Technology in Church: What Are The Risks? | #CyberSentinel EP 010

With the flood of data breaches in the news, I have church members asking about how our church protects their private data at the church. Where do I start?

So data breaches in the news are pretty continuous at this point. This affects both nonprofit organizations, as well as corporations and government offices. So your church is not immune to these kinda data breaches, and when you, at the first, if the first thought is that you probably don't have data that cybercriminals are interested in, but when you start to think about it in detail, you really do. Any kinda credit card processing that you have on-site is information that those cybercriminals would be after. Your donor rolls are super important to cybercriminals. They're always looking for information on net worth of individuals, assets, that kinda thing, that your data in those donor rolls will contain. And they're also after any kind of medical records that you might have for mission trips, for schools, for vacation bible study. All of those kinds of information are super important when you have cybercriminals that are interested in doing identity theft. Those forms have pretty much all the information that they need for doing identity theft. So it's really important to protect that data. So to get started, we always wanna try to identify where on your network you're storing that data. Make sure that those areas are secured, we can encrypt those if they're all, once we've identified where those are, we can encrypt those to protect them some more. And really you need to sit down and go through with an IT professional what that network looks like and what you're currently doing to protect that as a wholistic network. Once you've done that through a risk assessment, then they can help you put together a plan and looking at the budgets, go through the plan and figure out how to invest in security for that network. Once you've kinda got that plan, the roadmap established, you can determine where a professional IT management company can help you and where you can continue to use volunteer help or parishioners to help support that IT infrastructure. But we wanna have a plan, first and foremost, to secure all that network infrastructure and not do it piecemeal with, hey, we need a new thing here, we need a new thing there. I've got somebody that'll donate this, donate that. That's not gonna get you a cohesive network security plan in place.

When I'm at church, I can't access certain websites and some programs run slow. Why don't they fix this?

- Everywhere we go nowadays, wireless access is pretty common. Church is not an exception to that. Most churches now provide wireless access to the congregation. If you think about it, though, this is a unique situation that they have to deal with. Most of the week that wireless network and infrastructure at that church is lightly used, and then you have this one period on Sunday, or Saturday, depending on what the religion is, where you have this large spike in users. So when we deploy wireless networks, we want to make sure we are spending the church money wisely. We don't wanna over-provision if we can avoid it. So we often will deploy with different technologies in place to help to mitigate that spike in traffic. So when you can't get to certain websites on the church network or certain sites seem slow, what's happening is that they are employing content filtering. So on the firewall levels, we can turn on content filtering to filter based on the content of the data that those websites present. So we don't, we definitely wanna make sure that, on a church network, we're not going to certain parts of the internet, the dark web, if you will. We wanna make sure that stuff's all shut down. And we also implement something called traffic shaping, where we can limit the amount of traffic that's gonna go to certain bandwidth-intensive sites. So you may be trying to get to YouTube or something like that on a church network and not getting good results, and it's probably because they're usually in traffic shaping to reserve bandwidth for church functions during those times. And this is very common, so it's, don't consider it as being broken. Consider it as being well-managed on that wireless network. So again, if you need help setting that up, those technologies, we can certainly help with that. But those are two areas which we definitely recommend in wireless infrastructure for churches. -

 

 My church wants to be a WiFi hotspot as a means of community outreach related to the homework gap. What is this?

Now this is a new trend that's, it's new to me as well, but in ChurchTech and some other publications this has been a growing topic of how do you address kinda this homework gap or the church becoming a community hotspot, if you will? So the concept here is that the church would open its doors during the week, when it's not necessarily heavily utilized. You'd have volunteers that are there to help students work on homework. There's still about five million, I believe, households with school-aged children that do not have high speed internet at home, and this creates issues now that schools are becoming more and more computerized in their assignments and the way that kids are supposed to turn in their homework and complete those assignments. So where do these kids go to complete those after school? So some churches have started opening up their doors for this function. Really what you need is you need a set of volunteers who are willing to serve as mentors and to monitor that situation, and you need internet access, and you need a wireless infrastructure and some computer access to make that happen. Obviously we want to continue to make sure that that is secured WiFi. So we wanna make sure that the WiFi is still protected by our content filters, make sure that that WiFi is governed by traffic shaping. And during those sessions you wanna make sure that that network, that WiFi that is available for this function, is separate from your church operational network. So we don't want that to bleed over and don't want those students to have access to church functions for the staff, that kinda thing. So staff network's got all the finance, accounting, membership, all that. Has to be a separate network from what you're gonna use for this function of the church hotspot. Some locations, if it's in a densely populated area, we've seen where there's been deployment of outdoor wireless. So we can now put wireless radios up that will broadcast out from the church church parking lot, from the church property, into adjoining neighborhoods and have that available for people to log in to. It's a point of outreach and it also allows a church to use that through landing pages and things like that, to advertise programming and things like that for that community that's available to the families. So that's what that church-as-a-hotspot movement is and we'll continue to see how that develops in the coming days. Well, that's all we have for today on this episode of Cyber Sentinel. We discussed church technologies. If you have other questions you'd like to see us address on future episodes, you can find us on social media at #cybersentinel. And until next time, thank you very much.