3 Cyber-Safety Tips for Senior Living Providers3 Cyber-Safety Tips for Senior Living Providers

The news from the world of cyber security paints a disturbing picture for small-business owners. The data most valuable to thieves is the kind many senior care businesses have on file, such as patient, client, and employee names, addresses, Social Security numbers, insurance numbers, and credit card information. More thieves are hitting small businesses because they don’t have big-business style security. And the cost to victimized companies is rising. Worldwide, researchers found that “the average cost paid for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information increased from $145 in 2014 to $154 in 2015” [emphasis added]. There’s also the cost of time and stress to clients and their families, as well as the potential harm to your business’ reputation.

The good news is that many data thefts can be prevented by following some simple but often overlooked security habits. Use this list to make sure your business has the basics covered.

1. Proper passwords

It’s tempting to use a too-simple password, such as ‘123456,’ so you can get into your files and get on with your work day. The problem is that hackers can crack easy passwords instantly and steal your files. The fix? Create a password with both letters and numbers, a capital letter, and a special character (such as ! $ ? or *). Your employees must follow the same password-creation rules, and if your clients or vendors can log in to your system, the same guidelines must apply to them. All it takes is one weak password to scuttle your security.

If you’re unsure whether you’ve picked a good password, try it out at How Secure Is My Password? The site will tell you how long it would take thieves to hack it — anywhere from “instantly” to several decades, depending on what you choose.

2. Paid antivirus programs

Small businesses run on small budgets, and free anti-virus programs can be a great deal. But experts only recommend them for personal use. Every business should have a paid program with extra layers of protection against keystroke loggers, spam, and other attacks. Most of the best-reviewed programs cost less than $50 — a small investment that can pay big security dividends over the long run.

3. Patches for software and operating systems

Once you’ve upgraded your passwords and your antivirus protection, you’re all set, right? Not quite. The engineers who develop antivirus software, the programs that run on your computer, and computer operating systems like Windows are always looking for ways to outsmart hackers. When they find a potential problem that thieves could exploit, they issue a “patch,” a piece of code designed to eliminate the weak spot.

To make sure you get these patches, enable automatic updates for your antivirus software, operating system, and the programs installed on your system. Some antivirus programs will run a scan for you to let you know which programs need patching and updating. You can also go to the settings for each program and to the System and Security section of the Windows Control Panel to select automatic updates.

There’s more to cyber security, but these are the 3 best steps you can take to make your senior care business less appealing to data thieves. If you want more detailed information, the US Small Business Administration offers a 30-minute video or printed course for free.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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