link or download an attachment you were not expecting to receive.
  • The email demands a sense of urgency or uses threatening language in an attempt to get you to act quickly.

In addition to spreading awareness on the dangers of phishing scams, it’s important that your house of worship invests in other forms of defense. Cybersecurity software can help prevent some attacks that humans may not detect, and cybersecurity liability insurance can help organizations recover financially after an attack occurs.

Even if your house of worship has resumed in-person services, the threat of a cyberattack remains. Education and training are vital to the protection of your members and your organization, but they aren’t foolproof.

Help ensure that your organization is prepared for an attack with the backing of software and the appropriate insurance coverage.

Matt Olphin is the director of client risk solutions for Glatfelter Religious Practice (GRP), www.glatfelterreligiouspractice.com. Glatfelter Religious Practice (GRP), an American International Group, Inc. (AIG) company, is a leading religious organization insurance provider for all religious denominations, offering coverage for churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. GRP’s experienced risk control consultants and specialty underwriters combine extensive insurance and religious risk experience with a service-minded approach to help insure and protect congregations.

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