Healthcare finance tips for safeguarding against cyberattacks

cyber-attack caption

Premera hack puts renewed focus on securing sensitive healthcare info.

As Tuesday’s news about the Premera Blue Cross hack shows, healthcare organizations are vulnerable to cyberattacks, and the fix can be costly.

“The average Fortune 500 company budgets $44 million a year for security, including networking and all other aspects,” said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, a research center focused on data security. “(Most) hospitals have less than a million to budget on cyber security.”

Already, at least two class action lawsuits have been brought against insurer Anthem, which saw a major data breach in January affect 80 million people. There’s also the cost to the health plan’s reputation and the logistics of notifying 80 million customers, Ponemon said. It’s still unknown what will come after 11 million people’s information was accesed in the Premera hack.

Until Anthem’s hack in January, high profile security breaches focused on large retailers such as Target and Home Depot.

This doesn’t mean healthcare organizations have been sitting on their hands believing it can’t happen to them, Ponemon said. A  survey of 91 healthcare organizations in 2013 showed that 90 percent experienced at least one data breach that year.

“Even if a hospital is reasonably secure, if may not be enough in this world,” he said.

Medical records are extremely valuable on the black market,  Ponemon said. They contain Social Security numbers, health ID numbers, addresses and possibly credit or debit card information – everything needed to create a fake identity.

“Basically it’s a rich data source for bad guys,” he said, such as terrorists seeking travel credentials.

The hackers may wait months and years before exploiting the data, he said.

“This is where we see the most serious ID theft crimes,” he said. “A lot of the 80 million will become identity theft victims.”

Ponemon was in the intelligence field for 45 years prior to founding the Ponemon Institute 14 years ago.

HITRUST, the Health Information Trust Alliance, works with healthcare organizations to improve their data security. It has partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct monthly briefings on cyber threats relevant to the healthcare industry, and to share best practices for defense and response.

HITRUST offers healthcare organizations a cyber threat alerting system of threats targeted at the industry. The C3 Alert is coordinated with the Healthcare and Public Health Sector and Government Coordinating Councils, according to HITRUST chief executive and founder Daniel Nutkis.

What hospitals can do:

  • As most security breaches are due to human error, maintain a good data structure to prevent data leakage, Ponemon said.
  • Encrypt data. The Wall Street Journal reported Anthem did not encrypt the personal data of its customers.
  • Ban the use of personal devices for storing patient information. Some doctors routinely send clinical records through personal e-mail, their own smartphones or tablets.
  • Rent a network intelligence system instead of buying one, Ponemon advises. It’s secure.
  • Collaborate with partners on exchanging information during and after a cyberattack, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s 2014 “Draft Guide to Cyber Threat Information Sharing.” While this may seem counter-intuitive, providers need to  learn the types of systems and information being targeted and the techniques used to gain access.
  • Use standard data formats to facilitate interoperability and fast information exchanges, the NIST recommends.

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How to prevent phone and tablet theft

If you’re under the age of 25, there’s almost an even chance you have lost your cell phone or had it stolen at least once. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last April, 45 percent of cell phone users between the ages of 18 and 24 have had a phone lost or stolen.

The survey also found that 3 out of 10 cell phone users between the ages of 35 and 54 have misplaced their device or had it stolen, as Kashmir Hill reports on

There’s nothing new about cell phones being popular targets for thieves, but today’s smartphone is a full-fledged computer that stores all kinds of sensitive personal data: passwords, contacts, documents, Internet history, and more.

One reason smartphones are so popular with thieves is how easy it has been to reprogram and resell the devices. Verizon, Sprint, and (more recently) AT&T make it more difficult to resell a phone that someone has reported to the carriers as stolen. T-Mobile is expected to provide a similar service soon.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission made news last spring by announcing joint initiatives with carriers and law enforcement to create a centralized database of lost and stolen cell phones. The database promises to serve as a deterrent to cell phone thefts, but it is still many months away.

Lower your phone’s profile in public
A young woman I know has had three iPhones stolen in the last three months. In each case she was using the phone while waiting for the bus to or from school. She now waits until she’s on the bus before taking the phone out of her bag.

Students should know their electronic devices are at risk when they’re using them in a library, at a coffee shop or restaurant, or while in transit on public transportation, particularly when boarding or leaving a bus, streetcar, or train.
The obvious solution is to minimize the use of your phone in public. Of course, they’re not called “mobile” phones for nothing. The key is to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

First, don’t leave your phone, tablet, or notebook computer unattended. Prevent snatch-and-run robberies by keeping the device in your pocket, purse, backpack, or otherwise out of sight. Likewise, don’t leave personal electronics in plain view inside a parked car.

If you’re going out for a night on the town, leave your expensive electronics at home. Consider buying a cheap, prepaid phone for these occasions, such as through TracFone, Net10, or AT&T’s GoPhone.

Act now to minimize the damage of a phone theft
In a post from August 2011 I described how to use the free Find My iPhone app to locate a lost or stolen iPhone. (The earlier post also provides five other tips for keeping your iPad and iPhone data safe.)

