Cybersecurity Issues In Senior Living and Long Term Care

Senior living and long-term care facilities rely heavily on technology, now more than ever before. Residents, staff members, and visitors alike all have devices and platforms they use to make their daily tasks and lives easier.

Unfortunately, even with all the benefits that technology can offer, it does still come with some drawbacks: most notably, cybersecurity threats. Senior living and long-term care data is a hot commodity. Many hackers want access to confidential healthcare data or private financial data, much of which can be found easily in senior living and long-term care facilities. Unfortunately, many of those healthcare facilities remain woefully behind in their overall protections.

Is your senior living facility or long-term care facility at risk from these common cybersecurity challenges?

1. Baby Boomers are using more devices than ever.

An estimated 94% of people over the age of 50, according to a study by the AARP, report using technology, including smartphones and computers, to stay connected to friends and loved ones. An estimated 13% of seniors have home assistant devices like Alexa and Google Home. They even have smart cars that offer driver assistance.

Unfortunately, all of those devices can offer considerable security hazards–and seniors may not have the tech skills to know how to fully close the cybersecurity gap and protect their devices. Worse, many of those smart devices are connected to internal networks, which means that a hacker who can exploit one of those smart devices can also connect to the network in a senior living facility.

2. Many phishing scams are designed specifically to target seniors. 

Phishing scams are created by people who have a good idea of who they’re targeting and what they’re trying to accomplish–and all too often, seniors are very vulnerable targets. With a single email with a dangerous link, a hacker can gain access to a senior’s confidential information. In some cases, the hacker may then use that information to get into the network at your senior living or long-term care facility.

Seniors are also more vulnerable than their younger peers on social media networks. Often, cybercriminals will put together scams designed to target seniors on social media sites, from encouraging them to “shop” on websites that offer no actual products to using social media to collect information about seniors, which they can use as part of a larger scam.

3. Some hackers gain access to senior living community frameworks through the guest networks.

Guest network access is the norm in most facilities now, including senior living communities and long-term care facilities. You want guests to have a positive experience in that environment, and that includes being able to use their devices.

Unfortunately, that guest access can serve as a point of vulnerability for the organization. Hackers may simply operate the network by using their cell phones: a device no one would think twice about. Those Wi-Fi hotspots serve as multiple vectors of entry for a potential cyberattack–and they can be used to gain access to other, more confidential areas of the network. Guest networks are, by their nature, unsecured–but many senior living facility management teams don’t think about the fact that those networks are connected to other, more secure areas. Completely segmenting your networks can help provide a vital layer of protection.

4. Senior living communities see a high level of guest traffic and high staff turnover.

In most senior living communities and long-term care facilities, no one thinks twice about seeing a strange face. While you get to know their residents and their regular visitors over time, it’s not unusual for someone new to come to visit: a grandchild who lives out of the local area, for example, or a friend who hasn’t been in recently, but who has recently decided to invest more time and energy in that relationship. An unfamiliar face rarely stirs up much reaction, especially if the person interacts cheerfully and calmly with residents during their visit.

High levels of staff turnover in many healthcare facilities also means that you may not recognize all of the employees in a particular area, especially cleaning staff or those who may not have regular, direct patient interactions. Sometimes, people will pose as cleaning people to give them a chance to install a device directly into an Ethernet port. Since most people do not recognize these devices, they might think nothing of it until they’re used as a vector for an attack–one that could potentially take down your network, interfere with patient care, or compromise patient data.

5. Many hackers will target high-level employees within the organization.

Your senior living facility staff, including C-level staff members, will often have their data displayed clearly on the company website, from their name to their email address. That makes them easy targets for many cybercriminals, who will then use that data to target them directly in phishing scams and other styles of attacks.

C-level employees are known to have access to most of the company’s confidential data. They frequently have high-level access to everything in the system–and if they’re not in IT, they may not have the skills needed to avoid those potential threats. In some cases, cybercriminals may try to access their network accounts directly. In other cases, they may try phishing scams to get C-level employees to give them that information. While many of these attacks are unsuccessful due to careful cybersecurity tracking and regulation, when they do succeed, these attacks can leave your network incredibly vulnerable.

Does your senior living facility have a strong layer of cybersecurity that can help protect against cyberattacks and prevent cybercriminals from accessing confidential information stored in your system? Have you, like many other healthcare organizations, found yourself lagging behind the times and failing to bring your security systems up to the latest standards? At Mathe Inc, we specialize in providing the high-level cybersecurity services frequently needed by senior living communities and long-term care facilities. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how your community can benefit.

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