Over a quarter of charities stung by cyber attacks in past year

Over a quarter of charities fell victim to cyber attacks last year, new government research has revealed.

Figures released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as part of the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2020, revealed 26% of charities reported having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months.

The statistics revealed a rising number of incidences, from 19% in 2018, when the DCMS first surveyed charities, to 22% in 2019 and then to 26% in 2020.

The report showed the number of breaches was higher among high-income charities (57%), while a fifth of all charities (22%) said they experience breaches at least once a week.

But the DCMS said that although it could mean more charities are being targeted, it could also mean charities are simply better at identifying breaches than they were before.

It said organisations have also become ‘more resilient’ to breaches and attacks over time.

“They are less likely to report negative outcomes or impacts from breaches, and more likely to make a faster recorvery. However, breaches that do result in negative outcomes still incur substantial costs,” the report said.

Among the 26% of charities to have reported an attack, a quarter (25%) said it had material outcomes on the organisation and over a half (56%) said they were negatively impacted.

The report revealed that despite the rise in attacks, the level of board engagement in cyber security has increased, showing increased action to identify and manage cyber risks.

Figures show three quarters (74%) of charities think cyber security is a high priority for their senior management – an increase on the 53% who said this was the case in 2018.

Four in ten charities (38%) update their senior management on cyber security at least quarterly, the report revealed, while the proportions that say they never update them have steadily declined (from 38% in 2018 to 12% in 2020).

Over two-fifths of charities have responsible board members or trustees (45%, up from 24% in 2018), while 53% of charities claim to have staff whose job role includes information security and governance.

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