Shoshoni Senior Center serious about data care despite challenges

(Shoshoni, WY) – Shoshoni Senior Center, led by Director Rykki Neale, decided to join Wyoming’s Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses, just before the registration deadline in May to create a structured format for data and systems management.

Despite experiencing high levels of staff turnover since the pandemic, the Shoshoni Senior Center remained open for its patrons and in compliance with regulations and reporting requirements of their various funding sources. The Senior Center has faced many challenges on top of the inherent difficulty of continuing to offer services in a small community, without much of a workforce or volunteer base.

“While I did not have as much time to focus on this competition as I would have liked, I did make significant progress towards getting the Senior Center to a better place. It’s a great start, and I have clarified my goals and know more about how to update our policies. I am now more capable of moving the Senior Center into the increasingly digital future, while working with a population less equipped to keep up with the rapid changes in technology and cybersecurity concerns,” said Neale.

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With only four staff members, employee policies and procedures to manage and protect patron information was a key goal. Educating patrons about safe computer usage, scam education to avoid financial loss, and increasing senior citizens’ comfort in using technology are also goals for Neale. The Shoshoni Senior Center distributed several iPads to eligible seniors that were purchased by the Wyoming Department of Health’s Aging Division. The aim of this program is to reduce social isolation in the older adult and caregiving population and to increase access to telehealth and telemedicine services across all Wyoming communities, and the customer service and technical support for the iPads is handled by the Teltex company.

While working towards the competition goals, Neale found some scary holes. She discovered the existing wireless router’s administrative password had not been changed from the default.  Undaunted, she resolved the situation. She also switched to a more secure cloud storage service, changed many passwords, consolidated email addresses, and added two-factor authentication to key accounts.

Neale also realized that Director turnover had created problems in maintaining institutional history. For instance, key account access could take months to recover if a sudden departure occurred. So, she instituted a process of digital inheritance through password management software where a Board Director would inherit her passwords if Neale was incapacitated or unavailable.

“As the only office employee at the time of the competition, I wrote digital inheritance into the employee policies to ensure that the organization could recover from any significant turnover in the future,” said Neale.

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Having started in mid-May, with a deadline to complete the competition on August 15, Neale didn’t expect a town water boil order requiring the Senior Center to close, a temporary loss of internet service, a road closure to Casper due to a double homicide, and the sole cook being out with COVID while a Governor’s visit was scheduled. Not only did she have the competition submission deadline, but she had an onsite quality assurance review with the Wyoming Department of Health’s Aging Division, arranged to retrieve meals for home deliveries from the Riverton Senior Center, trained a new employee, and found a fill-in cook and made other preparations for the Governor’s visit.

“I don’t know who cursed me, but it is really working. When it rains, it pours!” said Neale.

Yet, despite the challenges, Neale prevailed and the Senior Center had a successful and smooth visit with Governor Gordon thanks to fill-in cook Wayne Olsen and newly hired Events Coordinator, Jeannie Kroenke.  The Center also met 75% of their security goals in the competition, with patron education being the only outstanding goal, and 86% of recommendations in a record timeframe of under 3 months. The Center even tied for second place in their category of No Technical Help.

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The 2022 Competition was supported by a grant from Microsoft and the Department of Workforce Services and due to CyberWyoming’s 2022 members and sponsors: Capitol Communications Inc., Campbell County Health, Cheyenne State Bank, CPU (Computer Professionals Unlimited), DigeTekS LLC, EvnTec, Factory IT, First Federal Bank & Trust, First Interstate Bank, Gannett Peak Technical Services, HUB International, IECA, K2 Technologies, Manufacturing Works, PDS, Sweetwater Technology Services, and TEAM. For more information about the 2023 Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses visit https://www.cyberwyoming.org/competition.

The competition was developed by CyberWyoming in 2018 to encourage Wyoming small businesses to meet best practices in cybersecurity through a home grown program called Made Safe in Wyoming™.  The competition has gained national and international attention being the only of its kind and, in February of 2022, won a Gula Tech Foundation Award to expand in 2023. CyberWyoming recently announced this expansion and is looking for local economic development agencies who want to house a Cybersecurity Business Counselor. 

“We wanted to encourage traditional economic development agencies to incorporate security and information protection into their member offerings, so we used the Gula Tech Grant to incentivize them to train a staff member with our program,” said Laura Baker, Executive Director of CyberWyoming.

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Baker said the goal of the program expansion is to raise business community awareness by installing local cybersecurity business counselors that can help with security planning and programs, then encourage connection with other companies and organizations locally to fill the holes.

Those economic development agencies interested in expanding their services with the Made Safe/Competition Program should contact Baker at [email protected] or 307.314.2188.

About Shoshoni Senior Center:  Shoshoni Senior Center was formed to help the community’s senior citizens lead a more dignified, meaningful life by providing and coordinating educational, nutritional, health, social, and charitable services.  Their primary goal is to offer services that enable their seniors to live in the comfort of their own homes and community for as long and as safely as possible. For more information, visit https://www.shoshoniseniorcenter.com/.  

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