Who’s Minding the Electronic Store?

I recently couldn’t fill a prescription online because the third party that processes pharmaceutical products for my drug plan was hacked. Little did I know at the time this would be an ongoing problem affecting a substantial part of our healthcare system. We’ll leave policy debates to others and focus on what we can do.

The hack was made at Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, that manages healthcare technology pipelines and processes 14 billion transactions a year. The company said ransomware criminals ALPHV, or Blackcat, had claimed responsibility for the attack but did not say whether it paid or negotiated a ransom. WIRED has reported a ransom payment of $22 million. The company said its investigation determined that Change Healthcare, Optum, UnitedHealthcare, and UnitedHealth Group systems have been affected.

The American Hospital Association has called it “the most significant cyberattack on the U.S. healthcare system in American history.” Providers can’t get paid for services provided, which affects their ability to pay their bills. They can’t preauthorize procedures or authorize payments for prescriptions. The tragedy is that a lot of people can’t afford to lay out the money for prescriptions, much less procedures. Pharmacies are scrambling for drugs. Treatment is not being provided.

But that’s not the end of the problem. Patient records – sensitive personal information – may have been compromised, and that’s another set of issues.

United Healthcare said it immediately disconnected Change Healthcare and started working with law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity experts. They instituted workarounds, including manual processes to submit information, check eligibility, look at claim status to make claims, clear prior authorizations, and fill prescriptions.

While most of us are nowhere near the size of United Healthcare, we can be ransomware targets and suffer just as significantly on our own level. And on our own level, we must be willing to make the necessary investments in our technology because we depend so much on its operating performance and reliability. A good plan to prevent problems looks something like this:

  1. Make sure all your hardware can run the most up to date software for your operating system, cybersecurity, and apps. For example, Microsoft will no longer support Windows 10 a year from now. You may need to upgrade to systems capable of running Windows 11. Newer versions of other software may not run on Windows 10.
  2. Have a documented process in place to make sure updates for operating system, security, and application software are automatically downloaded and installed on every piece of equipment in your office. You also need to verify the process is being followed.
  3. Have an emergency response plan with people trained to implement it as soon as a problem is detected. That plan may include disconnecting systems from the internet and processes to reconnect or work without full web-based capabilities.

We can help you by assessing your technology assets and liabilities; procuring and installing new technology; and developing an emergency response plan. Call us – 973-433-66776 – or email us for an appointment.

Living and Growing with Technology

We have kids and grandkids who have never known life without wireless technology, and now we’re moving on to AI. Whether you’re a business or a family with an array of technology comfort zones, there’s an array of paths you can follow to help you keep it all together.

I believe one of our biggest dangers with technology is online shopping. Did you see who had the most ads? According to my observations, it was Temu, the Chinese shopping site. What’s the red flag? There are two: 1.) data collection and 2.) legal recourse.

With every purchase you make, Temu collects a tremendous amount of personal data, including, of course, the credit card number you use to buy stuff. AI, which is really the use of superfast computers that can digest and regurgitate massive amounts of data, makes it possible to analyze every aspect of your shopping preferences. Even if you guard the privacy of your data persistently and diligently, some well-programmed AI can find out things you never knew about you. Conceivably, it helps Temu and similar websites present you with product choices and price points that will generate a purchase.

And because Temu is based in China, it operates under Chinese law, not US law. Not only will you not have the same legal recourse in China to protect you from financial loss, you likely won’t have the same regulatory protection about what data is collected and how it’s protected.

Another convenience we like is setting up automatic payments for products or services that are linked to our credit card or bank account. It’s a convenience for consumers and providers, and you can sometimes get a discount for automatic payments.

I dread the day my payment info gets hacked, and there’s no convenience factor that makes it worth the risk of being hacked. If you agree, there are two critical steps you can take to minimize your risk: 1.) Reset your login credentials for your financial accounts and the sites that draw automatic payments. 2.) Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for every website account that offers it; biometrics and text messages to a device only you can access are best.

Biometrics can include facial recognition, and it offers the best combination of safety and convenience, especially for phones and tablets. Unless somebody has stolen your device and used your digital passcode to get into your settings and take a picture of themselves to reprogram your facial ID, only you can respond. Using a mobile device for a text is good because you should have the device in your possession for the authentication process. The use of authenticator apps such as Microsoft Authenticator or Google Authenticator is a good step.

Younger people typically take more easily to these new authentication methods, but those who are older or not entirely comfortable with technology should find them easy to use once they’re properly installed and configured.

Staying with the theme of age and technology, we have an elderly client who had some issues with a new computer. We tend to think older people are more comfortable with a computer, but we found the client preferred to have a second iPad. We associate iPad and iPhone use with younger people who can easily adapt to a different way of doing things with really quick thumbs. But there are keyboards for any mobile device, and those who use hearing aids can take advantage of Bluetooth with their devices.

The biggest challenge with using a tablet or phone in place of a computer is setting up ways to download, store, and use files with apps mostly associated with a computer. Multitasking is more difficult with a tablet or phone, but we can accommodate most needs for most people.

With tech playing such a large part of everyone’s business and personal lives, it makes sense to tailor the technology to the person rather than the other way around. If you or someone you know has special technology needs, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email to discuss ways to make technology work.