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Cybersecurity in Spotlight as Montecito Bank & Trust Awards $1 Million to Local Nonprofits

Charitable groups increasingly are targets for online scammers phishing for security weaknesses

Montecito Bank & Trust chief risk officer Laurel Sykes and technology director Paul Abramson discuss the cybersecurity threats faced by nonprofit organizations. Click to view larger
Montecito Bank & Trust chief risk officer Laurel Sykes and technology director Paul Abramson discuss the cybersecurity threats faced by nonprofit organizations. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

As more of the work and information of nonprofits shift into the digital realm, cybersecurity has become an increasingly pressing issue for organizations of all sizes.

Staying safe in that environment was the topic Monday at a forum for nonprofits hosted by Montecito Bank & Trust.

The event is a new component of the bank’s now-14th annual Community Dividends Awards Luncheon, where $1 million was awarded to a record 203 nonprofits following the forum.

At the event, held at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Santa Barbara, nonprofit representatives discovered the variety of ways scammers attempt to steal their information, along with the measures they can take to combat fraud.

“One of the topics that we are seeing so much interest in is cybersecurity,” said Janet Garufis, the bank’s president and CEO.

This year has witnessed an uptick in crooks targeting the emails of nonprofit executive directors, she said.

“Your information is all online,” noted Laurel Sykes, senior vice president and chief risk officer with the bank. “You have a (IRS Form) 990 probably on your website that shows all kinds of information about your members, your tax ID number, what kind of incomes streams you’re seeing.

“Contact information for your executives — it’s also probably on your LinkedIn profile and your Facebook pages,” she added. “So it makes it very, very easy for someone to pretend to be one of you.”

Even small nonprofits have donor information that scammers want to nab so that they can fraudulently solicit contributions from funders.

A common scam, Sykes said, is for perpetrators to spoof or hack an executive director’s email and use it, often when the executive is on vacation and difficult to reach, to ask an employee to complete a wire transfer.

Time is of the essence, she said, as they’re difficult crimes to reverse.

“Wire transfers in particular — once they’re gone, they’re pretty much gone,” she said.

A key sign of a con is asking whether the email recipient is around and available to do the job, coupled with a sense of urgency.

Coming up with security words and calling the purported sender will help verify whether a nonprofit executive actually requested a wire transfer, Sykes said.

Opening malware-infected zip files, Word documents, Excel sheets and other files downloaded from email can also be opportunities for scammers to access information on a device, said Paul Abramson, a senior vice president and director of technology at the bank.

Sensitive information, like donor rolls, is more safely accessed and shared on sites like Dropbox and Google Drive, which can check for security risks, Sykes said.

Abramson added that it’s also safer to access such sites by Google-searching them, rather than open a link to them from an email or type in the sites’ URLs.

Links to them from scam emails may reveal pages that look like the sites, but will actually steal the login credentials a victim types in.

Scammers also buy domain names that are a typo off from those of sites like Dropbox. A URL search with that typo will lead to the fake site.

Another safety tip Abramson offered is to keep website platforms like WordPress updated so that scammers can’t add their own code that would take advantage of site visitors.

In case of a catastrophic breach, he said, nonprofits should always have a fail-safe option in a disconnected or offline backup where information can still be accessed by only the nonprofit organization.

If a scam occurs, Sykes and Abramson said, it should be reported immediately to the nonprofit’s bank and to law enforcement.

After the forum, nonprofit executives streamed across the street to the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club for the awards presentation. In the oceanside La Pacifica Ballroom they were treated to a lunch, with scores of Montecito Bank & Trust employees acting as table hosts.

Michael Towbes, the bank’s founder and board chairman as well as the founder and board chairman of The Towbes Group, said the Community Dividends program is as important to the bank as it is to the nonprofit community in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

“It’s a matter of giving back,” he told Noozhawk. “Montecito Bank & Trust has been very successful, and this is an opportunity for us to make a meaningful reinvestment back into the communities that helped us grow and prosper.

“It’s a way for us to support many of the nonprofit organizations that are so important to our quality of life here.”

Among those receiving a grant was The Marjorie Luke Theatre, a state-of-the-art, 800-seat performing arts venue on the campus of Santa Barbara Junior High School.

“We are very proud to once again receive a Montecito Bank & Trust Community Dividends Award,” said Rick Villa, the theater’s general manager. “We look forward to this event every year, and it’s one of my personal favorites.

“The funds we receive go toward our Rent Subsidy Program that enables us to rent the theater at affordable rates to other local nonprofits. In this way we are able to follow Mr. Towbes’ example by giving back to the community, too!”

Through Montecito Bank & Trust’s Community Dividends and Anniversary Grants programs, the privately held company donates more than $1.3 million annually to Central Coast nonprofit organizations.

Bank employees also volunteer more than 2,200 hours a year on behalf of local nonprofit organizations and schools, including 510 hours committed to teaching financial literacy to area students.

2016 Montecito Bank & Trust Community Dividends Recipients

» Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership Enrichment (APPLE) at San Marcos High School

» AHA! (Attitude. Harmony. Achievement.)

» Alano Club of Santa Barbara Inc.

