Security – or lack thereof

I’m not a techie. In fact, I’m the exact opposite of a techie — I’m the person who hands my laptop over to a techie friend and says “here – can you figure out why my screen is flickering?”

It’s a good thing I don’t have access to protected health information on my computer because I spend *a lot* of time giving other people access to my computer.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

Which is where security comes in.

I see friends and acquaintances do the same thing all the time — “here, can you fix this?” “here, look at this video.” “Sure, you can borrow it to check your email.” Some of these people, I know, have access to sensitive information.

We spend a lot of time in healthcare talking about security, HIPAA, encryption and screen locks. We all know the high-security rules. But how often do you physically hand your laptop or your tablet to someone else? And do you watch over their shoulder, or do you walk off to get a cup of coffee while they’re looking?

I’m extremely cautious about my iPhone – it’s logged into my email and my Facebook account so I never leave that unattended and unlocked and I never ever let anyone else use it without watching. But I’m a little less cautious about my laptop. It’s got a screenlock so if I leave it unattended for more than 2 minutes, it requires a password to open. But that doesn’t help if I hand it over and then look away.

Like I said, there’s no PHI on it. But there are plenty of things I wouldn’t want someone else perusing. I didn’t think about it all that much until a recent occasion when a program crashed so irrevocably that I needed help and I needed it right away. I contacted a techie friend at work and he agreed that if I dropped it off, he’d take a look at it during his lunch break.

It wasn’t until I was prepping for that scary drop-off — logging out of my websites, making sure my Social Security number wasn’t saved in a document anywhere, etc., checking my photo files for unflattering shots — that I realized how often this guy and other friends touch my computer.

I know that most programs with access to PHI log out after a certain time period. But what else have you got on there? What’s on your tablet, your phone, your laptop hard drive and how often do you hand it over just to show someone a video or to get some help?

All the security precautions in the world don’t help if we bypass them manually.

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About Tara Courtland

Tara Courtland is the communications director at NEMT.
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