3) People. Hire good people and use good people to work with your electronic records—and this might mean investing financially in people who can do the job well. Remember that you are collecting and sharing a lot of important information about your church, as well as information about those who attend it and contribute to it. You wouldn’t turn over your financial records or membership list to someone you didn’t think was competent just to try to save a few dollars, would you? Information is a valuable currency in the internet age, so you’ve got to protect it like you would traditionally protect financial records or other confidential information. That information regarding your membership is most likely what someone would be after if they tried to “hack” your system.
What does the recent WannaCry attack tell us about where we are in the cybersecurity field right now? How can these events inform and shape church responses to preparedness in this area?
The WannaCry cyberattack was, essentially, an extortion shakedown. The people behind the attack gained access through known vulnerabilities in older systems, relying on potential victims to not have conducted simple, practical steps of updating and maintaining their systems. Once inside, the attack spread through shared networks, again based on common mistakes and sloppy oversight. There is really no way to prevent or protect the entire “internet” from such attacks because you’d have to be right every time, and the perpetrator only has to be right once.
But you can protect yourself and your church by following the tips we’ve discussed. As with most crimes, the criminal seeks out the weak and vulnerable. Don’t be afraid, but be aware. Make sure you back up your information on a regular basis.
Be smart, and you’ll avoid most incidents like these. There is a much higher probability that a power surge, natural disaster, or human mistake will cause a system failure than a major hacking scheme.
Dr. Jamie D. Aten is a disaster psychologist and the founder and executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College in Illinois. His latest books include the Disaster Ministry Handbook and Spiritually Oriented Psychotherapy for Trauma. You can follow Jamie on Twitter at @drjamieaten or visit his website jamieaten.com.
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