Lack of funding leaves sensitive charity data exposed

Australian Council for International Development

Media release | Monday, 20 May 2024

A lack of funding to help charities deter cyber attacks is putting donors’ data and sensitive information about millions of Australians at risk, the not-for-profit sector warns.

Peak bodies the Community Council for Australia, Australian Council for International Development, Fundraising Institute Australia and Public Fundraising Regulatory Association warned their members being targeted by criminal networks.

Community Council for Australia Chair Tim Costello said:

“The federal budget gave business and government millions to bolster cybersecurity, while ignoring pleas from under-resourced charities and not-for-profits losing millions to cybercriminals.

“This lack of funding leaves donors’ financial data, and highly sensitive information about millions of vulnerable Australians, exposed.

“Charities manage many thousands of services for vulnerable people on behalf of federal and state governments. Many operations are tiny and rely on volunteers who are not equipped to keep pace with rapidly evolving cybersecurity requirements.”

A 2023 Digital Technology in the Not-for-Profit Sector survey of 1,020 organisations by social enterprise Infoxchange found one in eight experienced a cyber security incident or breach. Just 12 per cent provided regular cyber security training to staff and a quarter had a policy for how to protect information from security threats.

The government’s cyber security strategy did not contain any dedicated funding for charities to bolster resilience. Ahead of the budget, the sector sought $20 million over three years to improve cybersecurity awareness, training and protection.

“People rightly expect charities to keep operating expenses as low as possible and prioritise the provision of critical services,” Rev Costello said.

“Charities are caught between a rock and a hard place trying to balance legitimate community expectations and the soaring cost of keeping data safe.

“Helping the sector achieve this is vital to ensuring ongoing public confidence in supporting organisations that serve our communities, society and country.”

/Public Release.