Like many healthcare organizations, senior living communities are particularly vulnerable to cybercrime, as their networks contain sensitive personal information and financial data that is valuable on the dark web. 

As more cybersecurity threats emerge, it’s important to fully understand how to implement proper cyber risk management in senior living communities as well as best practices for safeguarding elderly residents from online threats. 

The Cyber Threat Landscape in Senior Living Communities

Let’s review some of the common cyberattacks affecting today’s senior living communities.

  • Zero-Day Threats occur when a cybercriminal takes advantage of an unknown security vulnerability within an IT network.  
  • Phishing attacks extract personal information from an individual through requests for information and phony hyperlinks, often sent in emails and text messages.
  • Ransomware attacks are forms of malware (software designed to take control of computers) where a hacker demands financial compensation to restore an individual’s device.
  • Insider threats are cybersecurity risks from individuals who have legitimate access to your system and use it for criminal purposes.
  • Social engineering combines a straightforward cyberattack with human interactions and the building of trust with a victim.

Consequences of Cyberattacks on Senior Living Communities

With the wealth of personally identifiable information (PII) and financial account data that a senior living community’s network stores, the effects of a cyberattack could be devastating to both facility operations and the residents who live there. 

A patient may have their healthcare data compromised. Financial losses could occur from hacked bank accounts. And the facility, itself, could suffer damage to its reputation.

Assessing Cyber Risks in Senior Living Centers

Before a senior living center can put stronger cybersecurity protocols in place, a thorough cyber risk assessment must be conducted. Cybersecurity for senior care facilities is unique and requires a thoughtful, strategic approach.

Here are 4 steps for assessing cyber risk in senior living centers and using that information to establish a risk management framework.

Conducting a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

Assessing cyber threats in senior living communities with a Security Risk Assessment involves four key steps:
  1. Start by identifying assets and vulnerabilities. What data and personal information within your facility have value and should be safeguarded?
  2. Evaluate potential threats. What are the areas (computers, software, employees, third parties) that present potential compromises to your cybersecurity?
  3. Assess the likelihood of exploitation. Consider each asset and its threats and prioritize the most likely to be exploited.
  4. Determine the impact of exploitation. Finally, consider the repercussions if each asset is exploited.

Establishing a Risk Management Framework

Once you’ve assessed your situation, it’s time to create a risk management framework. This includes several key activities, such as:
  • Developing security policies and procedures to manage your existing data.
  • Implementing access controls to oversee who has access to your data.
  • Regularly monitoring and assessing risks to avoid the possibility of missing new risks.
  • Incident response planning for a fast and effective response time in the event of a crisis.

Building a Cybersecurity Culture in Senior Living Centers

Along with a thorough assessment, it’s important to develop a culture within your senior living center. This starts with educating your staff and residents regarding cybersecurity best practices (creating strong passwords, safe browsing, etc.).

You should also regularly conduct IT security awareness training. Discuss how to recognize suspicious activity and deliver cybersecurity hygiene tips.

Implementing Cybersecurity Measures in Senior Living Centers

Assessing cybersecurity threats and establishing frameworks are good starting points, but implementing cybersecurity measures is also crucial. 

Be sure not to overlook these critical components:

Addressing Network and Infrastructure Security

Securing your network is a critical starting point for cybersecurity in healthcare facilities. A secure network design and segmentation should be in place. 

Use firewalls and establish intrusion detection systems. Set up regularly occurring vulnerability scanning and patch management to keep the system clean.

Adding Endpoint Security

Protect all devices by installing antivirus and anti-malware software. Encryption and data protection on devices are also helpful. Secure remote access if remote workers or third-party vendors access your system off-site.

Putting a Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Strategy in Place

Implementing a backup and disaster recovery strategy is imperative to reducing downtime and ensuring business continuity in the event of an attack. 

Ensure data is routinely backed up and keep procedures current. Use off-site storage and cloud solutions and test and validate data restoration measures.

Establishing an Incident Response and Recovery Plan

When considering what you will do if an attack occurs, detail the following:
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Incident identification and reporting
  • Containment and mitigation strategies
After an attack occurs, take the following post-incident actions:
  • Conduct a forensic investigation to gather information.
  • Maintain communication with your staff and notify the authorities and other important parties.
  • Consider what lessons you can glean to improve your senior living cybersecurity best practices.
  • Evaluate how often a cybersecurity risk assessment should take place within your organization.

Protecting Healthcare Facilities and Organizations from Cybersecurity Risks
With continuous improvement and adaptation, it’s possible to thwart cyberattacks and breaches and avoid disasters to secure the long-term success of a senior living center.

If you need assistance evaluating, developing, and implementing your risk management framework, our team at SSI can help. Contact us today.