6 Best Practices To Protect Your Human Services Organization From Cyber Threats


Human services concept

Data privacy and security is a major concern for human services organizations. Whether protecting constituents’ personal data or securing donations, these organizations must safeguard sensitive information from cyber threats.  

But how can human services organizations improve their cybersecurity posture? With financial pressures and staffing shortages, leaders at human services organizations may worry that they don’t have the resources to prevent cyberattacks. However, implementing a few best practices can go a long way when it comes to incident prevention.  

Human Services Organizations Remain Popular Targets For Cyberattacks 

Human services organizations are a major target for cyberattacks. These organizations typically have fewer defenses, making them easier targets to penetrate. Additionally, human services organizations that manage personally identifiable information (PII) can be targeted due to the high black market value of that information.  

Best Practices To Keep Your Data, Privacy, And Payments Safe 

Cyberattacks can put private data at risk and disrupt financial transactions. They can also destroy the trust between a human services organization and the people who rely on their services. As a result, human services organizations must follow industry best practices to keep their data safe and secure so that their operations can continue without a hitch.  

Here are six best practices to protect your human services organization from cyber threats. 

1. Perform Routine Cybersecurity Posture Assessments 

How secure are your organization’s networks and systems? Without routine security posture assessments, you might not know the answer. 

A cybersecurity posture assessment is an analysis of your organization’s practices related to cyber threats. These assessments also measure your ability to respond to a cyber incident.  

Human services organizations can improve their security posture by conducting regular assessments, monitoring systems for security weaknesses, and identifying vulnerabilities early.  

2. Continually Monitor Networks And Software For Vulnerabilities 

In addition to assessing cyber defenses, human services organizations must proactively identify gaps in their security. Cyber attackers look for these vulnerabilities when choosing targets. By identifying gaps, organizations can implement new processes that address vulnerabilities.  

Effective security monitoring requires a clear delegation of IT responsibilities. Organizations must assign specific staff to monitor networks and software. These teams should have a clear reporting structure to communicate their findings to leaders.  

3. Create a Culture of Cybersecurity by Providing Security Awareness Training 

Human services professional

Human services organizations collect personal identifiable information (PII). Every access point within the organization offers a potential route to that private information. As a result, employees at every level must understand the threat of cyberattacks and the role they play in incident prevention. 

Security awareness training keeps employees up-to-date on the best practices. It also creates a culture of cybersecurity by communicating the significance of preventing cyber threats. Employees should undergo thorough and ongoing cybersecurity training with a focus on mitigating potential attacks by slowing down and paying attention to every email to make sure it isn’t a phishing attempt. 

4. Control, Monitor And Update Who Has Access To Data 

Limiting access to sensitive data can go a long way in preventing security breaches. That means implementing security features like multi-factor authentication (MFA) and regularly updating access.  

When onboarding or offboarding employees, human services organizations must follow clear data access policies. Not immediately revoking former employees’ access to data can be a security risk.  

Human services organizations must monitor servers and networks to identify potential breaches as early as possible. An unidentified zero-day attack can exploit a security weakness to gain access to data undetected. 

5. Define Key Security Metrics And Which Department Owns What Risks 

Many human services organizations divide responsibility for cybersecurity between multiple departments. The finance department may manage payment systems, while the development and programs store personally identifiable information.  

By defining key, system-wide security metrics and assigning specific tasks to departments, human services organizations can improve their cybersecurity posture.  

For example, organizations should track intrusion attempts and response times after incidents. Patch response time is another valuable security metric to track. By defining and tracking security metrics, organizations can identify areas for improvement. Similarly, delegating responsibilities can lead to a faster response time and better protection. 

6. Create An Incident Response Plan 

Despite following best practices, there is no way to completely prevent all cyberattacks. An incident response plan can help organizations detect, respond to and recover from cybersecurity incidents if and when they occur. The plan should clearly outline the steps required following an incident, as well as the people within and outside the organization who play specific roles in incident response. The plan should be practiced on a regular basis. 

Develop A Holistic Cybersecurity Strategy To Protect Your Organization With Hartman 

Cybersecurity concept

Human services organizations rely on the trust of their funders and constituents. Unfortunately, piecemeal cybersecurity approaches crumble under the pressure of cyberattacks.  

A strong defense can protect your organization from cyber threats. Hartman Executive Advisors’ team of CIOs and CISOs specialize in helping human service organizations develop and execute a holistic cybersecurity strategy. Contact Hartman today to learn how your organization can implement stronger cybersecurity practices to help you protect those who support and rely on your mission.


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