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HIPAA and Cybersecurity: 5 Tips to Keep Your Senior Living Community Safe


As a senior living community director, it's important to protect your residents' information. Municipalities and businesses nationwide have fallen victim to cyberattacks, so senior living communities must be proactive when protecting their residents' data and systems.

We'll cover five tips to help you stay HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) compliant and protect your community from cyber threats. But first, let's look at the most common HIPAA violations related to cybersecurity.


5 Most Common HIPAA Violations:

Lack of Employee Training

A lack of employee training is a cybersecurity risk. Employees who aren't trained on best practices may make mistakes that could violate HIPAA privacy security rules. This can be especially dangerous if an employee can access sensitive patient data and personal information.

Keeping Unsecured Records

Medical records are one of the most sensitive types of data a business can have because they contain direct personal information about an individual and their medical history. "Patient confidential" information includes both physical and digital records. Physical records not secured in a locked cabinet are a common vulnerability. Digital records, on the other hand, need several layers of security protection. Significant data leaks can be caused by a combination of multiple HIPAA violations, including failure to complete a risk analysis and failure to prevent password sharing. A single violation can be fined up to almost $70,000, meaning a major leak could come with a multimillion dollar fine. 

Unencrypted Data

Electronic record-keeping is the standard for senior living facilities. As a result of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, every healthcare organization must encrypt and secure its electronic medical records. To do this, you must use encryption software that complies with the HIPAA Security Rule. Unencrypted or out-of-date software is a common vulnerability, such as using shared computers without two-factor authentication.


Like any company that stores sensitive information digitally, healthcare facilities are at risk of hacking and ransomware. As noted by the Department of Health and Human Services, an average of 4,000 ransomware attacks happen daily, an increase of 300% since 2015, according to a recent U.S. Government interagency report. Hackers will have more targets to choose from as the healthcare industry grows, especially in the senior assisted living industry.

Loss or Theft of Devices 

Devices, including personal electronics, used to record or store sensitive personal or medical information become a HIPAA violation risk if the device is lost or stolen.


5 Tips to Keep Your Senior Living Community Cyber Secure 

Now that we've reviewed the most common HIPAA violation vulnerabilities, let's dive into five things you can do to ensure cyber vulnerabilities don't become a HIPAA violation risk.

Educate your staff and residents on cybersecurity best practices

Cybersecurity today is a constant battle. The use of technology has increased exponentially, and it's essential to educate your staff on the latest trends in cybersecurity awareness and best practices.

Educating your staff is more than just a one-time event. Regular training to reinforce the basics, including helping your staff recognize cyber threats, is a practice you should prioritize. Your employees are the eyes and ears of your organization. Empower them with the tools and training they need.

Aging adults are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. Keep them informed about how to best keep their information secure. Help them recognize threats like phishing emails, be transparent about your commitment to keeping them informed, and provide them additional guidance about using new technology safely. 

Install a next-generation firewall (NGFW) and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) software on all community computers

Your cyber security framework includes critical infrastructure that requires protection. A next-gen firewall is a hardware device that inspects Internet traffic and includes features like application awareness and control, intrusion prevention, and threat intelligence. Endpoint Detection and Response, on the other hand, is software installed on your computers that continually monitors to mitigate malicious cyber threats.

It's crucial to stay informed about firewall vulnerabilities. As in all things technology-related, there isn't a set-it-and-forget-it option. Regular monitoring and updating are necessary.

Require strong passwords for all resident accounts

Strong passwords are essential for everyone's safety. It can be challenging to remember long and complex passwords, but it's important your password isn't easily guessed.

Most of the time, a password needs to be stronger. Encourage your residents to use numbers, letters, and symbols in their passwords. Better yet, provide residents and staff with a password manager that generates and autofills strong, unique passwords for each login.

Restrict access to sensitive information to only authorized personnel

Your information systems are valuable assets and should be protected from unauthorized access. Make sure your security policies specify who is authorized to access the computer and what actions they may take on the system.

Security breaches can occur through unsecured network connections, connected medical devices, or unprotected email messages. Ensure you don't make it easy for hackers to access information by defining specific access privileges and restrictions. 

Regularly back up data and keep software updated

Backing up your data is an important step to preventing the loss of information. But it's about more than losing information. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, "successful ransomware deployment often depends on the exploitation of technical vulnerabilities such as outdated software." Keeping your software updated is a critical step in maintaining security and stability.

Following these simple cyber security best practices can help keep your senior living community safe from potential cyber threats and your organization HIPAA compliant.

Have questions about how to implement some of these measures? Our team is here to help. Schedule a security analysis consultation today. Let us help you identify any potential vulnerabilities in your system so that you can take the necessary steps to protect your residents and their data.



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