» Alzheimer’s Association, California Central Chapter

» American Cancer Society Inc., California Division

» American Heart Association, Ventura County

» American Heart Association, Central Coast Division

» Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara

» Anti-Defamation League

» Area Housing Authority of the County of Ventura

» Arthritis Foundation

» Atterdag Village of Solvang

» Autism Spectrum Disorder Support

» Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County

» Bishop Garcia Diego High School

» Boxtales Theatre Company

» Boys & Girls Club of Camarillo

» Boys & Girls Club of Moorpark

» Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara

» Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley

» Boys & Girls Clubs of Ventura

» Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbara

» Buellton Senior Center

» California Lutheran University

» California State University Channel Islands Foundation

» Camarillo Family YMCA

» Camarillo Hospice Corporation

» Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara

» Carpinteria Arts Center

» Carpinteria Education Foundation Inc.

» Carpinteria Valley Museum of History

» Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families

» Casa Serena Inc.

» Center Stage Theatre

» Child Abuse Listening Mediation Inc.

» Coastal Housing Coalition

» Community Arts Music Association of Santa Barbara, Inc.

» Community Conscience / Under One Roof

» Community Counseling and Education Center

» Community Memorial Health System

» Conejo Valley Senior Concerns Inc.

» Congregation B'nai B'rith

» Cornerstone House of Santa Barbara

» Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse

» Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County

» Courthouse Legacy Foundation

» Crane Country Day School

» Direct Relief

» Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County

» Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation

» Dream Foundation

» Easy Lift Transportation Inc.

» Elings Park Foundation

» Elverhoj Museum of History & Art

» Ensemble Theater Company of Santa Barbara

» Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara

» Fielding Graduate University

» Food from the Heart

» FOOD Share

» Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

» Foundation for Santa Barbara High School

» Friends of the Goleta Valley Library

» Friends of the Library of the Santa Ynez Valley Inc.

» Friends of the Santa Barbara Public Library

» Friendship Adult Day Care Center Inc.

» Ganna Walska Lotusland

» Garden Court

» Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast

» Girls Incorporated of Carpinteria

» Girls Incorporated of Greater Santa Barbara

» Girls Rock Santa Barbara

» Gold Coast Veterans Foundation

» Goleta Education Foundation

» Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation

» Goleta Valley Historical Society

» Greater Santa Barbara Ice Skating Association

» Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County

» Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County

» Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center

» HELP of Carpinteria

» Hillside House

» Hospice of Santa Barbara Inc.

» Hospice of the Conejo

» Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura

» Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County Inc.

» Isla Vista Youth Projects Inc.

» Jessie Hopkins Hinchee Foundation

» Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara

» Jodi House

» Kids Helping Kids

» La Casa de Maria Retreat & Conference Center

» Laguna Cottages for Seniors

» Leading From Within

» Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County

» LifeChronicles

» Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association

» Lobero Theatre Foundation

» MAD Academy

» The Marjorie Luke Theatre

» Mental Wellness Center

» Midland School

» Montecito Family YMCA

» MOXI The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

» Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara

» Museum of Ventura County

» Music Academy of the West

» New Beginnings Counseling Center

» Notes for Notes

» Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara Inc.

» Opera Santa Barbara

» Pacific Pride Foundation Inc.

» Page Youth Center

» Parks and Recreation Community Foundation

» Partners in Education

» PATH Santa Barbara (Formerly Casa Esperanza Homeless Center)

» PathPoint

» Peoples’ Self-Help Housing Corporation

» Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation

» Planned Parenthood California Central Coast

» Plaza Playhouse Theater

» Reins of H.O.P.E.

» Rubicon Theatre Company

» San Marcos High School

» San Marcos Parent Child Workshop

» Sansum Clinic

» Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Inc.

» Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation

» Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts Inc.

» Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra

» Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

» Santa Barbara Community Housing Corporation

» Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation

» Santa Barbara Education Foundation

» Santa Barbara Family Care Center

» Santa Barbara Family YMCA

» Santa Barbara Foundation

» Santa Barbara Hillel

» Santa Barbara Historical Museum

» Santa Barbara International Film Festival

» Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

» Santa Barbara Meals on Wheels Inc.

» Santa Barbara Middle School

» Santa Barbara Museum of Art

» Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

» Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics

» Santa Barbara New House Inc.

» Santa Barbara Police Activities League

» Santa Barbara Police Foundation

» Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center

» Santa Barbara Rescue Mission

» Santa Barbara Strings

» Santa Barbara Symphony

» Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

» Santa Barbara Zoological Foundation

» Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum

» Santa Ynez Valley Meals on Wheels

» Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People Inc.

» Sarah House

» SBCEO Teachers Network

» Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara

» Solvang Danish Days Foundation

» Solvang Friendship House

» Solvang School Elementary School District Education Foundation

» Solvang Senior Center

» Southeast Ventura County YMCA

» Special Olympics Southern California Inc.

» Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation

» St. Vincent’s

» State Street Ballet

» Storyteller Children’s Center

» Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA

» Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International

» Teacher’s Fund

» Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation

» The ARC Foundation

» The Arts Fund

» The Foundation for Girsh Park

» The Foundation for Santa Barbara City College

» The Howard School

» The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County

» The Santa Ynez Valley Foundation

» Tina Hansen McEnroe & Paul V. McEnroe Reading and Language Arts Clinic at UCSB

» Transition House

» Turning Point Foundation

» UCP/WORK, Inc.

» UCSB - Technology Management Program

» UCSB Alumni Association

» United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County

» United Way of Santa Barbara County

» United Way of Ventura County

» Unity Shoppe Inc.

» Ventura County Housing Trust Fund

» Ventura County Medical Resource Foundation

» Ventura Music Festival

» Villa Majella of Santa Barbara

» Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care of Santa Barbara

» Washington Elementary School

» Westmont College

» Wilderness Youth Project

» Wildling Art Museum

» William Sansum Diabetes Center

» Women’s Economic Ventures

» Youth & Family Services YMCA: Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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