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How To Protect Your Charity IT Systems

Cyber-attacks have been ‘big news’ in the last few weeks, most notably the WannaCry Ransomware that caused much disruption across the NHS.  So, what steps can you take to minimise the risks of a similar attack disrupting the work of your organisation?

Here are 6 top tips from the NCVO ‘Knowhownonprofit’ knowledge bank:

As a charitable organisation, you’re constantly dealing with the sensitive information and data of your most precious asset – your supporters, members or donors. Their personal details and donations could be at risk if you don’t suitably protect your computers. There is a bewildering array of malicious software out there: from worms to Trojans and phishing. These often masquerade as trustworthy web sites, but all to trick you and acquire your sensitive information.

According to security experts – despite the threats, many charities do not secure themselves properly, which obviously could result in a breach of security, loss of data or just wasted time as you try to recover the situation.

There are ways to safely store the information your charity holds, covered in this article, but what about software that can protect your PCs? The following steps will help you take precautions.
Things you’ll need.  Your computers – running Windows, Apple iOS or Linux.

1. Install anti-virus software

It is the job of your anti-virus software to keep track of the latest security problems and shield you from their effects. It should detect known viruses on your computer and eliminate them. In some cases it will also stop viruses getting on to your machine.

Windows Defender is built into the latest Windows operating system, but there are also many well respected anti-virus software packages available.

Symantec and BitDefender are available at heavily discounted prices for charities from Technology Trust. AVG and Avast are free for personal use, with discounted rates for charities. They all have different strengths and weaknesses. Look at reviews and ask for up-to-date expert advice.

Clamwin is an open source free virus killer which can be used at home or in the office free of charge. If you already have anti-virus software on your computer, you should NOT install a new program before you uninstall the old one. Rather than doubling your protection, the one is very likely to treat the other as hostile and cause problems.

Many charities can set their anti-virus or spyware software to scan the internet more frequently – hourly in some cases – for new threats, or download security patches more regularly. Others set their anti-virus software to protect their web gateways, often forgotten, as well as email.

2. Keep your system up to date

If your Operating System is not updated regularly it will not be able to protect your computer from the latest security threats. Anti-virus software may not prevent this, so you must keep system files up to date too.

The Windows Update feature should be enabled by default which will work in the background to download and install updates at a suitable time when you know the computer is on, but not in use. Devices running Apple IOS and Linux have similar features. Don’t skip applying these updates when the operating system asks to download them.

Often a restart will be required for the updates to take effect. Also, allow programs or apps (such as your Office Suite) which run on your computer or device to be updated when requested.

View the remaining 4 tips here

Office cupboard to donate

Options for Life is an Oldbury based not for profit charitable organisation which provides a range of innovative opportunities for people with learning disabilities. The charity has a 6ft (h) x 2½ ft (w) pine effect cupboard, which is excess to requirement.  The top half is open shelves, the bottom half a two-door cupboard (not lockable).  The item is in very good condition and Options would like to donate it to a voluntary or community group.

Options is unable to deliver, so collection would need to be arranged.  Please contact Rachel Palmer or Lesley Shorthouse 0121 544 6611 if you are interested.

NCVO Almanac 2017

The charity sector is unlikely to experience an increase in donations or income from the government over the next few years, NCVO has warned. They made the prediction alongside the release of their  UK Civil Society Almanac 2017, which covers the 2014/15 financial year and is based on analysis of financial data from a sample of more than 7,800 charities.

NCVO said earned income was the best prospect for future growth and that money from dormant assets, such as shares or bonds, should be used to help local charities.

It says that 90 per cent of the sector’s £112.7bn of total assets – such as property, cash and investments – are held by just 3 per cent of charities, with the top 100 asset owners accounting for half of the sector’s total. It says the vast majority of charities “have little reserves to speak of”, which it describes as a “long-standing challenge”.

Approximately 48 per cent of all charities are described as “micro”, defined as those with annual incomes of less than £10,000, the almanac says. Another 34 per cent it categorises as “small”, with annual incomes of between £10,000 and £100,000.

The almanac says that 14 million people volunteered at least once a month that year, with the highest rate in the 16 to 25-year-old group.

Affordable Reconditioned Laptops

ReCOM is a Solihull-based charity which deliveries its services across the West Midlands. It provides affordable reconditioned laptops to voluntary organisations and individuals on low incomes.

Laptops come with a choice of Windows 7 or Windows 10 and Microsoft Office 2010. Equipment can be collected from their workshop in West Bromwich or delivered to you. ReCOM currently have 14” Lenovo laptops for £130 with fast i5 processors and have a minimum of 160 GB hard drive.

