Tech experts deliver security assessments and plans to local nonprofits, setting them up for success to fulfill their missions in the long term.
Brian Hinkle, Manager, Infrastructure, Operations and Security at Amicus.io and Kevin Harris, Director, Security Risk Management at American Tire Distributors together have more than 50 years of experience in the IT industry. All Charlotte nonprofits are now very fortunate because they are volunteering their deep expertise with Apparo. Through Apparo’s Tech Therapy program, Brian and Kevin are helping nonprofits protect themselves from cyber threats using free and low cost tools, many of which nonprofits already have, but are not yet making the most of. They have completed work with two nonprofits and will be taking on more next year.
Kevin had previously volunteered with Apparo and wanted to extend his service, so he joined forces with his colleague Brian Hinkle (from AAA Carolinas at the time). Kevin explains, “Brian and I are passionate about security and protecting nonprofits in today’s COVID-19 world. We know that even highly resourced companies can struggle with their cybersecurity and could only imagine how much of a challenge this must be for nonprofits without the budget, skills or wherewithal to address these issues. Nonprofits are vulnerable targets because it’s known they aren’t the best at protecting themselves. We want to help them address gaps and give them guidance so that they can protect their assets from bad actors. I knew that Apparo would be the perfect partner because of their existing infrastructure, relationships and knowledge of the nonprofit sector.”
For their first security project in 2020, Apparo matched them with the Humane Society of Charlotte. Aiko Okamoto, VP of Administration of the Humane Society, shares “I jumped at the opportunity to get help and learn from professionals who I would not normally have access to. We were victims of security breaches in the past and knew that with COVID there would be an increase in these breaches and phishing emails. We were trying to be careful, but with our limited personnel and budget, we were not able to be as proactive as we should.”
Upon completion of their work with the Humane Society, Kevin and Brian moved on to support Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays during an especially critical time. Paige Stryker was new to her role as IT Project Manager, moving tech support internally for the first time, and a merger with Friendship Trays was around the corner.
Paige shares, “Security is not my specialty and I knew it was a priority to address. We were very vulnerable. If our systems were to ever go down, we would not be able to receive the referrals we need to get families the food they need. Also, there is a lot of shame and stigma around hunger and reaching out for help. Ensuring that our private data isn’t violated is very important, so that people can feel comfortable coming to us to ask for help in their time of need.
“It was reassuring to know that I would get the support and education I needed; that I was not going to be alone as we addressed our security and protected ourselves. Kevin and Brian never made me feel dumb. They were always there to answer the small questions and the bigger strategic questions. They have also been very mindful of cost and expertise, helping me find free and low cost, easy to use tools, that work just as well. They are also very patient as we roll out our changes, keeping our employees comfortable, which helps ensure their buy-in and keeps them in their role as our first line of defense.
“The greatest thing about every partnership I’ve had with Apparo is that it’s a relationship; it’s not transactional. Brian and Kevin want me to learn these skills, so that I can do it myself. They talked me through the steps and explain why each one was important. It was a collaborative and fun experience working with them. I learned a lot and have been able to put that training into practice. I’m confident that I’ll be able to pass along this institutional knowledge.
“We worked together for nine months and it was nine months well spent. We made huge improvements without investing a lot. As a nonprofit, we are always looking for ways to make more of what we already have and we were able to do that here. We are a lot more secure today and will continue to get even more secure. Through our strengthened security position, we are not only protecting ourselves, but ensuring our ability to continue to serve our clients. They set us up for success for the future of our organization.”
Apparo’s Benjamin Knudson shares his appreciation, “The service that Kevin and Brian have provided has been superlative and we are so grateful to have such knowledgeable volunteers share their wisdom and expertise with the non profit community. Their gracious gift of delivering IT security recommendations, best practices and guidance has helped propelled organizations into a better security posture and create a more secure IT environment.”
In closing Kevin shares, “Our partnership with Apparo has been a match made in heaven. Ben (Benjamin Knudson) and Stephanie (McKee) have been great champions and stewards.”
And Brian reflects on his volunteer experience, “I have a passion for helping others and service. It’s fantastic to apply what you know to help others so that they can do more in our community.”