Find My iPhone is one of several apps that let you remotely erase the data on a misplaced iPhone or iPad. Similar programs are available for Android phones, BlackBerrys, and other mobile devices. The thing all such apps have in common is the need to register the phone or tablet ahead of time.
Find My iPhone uses Apple’s iCloud service, which is available in free and paid versions. Alternatives for the iPhone and iPad include the $4 GadgetTrak, the $4 Device Locator, and the subscription-based iHound ($4 for three months).

iPhone wallpaper with contact info

Create an image of your contact information and use the photo as your iPhone or iPad wallpaper to make it easier for a finder to return it to you.
(Credit: Screenshot by Dennis O’Reilly/CNET)

Once you’ve determined the lost phone’s location, you still have to retrieve it. To facilitate recovery of a lost phone, put your contact information on the wallpaper so the finder can reach you without having to know the device’s access code.

(If you haven’t activated the passcode on your iPhone or iPad, do so by opening the Settings, choosing General > Passcode Lock, and entering a four-digit code.)

The simplest way to add your contact info to your wallpaper is to write your e-mail address on a piece of paper, use the device to take a picture of the information, open the resulting image, select the “share” icon in the bottom-left corner, and choose Use as Wallpaper.

Don’t use your home phone number, home address, or other physical address on your “if found, contact me” wallpaper — unless you work at a police station — because a thief may try to use this information against you. An e-mail address or work phone number should be all a legitimate finder needs to reach you.

Once you’ve located your lost phone, you have to decide whether to lock it or wipe its data. One of the tips in my August 2011 post explained the iPhone option to erase data automatically after 10 failed passcode attempts. If you have a recent backup, you can restore your wiped data from that backup once the phone is recovered (or replaced).

Report the lost device to your carrier and a theft to the police
Whether you lock the phone or wipe its data, contact your carrier to report the device as lost or stolen. If the phone was stolen, file a police report. The police report will likely require the device’s serial number.

If you’re able to track a stolen phone, police advise against confronting the thief directly. Several location-tracking apps let you use the device’s camera to take a picture of the thief that is e-mailed to you automatically. This may help prosecute the thief after he or she is apprehended, but it may not improve the chances of recovering the phone.

To record the serial number of an iPhone or iPad, look on the back cover, or open Settings > General > About and scroll to the serial number entry. The serial number is also listed on the iTunes Summary tab when the device is connected to your computer.

Also note the device’s 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, which can be used to prevent a stolen phone from accessing the cell network. The IMEI number is engraved on the back of some iPhone and iPad models and may be listed on the About screen. Apple’s support site describes how to find the IMEI number on various iPhone, iPad, and iPod models.

You can capture the information on the About screen by pressing the Home button and sleep/wake button simultaneously. Then e-mail the photo to yourself: open the screen in your photo roll, press the “share” icon in the bottom-left corner of the iPhone or top-right corner of the iPad, and choose Email Photo.

If you can erase your personal data on the lost phone and have a recent data backup to restore on your replacement device, all you’ve lost is some expensive hardware…and a few hours of your valuable spare time.

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Cyber Safety Facts and Tips

In order to protect your kids, as a parent, you should know how to keep your children safe on the Internet. Here the following are cyber facts and tips for parents and childcare givers to help keep your children surf serious, surf smart and surf safe.In order to protect your kids, as a parent, you should know how to keep your children safe on the Internet. Here the following are cyber facts and tips for parents and childcare givers to help keep your children surf serious, surf smart and surf safe.

cyber safety tipsKeeping kids from visiting inappropriate websites and ensuring their use of appropriate monitored chatrooms with SurveilStar Parental Control Software – web based Internet monitoring software. Keep parental control over child’s safety and online activity. Ensure Internet safety for kids & teens and prevent them from Internet dangers.

Cyber Safety Statistics Parents Should Know

  • 95% of parents don’t recognize the lingo kids use to let people know that their parents are watching;
  • 89% of sexual solicitations are made in either Chat Rooms or Instant Messages;
  • 20% of children age 10-17 have been solicited sexually online; that’s 1 out of every 5 kids;
  • 75% of youth who received an online sexual solicitation did not tell a parent;
  • One third of kids have been contacted by a stranger and half of these were considered inappropriate

Cyber Safety Tips for Parents

1. Educate children to be “Internet Safe Kids” by making sure they use safe internet practices at all times, especially when using chat rooms, instant messaging and social networks such as Facebook, as these are the most popular and the most dangerous for our kids.

2. Set boundaries for your kids’ computer and internet use. Stress to your child never accept unsolicited email, files, photographs, videos or attachments from online strangers.

3. Along with education is just as importantly to monitor your child’s internet use at all times. Parental Control Software gives your kids the freedom to use the internet, at the same time flagging any behavior you feel is inappropriate.

Education and Monitoring software are by far the best ways to keep

SurveilStar Any Parental Control — Protect Your Children Against Cyber Dangers

SurveilStar Any Parental Control is designed for parents to monitor kids’ online activity. With this software, parents can grabs screenshots, record sent and received mails, record chatting messages, monitor and record visited websites. So parents shield your children from cyber bullies, predators and adult oriented websites, and ensure you have the control you need over children online activity.

The goal of parental control software is not to violate your children’s right to interact with their friends but to learn of any problems early so they can be dealt with quickly before any real harm can come to your child.

Internet SafetyAfter parents have learnt the cyber safety facts and tips, they must believe that it is necessary to install a parental control software on their local computer for protecting kids from cyber dangers.

SurveilStar Parental Control Software is an ultimate invisible and undetectable easy-to-use activity monitoring and surveillance tool (surveillance software) for individual PCs. Focus on monitoring visited websites, received and sent emails, instant messages and transferred files let you keep an eye on your children online activities.