If you are Interested, please speak to Jayne on 0121 663 0335 or email

An application for can be downloaded from the website.

Charities urged to do more to protect themselves against cyber crime

Organisations large and small – including charities – are being urged to protect themselves against cyber crime after new Government statistics found nearly half of all UK organisations suffered a cyber breach or attack in the past 12 months.

The Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017 reveals nearly seven in ten large organisations identified a breach or attack, with the average cost to large organisations of all breaches over the period being £20,000 and in some cases reaching millions. The survey also shows organisations holding electronic personal data on customers were much more likely to suffer cyber breaches than those that do not (51% compared to 37%).

The most common breaches or attacks were via fraudulent emails – for example coaxing staff into revealing passwords or financial information, or opening dangerous attachments – followed by viruses and malware, such as people impersonating the organisation online and ransomware.

Organisations also identified these common breaches as their single most disruptive breach, and the majority of them could have been prevented using the Government-backed, industry supported Cyber Essentials scheme, a source of expert guidance showing how to protect against these threats.

These new statistics show organisations across the UK are being targeted by cyber criminals every day and the scale and size of the threat is growing, which risks damaging profits and customer confidence.

The Government has committed to investing £1.9bn to protect the nation from cyber attacks to help make the UK the safest place to live and do business online.
Business also has a role to play to protect customer data. The government offers free advice, online training and Cyber Essentials and Cyber Aware schemes.


Lobbying and the Election – what charities can and can’t do

With a general election now scheduled for 8 June, many charities will be wondering how they can engage with the public and politicians to raise awareness of their work and the issues that matter to them. Charities can play an important role during elections, helping to facilitate and inform public debates, and they should feel confident in doing this, as long as they heed relevant guidance.

Importantly, in this general election period, special guidance from the Charity Commission applies. It can be found here. While many charities say they have felt deterred from campaigning in recent years, this guidance is actually fairly enabling. It should not unduly hinder charities campaigning in a responsible and non-partisan way.

For example, five things that charities can do are:

Continue campaigning on issues
Reach out to the candidates and ask their views on issues
Publish candidates’ views on issues
Host a debate between candidates or invite them to issue-focussed events
Publish a manifesto or briefing materials on issues

From Read the full article

Local company wish to donate free office furniture

Steel and Alloy Gonvarri Steel Services, West Bromwich, have a number of office desks in excellent condition and a few office chairs, which they would wish to donate to the voluntary sector. Steel and Alloy is based at Trafalgar Works, Union Street, West Bromwich B70 6BZ.

The company need to clear their office of these items of furniture by Friday, 21 April at the very latest. If you are interested please contact Kate Bonsor via email at, or telephone 0121 500 0624.

SCVO Member Feature: Sandwell African Women Association

Sandwell African Women Association was established as a charity in 2014. It aims to support, restore, empower and bring hope to African refugee women and children affected by wars, sexual violence and exploitation.  It helps  survivors of torture and abuse and those deprived of human rights in their home lands.

The group provides advice, support and training to disadvantaged African women refugees and children from Sandwell, Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley and Wolverhampton. It delivers a range of services to improving safety, access to justice and well-being of women and children. It helps homeless people through education and accommodation, and supports young people who face barriers to work.

For more information please contact Mamy Zozo on 0121 649 0724. Email Website

Expressions of Interest Invited by Walsall Council for former Library Buildings and Spaces

Walsall Council welcomes expressions of interest for alternative community use of former library buildings and library spaces from voluntary and community sector organisations, or several organisations working as a consortium.

Organisations should have the necessary expertise and imaginative proposals to take over the management of a former building or a former library space from the 14 August 2017 and make it available for use to the wider community. The primary use of the space must be non-commercial.

For further information and access to Expressions of Interest Forms, please click here.

SCVO Member Feature: Icap West Midlands

Icap (Immigrant Counselling and Psychotherapy) has been providing counselling in a secure, confidential environment for over 20 years.

They specialise in working with people experiencing issues relating to migration, particularly amongst the Irish community in Britain. They also have particular experience and expertise in working with survivors of childhood abuse.

Talking with a trained and experienced professional in a safe, confidential, non-judgemental space can help people understand the causes of their distress and pain. Being able to link feelings to patterns of behaviour which affect people’s relationships can enable them to make the changes they need to make and to move on with our lives. Counselling can help with depression, low self-esteem, bereavement, stress and unhappiness.

Icap provides counselling and psychotherapy across the West Midlands.

Visit the website

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