As a nonprofit, you are the beating heart of society. But that does not make you immune from the headaches of doing business. One of those headaches involves IT.
What are some of the IT challenges nonprofits face? Here’s a quick rundown of issues we commonly deal with:
- Slow systems
- Frustrated employees
- Integration issues as new technology are released
- Lack of a long-term strategy
- Disaster recovery
It’s fair to say though; the most dangerous IT issue facing nonprofits has to do with system security. All it takes is one breach for a nonprofit to lose credibility. Frequently, those breaches begin with spyware.
What is Spyware?
Spyware is software that infiltrates your computer system. It is considered one of the oldest and most widespread threats on the Internet due to the way it can be installed on your computer without your knowledge. The person(s) installing the spyware does not need physical access to your computer.
What Does Spyware Do?
Here’s where things get scary. Spyware can track every search you make any website you visit, every instant message or chat sent, anything you print, every document opened, and every software application that is used. Some spyware allows the bad guys to freeze, shut down, or restart your computers. Some even let them turn on your webcams to see what’s going on in your office.
Who’s Behind Spyware?
The people behind spyware usually want to track and sell information about your organization, including banking information and credit card numbers. They seek to steal the identities of individuals and businesses alike. Often, one group will gather the information and sell it to another.
Because spyware is installed without your knowledge, the crooks behind it are rarely caught and prosecuted. According to Norton Cyber Security, 978 million people in 20 countries were infected (and affected) by cybercrime in 2017. Globally, these people and organizations lost $172 billion U.S.
The fact that the people behind spyware are so good at what they do makes having professional nonprofit server support vital.
Types of Spyware
There are four primary types of spyware, with each trying to trick you uniquely. They are:
- Tracking cookies – spyware that tracks your nonprofit’s searches, history, downloads, and other web activities to sell them to marketers. You know those unsolicited emails or phone calls you receive with “special offers” for your nonprofit? Some of those may be due to information culled by spyware.
- Trojan – malicious spyware that is disguised as legitimate software. For example, you can have a Flash Player update that needs to be downloaded to keep your computers up to date. Like the Trojan Horse used by the Greeks in the 12th century to sneak soldiers into the city of Troy, Trojan spyware is meant to sneak past your security to gain access to private information such as credit card and banking information.
- Adware – spyware that tracks your search history and downloads to “predict” what you’re interested in buying. If you have ever been looking online at vacations in Italy and then been surprised when ads from travel agencies pop up, it’s likely because of adware. Adware is famous for slowing down your computer.
- System monitors – this spyware is dangerous for the way it can capture nearly any online activity in your organization. It is most often disguised as freeware.
How to recognize spyware on your device
By its nature, spyware is meant to be deceptive and hard to find. But some clues can help you identify whether you’ve been infected. You may have a spyware issue if your computer shows these symptoms:
- Your device is slow or crashes unexpectedly
- Your device is running out of hard drive space
- You get pop-ups when you are online or offline
- There are unfamiliar toolbars on your web browser
- The home page you are accustomed to seeing is suddenly replaced by another
- You begin to see error messages
These symptoms are your sign that it’s time to call IT specialists for assistance, people who can tell whether spyware has attached itself to your organization’s system.
How Can We Prevent Spyware?
Although spyware developers continuously change up their attacks to keep you off balance, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from attaching their malware to your system.
- Never open an email attachment from an unknown sender. Unless you know the source, there is a reason to suspect it may be malicious.
- Beware of website popups. Popups are the worst. Not only are they annoying but they are also potentially dangerous. Often, a popup will ask you to allow it to make changes to your computer. If you’re not computer savvy, the reason they’re asking you to make the changes can seem somewhat logical. The rule is this: unless you understand the differences you agree to and genuinely want the changes made, do not agree to anything a popup asks of you.
- Ignore “The Sky is Falling” messages that appear on your screen. Spyware makers create messages meant to scare or shock you into action. Many times they will tell you that your computer has a virus and unless you allow them access, your computer will be infested. The truth is, they’re the ones trying to infest your computer.
If you have been infected with spyware, there are steps we can take to remove it and to protect you from being victimized by scammers again. We know that computer technology is not everyone’s forte and that IT can be confusing. That’s why we hope to be the IT experts you partner with to help your nonprofit flourish. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call with any questions you may have.