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Why Are Senior Living Communities at Higher Risk for Cyberattacks? 

Senior living communities and skilled nursing facilities are exceptionally vulnerable to cyberattacks in today’s digital age. These attacks can range from the hacking of personal and medical information to the theft of passwords for fraudulent activities. Shockingly, human error often lies at the root of these vulnerabilities.

Why Are Senior Living Communities Easy Targets?

Cybercriminals specifically target the healthcare industry. Nursing homes and senior living facilities, due to the sensitive and valuable data they possess, can often times be inadequate in their network security measures. Hacking is the primary cause of most breaches, with human error accounting for approximately 20% of cases. 

Senior living communities typically collect and store a vast amount of sensitive personal information about their residents, including medical records, financial data, and contact details. This trove of valuable information makes them attractive targets for cybercriminals looking to steal identities, commit fraud, or sell data on the dark web. A data breach in a senior living community can have devastating consequences for residents, exposing them to identity theft, financial exploitation, and other forms of cybercrime. 

Nursing homes face an elevated risk of cyberattacks. Cybercriminals aim to gain unauthorized access to the extensive data of residents, patients, and employees. This data is then exploited in fraudulent schemes or identity theft. According to McKnights Long-Term Care News, global cyberattacks against the healthcare industry have witnessed a staggering increase of 74% compared to the previous year. 

Limitations in Senior Care Cybersecurity 

So, how DO hackers make money from stolen medical data? According to HIPAA Journal online, “Healthcare records are so valuable because they can be used to commit a multitude of crimes. Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and demographic data can be used to commit identity theft to obtain loans and credit cards in victims’ names.” 

Frequently, these actions involve individuals unknowingly clicking on suspicious emails or engaging in physical theft. For instance, a curious person may plug an unattended USB drive into a computer that contains critical information, enabling hackers to easily access confidential files. 

Unlike large corporations or government agencies, many senior living communities lack dedicated IT departments or robust cybersecurity measures to defend against cyber threats effectively. Budget constraints, resource limitations, and a lack of specialized expertise often leave these communities ill-equipped to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber attacks. As a result, they become low-hanging fruit for cybercriminals seeking easy targets with minimal defenses. 

Carlos Salas, Head of Platform Engineering, NordLayer says there are many reasons behind data breaches in these environments. Most can be traced back to human error, weak passwords, and unintentional employee actions. 

Protecting Senior Living Communities 

Now, there is national support. Recognizing the urgency of addressing these vulnerabilities, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recently launched new tools designed to assist nursing homes in curbing cyberattacks. These tools include education on social engineering, ransomware, loss or theft of equipment or data, accidental or malicious data loss by insiders, and attacks against network-connected medical devices. Contact DAS to coordinate cybersecurity awareness training programs for staff and residents to educate them about common cyber threats, how to recognize suspicious activity, and best practices for staying safe online.  

Several actionable tips can be implemented to protect resident data effectively. It is essential to use verified cybersecurity software, ensuring its installation on all connected devices and the establishment of a secure network infrastructure. Keep all software, operating systems, and internet-connected devices up to date with the latest security patches and updates to address known vulnerabilities. Regular software updates are crucial, as is the training of staff on cybersecurity best practices and the implementation of robust system access controls. Additionally, conducting routine risk assessments to identify weaknesses in provider systems comes highly recommended. 

At DAS Health, we offer complimentary cybersecurity posture reviews for senior living organizations that provide a high-level analysis of your current security measures. Following the review, we will provide a report highlighting findings and recommendations, serving as a roadmap for improvement and outlining specific areas where DAS Health can enhance your cybersecurity defenses.

As the threat of cyberattacks continues to grow, it is imperative for nursing homes and senior living facilities to take immediate action in fortifying their cybersecurity defenses. By addressing the underlying causes of these vulnerabilities, implementing effective training programs, and embracing comprehensive risk assessment practices, these establishments can successfully protect the privacy and well-being of their residents, shielding them from the devastating consequences of cybercrime. 

Do you need help protecting your senior living organization from a breach? Learn more about our tailored cybersecurity solutions here.