Get to Know Your Enemy

The convenience of digital technology offers a wide array of benefits and risks. Technology has opened many doors for senior living providers to advance care, reduce costs and improve their residents’ experience. However, when left unprotected, technology has also opened the door to new risks.

Unfortunately, senior housing is woefully unprepared in the face of growing cyber threats, which may come from any number of directions. There are outside attacks; breaches due to poorly formulated policy; and data loss due to equipment failure, negligence, or insider threats. These and a wide variety of other factors have contributed to a new landscape of concern.

In considering digital security, senior-housing executives must consider a wide range of risk, including the following 4 new and growing threats:

1. Ransomware

An attack where bad actors seize control of a victim’s computer system and make the system inaccessible to the user. Healthcare has proven especially vulnerable to ransomware attacks. For instance, in February 2016, there was an attack on Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. The hospital paid about $17,000 to hackers who had disabled its systems.

2. Malware

Software devised to carry out any number of malicious actions, from gaining intrusion access to bringing a system to an unexpected halt. Forms may include viruses, worms, adware, and Trojan horses.

3. Spyware

A special brand of malware, spyware harvests information without a user’s knowledge. It may be set to collect log-ins, financial data, and Web use—all while remaining invisible within the system.

4. Hackers

A generic term for the individuals who may launch any or all of these attacks. They may be doing it for sport—in order to prove how clever they are—but more frequently these days, hackers are turning professional. They may work for criminal organizations, on behalf of states, or for their own monetary gain.


Despite the diverse aspects of the problem, its solutions share certain characteristics. Solutions should meet industry-standard best practices in establishing the baseline for the organization. It is vital that these solutions stay pertinent and carry the force of policy so that the organization can beat the ever-evolving challenge.

In reviewing the broad landscape of digital threats, the key takeaway for senior-housing executives is that they must take a broad stance, safeguarding their systems in the widest possible ways. With so many potential entry points, and with the evil-doers becoming increasingly creative, executives may seek the services of security-specialized, highly proficient professionals in order to guide them in their efforts.

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