In senior housing there’s a great responsibility when it comes to data security. While caring for residents, a senior housing operation may hold in its hands a wealth of personally identifiable information including social security numbers and healthcare records.
Given the broad range of cyber threats on the landscape today, senior housing executives therefore must be proactive in their efforts to secure this data across the enterprise. Here are four steps they need to take in order to ensure that it is safe.
Step #1: Assess
It is impossible to safeguard one’s at-risk data without first understanding what that information may be, where it may reside and what steps already have been taken to ensure that it is protected. Housing executives therefore must begin their cyber-security efforts with a thorough review of systems already in place.
This may include back-end systems including accounting and other infrastructure. At the same time, forward-facing applications including those available to front-liners must be reviewed. A comprehensive inventory is the first step toward ensuring data will be kept safe.
Step #2: Determine the weak spots
Once the system has been thoroughly scrutinized, it should become possible to determine any potential flaws. Here the presence of a skilled IT operator, one trained in the specifics of cyber-security, may be a valuable asset.
There are a number of threats in play in the present landscape including malware, spyware, ransomware and many others. It takes a trained eye to review the interplay between various systems in order to spot potential vulnerabilities. Such weak spots may exist at the structural level, in the ways in which servers share information and interact with one another. At the same time there may be systemic or procedural issues that need to be addressed: The way in which information is shared between users of the system.
Step #3: Technical remediation
With flaws identified, senior housing operators may at this point wish to bring in the services of a skilled consultant or a vendor partner, someone who can bring to bear specific tools for the remediation of potential vulnerabilities.
In some cases this will mean an upfront investment, but it is important to remember that cyber remediation is just that: An investment. Without solid systems, a senior housing operation runs a number of financial and operational risks including potential lawsuits over compromised data, as well as increased regulatory scrutiny and the potential for increased insurance premiums. Money spent to harden the system truly is an investment in the future of the enterprise.
Step #4: Training
Finally, there is the human element. Data security breaches often are the product not of a technological shortcoming but of a lack of training and awareness. Staff members may fail to take simple precautions, such as routinely changing their passwords. Data that ought to be encrypted or kept in some secure space may be printed out, with hardcopy circulating inappropriately. Thorough training of frontline staff is therefore a critical step in ensuring that data remains safe.
With this combination of assessment and remediation, combined with thorough training, all under the guidance of a skilled IT provider, it is possible for senior housing executives to increase security for data over the long haul.