Living in the information age, we all know the benefits that modern technology brings to our lives. For faith-based organizations, the effects felt by technology are apparent as well. Technology improves the efficiency and productivity of overworked, understaffed church offices, offers a new way for churches to spread their message, and appeals to younger generations. This reliance on technology will only continue to grow as younger generations become the regular donors, volunteers and worshippers of churches around the country. However the improvements that modern technology provides also bring with them added threats and risks that the majority of churches are ill equipped to handle.
The rise in modern technology usage has also brought along a rise in cybercrime, a dangerous trend where anyone can be victimized. Cybercriminals are often motivated by financial gain and achieve this goal by obtaining sensitive personal information that can be used or sold to the highest bidder. Cyber-attacks can happen at any time and affect individuals, businesses and organizations, including churches. In fact, churches make an especially appealing target for the average cyber-attacker.
What makes a church so appealing? To put it simply, churches are notorious for being treasure troves of sensitive information. With the presence of donors, volunteers and staff members, this information can come in a variety of forms. Social security numbers, bank account information and contact information are just a few of the valuable nuggets that churches across the country collect every day. With reliance on technology, the majority of this information is stored electronically, typically on whatever management or accounting software is being utilized. To put this into perspective, Capterra estimates that over 140,000 churches are using church management software today. When you consider the number of records each church holds, it’s easy to see why the level of exposure of the church industry is massive.
To make matters worse the vast majority of churches aren’t just unprepared for a potential breach, they are oblivious to the fact that it can even happen. A recent internal study suggests that while 81% of churches admit to housing sensitive information electronically, 73% don’t think that their information is at risk. This level of unawareness, and the associated culture of inaction, is an enormous problem facing the church industry.
Adding to this problem are the potential consequences associated with a breach. Aside from the risk churches are placing on their members’ information by not protecting it, the fallout of a breach can be catastrophic. In the United States, forty-six states currently mandate that a victimized organization must report a breach. According to the Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Annual Study of U.S. Companies, the average costs associated with reporting and remediating a cyber breach is over $7.7 million, with a minimum of over $307,000. These costs, which are uncovered by the vast majority of general liability policies, can be enough to financially cripple a church.
While this is a problem that all companies and organizations face, the challenges facing the church industry are especially unique. It’s easy to give a large business or non-profit a blueprint for successfully keeping their information more secure; but for churches, it’s different. Many church staffs are made up of just a handful of people, some of which are just part-time employees or volunteers. These are the people responsible with keeping a church running and can wear a number of different hats on a daily basis that don’t necessarily fit their job description. With that in mind, information security can be seen as a complicated, involved topic that many church staffs simply don’t have the manpower or time to tackle. In fact, one recent study suggests that only 16% of churches have an IT professional on staff. Unfortunately for these churches, their level of understanding and ability to address the problem doesn’t make it any less of one. It’s for this reason that churches need a unique information security solution that caters specifically to them.
From our century of experience in the church industry, we’ve witnessed, time and time again, the challenges churches face from the lack of available resources. Due to this problem and the growing threats outlined earlier, we created 5ifthWall, a unique information security solution for the modern church. 5ifthWall brings together leaders of the faith-based and risk management industries for a service that meets the special needs of churches. 5ifthWall is built on three pillars, each equally important for the sustained health of a church. These pillars are education, certification and insurance.
While 5ifthWall provides insurance, we don’t truly consider ourselves an insurance company, as doing so overshadows the comprehensiveness of our service. We like to think of ourselves as a risk mitigation service, which we provide in a number of ways. While insurance is an important safety net to have, it can’t be the only measure of protection a church has in place. After all, is health insurance an excuse to not take care of your body? This is where our education and certification comes in.
As noted before, information security can be a confusing and intimidating topic. At 5ifthWall, we keep things simple with easy-to-follow courses that teach the best practices for keeping your information safer. Our argument is that optimizing information security isn’t always about implementing a sophisticated IT infrastructure; often times the best steps to take are the simplest ones. Our courses provide a basic understanding of common security threats and ways to promote safe computer habits throughout the office.
Upon completion of our courses, we provide resources to apply this new knowledge and create a better security plan for each office. But much like technology, the world of cybercrime is always changing. It’s important to constantly stay educated and updated on the latest threats. 5ifthWall certification does just that. We ensure that our client churches are ahead of the curve every year with the latest recommended practices.
If the unspeakable were to happen, we can provide the safety net that’s needed. Our specialized insurance policies cover a variety of areas that are overlooked by standard general liability policies. 5ifthWall Cyber Insurance is an all-encompassing plan that covers cyber liability, multimedia liability, network damage and interruption, data breach response and more. Plus, we offer a wide range of insurance products that cover other areas of exposure. At 5ifthWall, our goal is to optimize information security and prevent the worst from happening.