Healthcare and Ransomware

As many of you know, our family has spent a lot of time in hospitals over the past 30 days. Thankfully, we’re all healthy – and the doctors have been great. But looking at their technological support systems as a patient, parent and IT specialist, I could use an electronic sedative.

Judging from what I see in news reports, hospitals seem to be prime targets for ransomware. That’s a lot of sensitive data to hold hostage, and I have a greater appreciation of the consequences now than a month ago. Every hospital room I was in had a computer. Every member of the medical staff who examined Charlie or me had to login to enter all the data used to update our charts. Every medication we were given was logged into the system. The process created an information lifeline that was critical for every step in our treatments.

The data the hospitals used to treat us was entered before we were admitted. The doctors who examined us previously entered notes into our electronic charts. The results of COVID tests were entered. Everything, it seemed, had to be verified at every stage of our care. It was comforting to know that every caregiver had access to the latest information on a screen, where it could be clearly displayed without the need to decipher somebody else’s handwriting.

But what happens when the technology breaks down? What would have happened if just before surgery, a hacker had invaded Charlie’s chart or mine and held the records hostage as the anesthesiologist was about to administer drugs? What if one of us had a bad reaction to anesthesia during surgery? That’s not the best time for us to begin hostage negotiations, and even in the willingness to pay ransom, it’s not the same as going online to pay your credit card bill.

I’d feel a lot better about healthcare if the hospital systems put the same resources into information technology as they do into their healthcare technology. I saw truly amazing systems to treat us, but the news reports tell another story. IT systems, even in large systems in large metropolitan areas, are antiquated and don’t get regular updates for security patches and bug fixes. If I were prescribing a remedy, it would be to update those systems immediately.

And as large hospital systems acquire smaller, financially strapped hospitals, it’s even more important to take that update medicine. With telemedicine becoming more common, there’s more interaction with a variety of technology systems and networks, so I would demand the hospitals build electronic fortresses.

The same goes for physicians’ offices, regardless of whether they are part of a hospital system or in some other network. As patients, we regularly use the medical systems’ portals – websites – to access records, refill prescriptions and use other essential information. What if the doctor’s system goes down? What if someone is having a life-and-death emergency during a hostage negotiation because the doctor’s IT system was hacked?

To borrow an old phrase: Physician’s office, update thyself.

At the same time, we need to keep our systems secure. The hospital and office systems we deal with are likely to have done everything right. But if we leave a door open in our own system, it could be the opening a hacker needs to get into a healthcare system and hold critical data hostage.

We can help you make sure you keep up your end of the deal. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to arrange for a security audit of your system. For hospitals and doctors’ offices, we’re always happy to provide a second opinion.

Health Wearables in Style at CES

Wearables caught our eye at this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. There’s a wearable for almost any health condition, and that has its own set of pros and cons.

The big pro, as we see it, is that you can monitor so many health conditions, such as your heartbeat, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and if you have sleep apnea. A wearable can even detect AFib. The downsides, as we see them, are that there are too many proprietary technologies that require you to wear their own watch or wristband. That immediately conjured up in my mind an image of someone rolling up his sleeve and showing his arm full of watches – just like a guy trying to sell you something on the street.

We clearly will need some sort of a more ubiquitous watch, like an Apple Watch or Fitbit, to consolidate these capabilities into one wearable device. I would shudder at the thought of getting behind an overdressed health fanatic at airport security.

On a more helpful note, Amazon, Apple and Google are joining other internet and technology giants to join a project called “Connected Home Over IP”. The group aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build products that are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.

We like this development because it will reduce a lot of electronic clutter by allowing you to consolidate a variety of smart-home technologies into one platform. That can help you control them better from a smartphone, and it can help make your home more secure from hackers because you only need to worry about a single control point.

We’ve embraced a lot of smart-home technology in our family, and the convenience is a great benefit. But we’ve always wondered about where the security is. It’s up to us to demand better security from the internet industry and product manufacturers, and this is a step in that direction. However, it’s still up to you – more than ever – to secure your IoT devices to make your smart-home technology truly smart.

Finally, there was a lot of buzz over sex and technology. We’ll sidestep all the lurid details, but sex has always sold, so we’ll be in for more of it. One sex-product developer even won an award for innovation, but it was pulled after some heavy pushback.

Sex toys aside, more technology will continue to hit the markets for anything that affects your life – for work and for play. As you add more technology, you’ll need to make sure your network has the capacity to handle new devices and systems, and you’ll need to make sure it’s all secure. That’s where we can help. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help get your new technology running.