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Nursing Home Cybersecurity Best Practices & Benefits

08.23.2022
Hallway of a Nursing Home

Even if they aren’t discussed much in popular culture, nursing homes and long-term care facilities are fundamental to our society. They offer individuals who are aging or in recovery a safe place to live and thrive while ensuring their continued good health. They also serve as social hubs for members of these communities, facilitating connections between like-minded individuals and creating opportunities for deeper and more meaningful social interactions.

Most of us will need some form of long-term care as we age, and these facilities continue to grow in number, with roughly 65,600 regulated long-term care homes in the United States alone. However, even as these facilities continue to add residents and locations across the country, operators have yet to successfully grapple with one major challenge to their growth – their cybersecurity.

Nursing home cybersecurity is critical, considering how much private personal information these facilities use. In addition to personal identifiable information (PII) like names, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers, most nursing homes also keep extensive documentation on residents’ health, including medical records.

To ensure they are not breached or put at risk, nursing homes should renew their focus on cybersecurity and adopt whatever measures necessary to protect staff and residents.

The Benefits of Cybersecurity in Nursing Homes

There are many reasons why nursing homes and other long-term care facilities should prioritize cybersecurity. In November 2019, a massive ransomware attack affecting more than 100 nursing home companies made headlines, forcing dozens of facilities to rapidly adjust their daily routines, including basic tasks like retrieving patients’ medical records, billing, and internet access. This hack was perpetrated against Virtual Care Provider Inc. (VCPI), a technology company that provides essential services to nursing homes and long-term care businesses.

To prevent issues like this from happening in the future, nursing homes should prioritize their cybersecurity. Here are some more reasons why making this adjustment is so critical. 

It protects residents’ data from loss or theft

In addition to disrupting a facility’s capabilities and daily routine, an attack can also target their valuable resident data. This includes health records and other PII, which can be sold for millions of dollars on illicit online marketplaces. Improving cybersecurity helps facilities reassure clients that they take their privacy seriously, both in-person and online.

It safeguards network security from mistakes and human errors 

Unfortunately, one of the easiest ways for bad actors to access your system is through simple human error. A phishing email is the most popular way for hackers to launch a ransomware attack, and these emails are getting harder to spot every day. If someone on your staff is not aware of what they’re doing, they can easily click a link that exposes your entire system to a ransomware attack.

Fortunately, you can take steps to mitigate an incident like this. Installing a more effective filtering system can help keep these emails out of your staff’s inboxes. Additionally, running regular cybersecurity training sessions can help your team become more familiar with the ins and outs of phishing, allowing them to become better front-line safeguards against these types of malicious emails.

It helps nursing homes maintain their reputation

There are many factors to consider when families evaluate nursing homes and long-term care facilities for their loved ones. Reviews and public opinion can have a huge influence. A facility that has been hacked or otherwise compromised by a data breach puts itself at risk for ongoing reputational damage, which can adversely affect its efforts to attract new residents.

Nursing Home Cybersecurity Best Practices

While keeping both health records and PII safe may seem daunting, there are lots of steps that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities can take to boost their cybersecurity and improve how their residents’ data is protected.

Here are some of the best practices for cybersecurity nursing homes should follow. 

Invest in cybersecurity training for staff

Cybersecurity training for front-line nursing home staff is a crucial factor that can help prevent breaches. By giving staff enhanced training on phishing, fraudulent emails, and other threats they may face, businesses can help ensure their front line is well-defended against bad actors. 

Insist on multi-factor authentication for remote access

With so many staff working from home either full or part-time, no business can be too careful when setting up policies for remote work. One best practice that should always be followed, especially when working with PII and HIPAA-sensitive health data is multi-factor authentication. This only adds a few seconds to an employee’s login time but is essential in preventing bad actors from accessing your network remotely. 

Set up a cybersecurity-focused technology stack

Too many organizations establish a technology setup for their organization without thinking about how cybersecurity plays a role. Instead, they should be prioritizing cybersecurity at every level of their technology stack. This involves different forms of protective hardware, software, and apps that work together to keep the organization running effectively while also defending the network against external threats.

The ThreatBlockr network security solution is one example of a security enhancement that can work with your existing technology, lying seamlessly over the top without any adjustment or alteration required. 

Ensure backups are protected and stored off-site

In the event of a breach, the easiest way to keep your operations running smoothly while the incident is resolved is to ensure your backups are always safe and accessible. The simplest way to ensure the safety of your backups is to keep them stored off-site at all times. This separates them from your primary network, protecting them from unauthorized access even in the event of a breach.

Create a robust disaster recovery plan

Hackers are getting more sophisticated by the day. Even enabling robust protections sometimes can’t prevent a breach. The best way to protect your organization and ensure day-to-day operations can continue regardless of any technical issue is to create a disaster recovery plan for your business.

This plan lays out the steps your company will take in an event like a hack or breach and helps ensure no task or area is missed in the frantic hours and days after an incident occurs.

Let ThreatBlockr Help Defend Your Nursing Home’s Cybersecurity

Between PII, billing information, and HIPAA-compliant health records, nursing homes hold a wealth of sensitive data that poses a considerable temptation to hackers. However, fully combating these threats and setting up a secure technology stack can take a lot of time and money, which most businesses would much rather spend on residents. That’s why many nursing homes and long-term care facilities rely on solutions like Threatblockr.

This SaaS network security solution lies on top of your existing technology setup, providing protection from threats before they even hit your network. Plus, it’s driven by enterprise-level intelligence, providing ongoing information about new and developing threats so your system is always up-to-date on the latest risks.The network security risks your healthcare business could face are constantly evolving. Our recent data sheet on using threat intelligence to combat cybersecurity risks in healthcare will help you learn how to protect your organization from any threat you may face.