Disaster recovery — be prepared

It’s hurricane season. For some parts our our country, this weekend has been one of dealing with a disaster that has caused all different types of damage depending where you live. Last month we watched a state going through massive flooding where people lost everything they had. One of our own team members had this happen. Before that there were terrible storms in the southeast, and I woke up to find a tree across my yard, into the garage roof and on a car. I was one of the lucky ones.

NEMT President Linda Allard

These natural disasters remind us that we need to be prepared in our facilities or companies. NEMT keeps a map of all team members so we can quickly see how many MTs will be impacted and not only keep up with them but get help from MTs in other parts of the country in case of power outages, etc. We also maintain a separate disaster recovery website that contains procedures for all departments in addition to technical backup plans.

Are you prepared for a disaster? We are all supposed to be prepared, but are we? I know I am going to go through my procedures to make sure they are all working. Have you done a test run on your disaster recovery program? Now might be the right time to perform one.

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Do you have the right protection?

A friend of mine recently bought a new Windows 7 computer for his wife. He asked if I could recommend anti-virus software, etc. Before I gave him my recommendation, I decided to take a quick look at the different free options Microsoft offers, and I’m glad I did. I discovered that not all versions of Microsoft Defender are the same. What the product does depends on what operating system you have.

Andrew Clarke

If you are running Windows 7 or Vista, Windows Defender only removes spyware. To get rid of viruses and other malware, including spyware, you need to use Microsoft Security Essentials.

If you are running Windows 8 or Windows 10, the built-in Windows Defender gets rid of viruses, spyware and other malware. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for them to call the built-in product Microsoft Security Essentials? That would have eliminated a lot of confusion. Oh well.

No matter what operating system you’re running, always remember that you are the most important anti-virus and anti-malware tool you have. Social engineering and lack of paying attention is the number one way unwanted programs are introduced into your system.

Think before you click.

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Posted in IT | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Obamacare analysis misses the point

There’s been a lot of news and analysis about Obamacare recently and most of it has been negative. One positive piece, however, spotlighted the way in which Obamacare may end up saving the healthcare system money in the long run. And yet it all ignores the original premise of Obamacare.

Tara Courtland

Communications Director Tara Courtland

The positive piece is from Sean Williams of The Motley Fool, who points out that a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion has led to significant health benefits in states that adopted it. Obamacare provided every state with extra funds to expand Medicaid only 31 states took the administration up on the offer. Those that did added millions of new low-income families to the Obamacare network , providing health insurance to those who wouldn’t otherwise be eligible.

The study shows that the expansion led to increased access to primary care, fewer skipped medications, reduced out-of-pocket spending, reduced likelihood of emergency unit visits, and increased outpatient visits for low-income adults.

Williams points out that the financial implications there could be huge. While the expansion costs more federal dollars up front, it also means lower healthcare costs in the long run since prevention is cheaper than cure. And, he notes, since 5 percent of the population is responsible for about 50 percent of the nation’s healthcare expenditures, prevention and early intervention in that demographic is a huge cost savings on the back end.

There are plenty of negatives, of course. There aren’t enough healthy young people enrolling in Obamacare to bring the costs down and large insurers may start threatening to walk, as Aetna already has.

And yet all of the financial forecasts, positive and negative, ignore the point – in the most powerful nation in the history of the world, 33 million people still lack health insurance and therefore, healthcare. That’s 10 percent of Americans who can’t afford vaccines, antibiotics, a cast for a broken arm, an ambulance ride or insulin.

The financials are important – they make the system work. But amid the numbers and forecasts, let’s remember that the point is to improve the quality of health and life for millions of people. They are not just numbers and percentages — they’re human beings. The point is not to make healthcare cheaper. The point is to make healthcare cheaper in order to make people healthier. It’s about time we stop forgetting the second part of the sentence.

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What does HIPAA look like on the hospital floor?

I recently spent quite a bit of time on a med-surg floor and was shocked to hear medical staff discussing patients by name while standing in the hallway. Contrast this with the hyper vigilance which is brought to bear by medical administrators and vendors attempting to go by the letter of the law regarding protecting patient health information.

NEMT CEO Linda Sullivan

NEMT still receives emails from clients containing identifying demographic data on patients. Even an immediate response pointing out the impropriety seems often not to be understood. And then we have the cyberhacking phenomenon, which appears to be accelerating at a significant rate.

An article from the Institute of Critical Infrastructure Technology entitled Hacking Healthcare IT in 2016 states “Since 2009, the annual number of cyber-attacks against the healthcare sector has drastically increased; often the number of attacks exceeds the previous year’s count by at least 40%.”

So, why the disconnect with folks sitting behind a desk sending PHI in an unsecured email and hospital personnel discussing PHI within earshot of others? I don’t know the answer to that question but better and clearer communication might be the start of a solution.

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The bad guys are on the move

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard of a new form of ransomware called Zepto as well as an increase in spoofed emails. As far as the emails go, I get them daily. Sometimes they even come from me! Let’s tackle these subjects separately and include a reminder about staying safe.

Andrew Clarke

Ransomware

What is ransomware? Ransomware refers to the act of a hacker encrypting all the data on your computer or company network and holding it for ransom. You are given instructions on where and how to send the ransom in exchange for the key to unlock your data. This practice continues because there are those who pay, including some police departments. If no one paid, the bad guys would have to find another way to extort money from their victims.

While there are some so-called computer professionals who advocate paying the ransom, my answer is to just say no. Do not negotiate with terrorists, and that’s what these people are. Your computer has no real value, but your data does. They know this. The correct answer is to take precautions by backing up regularly and not opening suspicious email attachments. If you have adequate backups, you can recover most of your data without giving in to extortion. How often you backup is up to your comfort level. How much data can you afford to lose? Backups also protect you against hard drive failures, fire, theft and accidental deletions, so there are plenty of reasons they are a good idea. You should have multiple backups, and one should be off-site.

In addition to having a good backup system, you need to be suspicious of any email attachment. Remember that these attacks can appear to come from people you know as well as people you don’t know, and the bad guys are tricky. Social engineering is the number one way they gain access to your computer. You should not open any attachment you are not expecting.

If you become infected, you need to react quickly. Shut down your computer immediately, physically disconnect from any network you are connected to, and contact your network administrator or IT support immediately. Remember that the infection can spread to other computers on the network if it is not stopped. Share this information with everyone you know, especially the elderly and those who might be more susceptible to falling for this sort of scam.

Spoofed emails

A spoofed email is an email you receive that appears to come from someone you know when it actually doesn’t. Think of it like the return address on a piece of snail mail (aka old fashioned letter). In the upper left-hand corner, you put your return address. In reality, you can put any address there you want. Email is the same way. Even the least sophisticated hacker knows how to make the email look like it comes from a friend, relative or co-worker. They use this tactic to increase the chance of you opening the email and clicking on the attachment. That’s why you need to be cautious even if you think you know who the email is from.

Remember …

  • Be cautious when dealing with email. Do not open attachments you are not expecting.
  • Just because the email appears to come from a known source does not make it so.
  • If you’re infected, react quickly.
  • Share this information with everyone you know.
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