Cyber security management for the aged care sector

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Many of us have heard the news reports about tech giants suffering a cyber attack, with leaked customer and employee data causing reputational damage. It has become clear that cyber threats have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years.

What about cyber security in the aged care sector? As aged care organisations increase their digital transformation efforts, they also increase their vulnerability to cyber attacks and put sensitive information at risk.  

How do such breaches occur, and how can you prevent them?

Why executives need to understand cyber security

You might have left cyber security to your IT department in the past. They likely only had four walls of your organisation to protect, and cyber attacks were simply not as sophisticated. Now, cyber security is no longer the sole responsibility of your IT department. It is up to everyone in the organisation to stay informed about current cyber attacks and recognise threats such as phishing emails.

Encouraging your organisation to take responsibility for cyber security initiatives starts at the executive layer. That does not mean you need to become a cyber security expert yourself. It simply means that you need to practice good cyber hygiene and lead the way in new security initiatives.

Why cyber criminals target the aged care sector

The aged care sector is a lucrative target for cyber criminals. A few key reasons include:

  • It is an industry with access to personally identifiable information (PPI) and healthcare data, which are highly valuable when sold online.
  • Some facilities might have outdated software and systems, which are usually easier to breach.
  • It is a sector where cyber criminals often assume that healthcare workers do not have the right knowledge to recognise and protect the organisation from cyber attacks.
  • Aged care facilities deliver critical services, and because disrupting them puts lives at risk, they are more susceptible to making ransomware payments.
  • Workers might be operating in high-pressure situations, compromising their ability to recognise suspicious digital behaviour.

An excellent way to protect your organisation and those in your care is by knowing the potential threats, training your organisation to recognise them, and designing a response plan in case of attack. It is also important to have up-to-date software and systems in place, making it harder for criminals to access your facility.

How do cyber breaches in aged care occur?

The types of cyber attacks experienced by aged care are no different from those targeting other industries, such as business or financial services. The difference lies in the kinds of information targeted. 

Some key types of cyber attacks to watch out for include:

  • Phishing emails that appear from legitimate sources and contain malicious links that install ransomware on a person’s computer when installed. The malware allows bad actors to access sensitive information, such as financial or healthcare data.
  • Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks can become a big issue in aged care facilities. Anyone in the vicinity can connect to the network and potentially eavesdrop on communications or access sensitive data.
  • Ransomware attacks have become prevalent recently, with Australian health and aged care companies experiencing significant breaches. Ransomware is malware that encrypts files and demands payment for a decryption key. Even if a company pays the ransom, they do not always get their data back.
  • Human error is one of the biggest cyber security vulnerabilities that an organisation can have and one that cyber criminals do not need to focus on exploiting themselves. Human error usually includes a simple mistake, such as sending patient files to the wrong email address, distributing them to a wide group of people or accidentally trusting malicious sources with PPI and health information.

Cyber security breaches can have a devastating effect on the aged care sector. Providers are increasingly being targeted by cyber criminals, with ransomware in aged care being one of the most common attack methods used to exploit vulnerabilities. 

Protecting your organisation from cyber attacks

Aged care providers must stay abreast of the risks threatening their organisations and implement strategies to prevent bad actors from compromising their information.

There are several steps that aged care providers can take to protect themselves from ransomware attacks, including:

  • Educate staff on cybersecurity risks and identify suspicious activity. There are some signs that employees should be aware of, which may indicate that an organisation is under attack. These include unusual activity on the organisation’s website or social media accounts, unexpected emails or attachments, and requests for personal information.
  • Implement security systems such as data encryption, firewalls, and a cyber incident response plan to further protect sensitive data from breaches.
  • Restrict access to sensitive data so that only people with specific permissions can access the data. Only the people who need that data to support patients should have access to it. This also ties into identity management, which verifies users attempting to access data to ensure they are who they say they are.

By taking these precautions, aged care providers can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of an attack ensure that patient, and organisational data remains secure. Cyber security is an important consideration for all businesses, but it is especially crucial for those in the aged care sector.

Get your cyber security play right with VISITS

Adopting new technology requires a significant investment, so your solution needs to deliver competitive advantage, improvement and risk reduction.

We have robust experience in delivering solutions that align with your business strategy. Our experts can guide you in securing your corporate resources across the cloud, data centre, or employee devices.

Let us find the technology solutions you need with our Consulting Services.

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