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Health industry networks in poor state of heath

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When it comes to security in any sector, prevention is better than cure. DOROS HADJIZENONOS, Country Manager of Check Point, discusses the latest threats to the healthcare industry and how the industry can increase its protection against cyber-attacks.

The healthcare industry, arguably one of the most technologically advanced considering the gadgets and devices now used to monitor health statistics and perform medical procedures, is ironically among the most ‘unhealthy’ when it comes to network security.

Delegates attending the recent Healthcare Innovation Summit were told that medical records are being increasingly targeted by cybercriminals – data from the US showed that 89% of healthcare institutions suffered a security breach and were twice more likely to be targeted than other organisations.

Healthcare record theft increased a shocking 1100% this year with more than 100 million records compromised worldwide. The biggest threat, says KPMG, comes from external attackers – at 65% – while malware tops the list of information security concerns.

But why is an industry with the technological ability to perform surgery on patients in other countries so sick when it comes to protecting information?

The answer is multi-faceted:

  • Valuable data. Data collected and stored by hospitals and other organisations, such as medical aid schemes, is up to ten times more valuable to cybercriminals than credit card information. This is due to the sheer volume of information gathered about individuals – and the fact that we’re seeing an increased shift to digital medical records – which makes it easy to commit fraud and identity theft. Given the value of this data on the black market, cyber-attacks are becoming ever more sophisticated in their attempts to hack healthcare institutions.
  • Ageing infrastructure. Hospitals are melting pots of outdated infrastructure, old operating systems and state-of-the-art medical technology, all communicating over the same networks. Often, hospitals take an ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ approach to technology, so devices may not be patched with the latest software versions, for example. The problem, however, is that the system is very much broken. KPMG found that, in terms of technical capabilities, the healthcare industry is behind other industries when it comes to protecting infrastructure and information.
  • Complex networks. The fact that so many different people, devices and departments need to access a medical institution’s records forces them to adopt open networks. Add to this the increasing number of Internet of Things and the myriad Internet-connected gadgets connecting to the network and it becomes difficult to secure and even more vulnerable to attack.
  • No budget. Security spending in the healthcare industry is at times as little as one-tenth of what other industries spend. When it comes to technology spending, a new MRI machine will likely win the budget lottery over security software.
  • Easy targets. Ransomware is one of the biggest methods used by cybercriminals to gain access to medical data. This involves ‘kidnapping’ the data and only releasing it once the hospital pays a ransom. Because medical organisations are generally dealing with crises, they need urgent access to their data and are more willing to pay the ransom to get back up and running as quickly as possible. Cybercriminals know this and are exploiting it.
  • Lack of understanding and awareness. Although medical institutions are becoming more technologically centric, that’s not to say they’re focusing on technology and there’s a lack of understanding of what’s going on when it comes to cyber security. There needs to be an increased understanding of how to defend against attacks like ransomware, coupled with a bigger focus on educating staff and users on how to spot phishing attacks – people are, after all, the weakest link in the security chain.

Prevention is better than cure

 It sounds clichéd but, when it comes to security in any sector, prevention certainly is better than cure.

In order to gain a holistic overview of the network, technology managers need to design the infrastructure from the bottom up, starting with the physical layer, comprising devices and other hardware, and working up to the application layer. This multi-layered approach to security gives IT managers more visibility into the network so that they can see what data is coming into and leaving the network and can implement controls as required. For example, sensitive patient information can be encrypted as it traverses the network between devices, while less sensitive information, such as that collected by fitness devices, can be subject to less stringent protection measures.

Education of staff members is also critical. They need to be able to identify hacks such as spear phishing and ransomware attempts so that they know not to click on malicious links and to alert the IT department to such attempts. There also needs to be a general increase in awareness within the healthcare sector of the various methods used by cybercriminals to gain access to medical data. In many cases, medical institutions do not even know that they’ve been infiltrated purely because they don’t know the warning signs. They need to take a more proactive approach to network security and understand how to prevent certain attacks.

Security should not be reactive and should not be done just because organisations want to comply with legislation such as the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act. But unfortunately, this is the case in the healthcare industry and it’s the reason why they are always one step behind the attackers. Rather, security should be about prevention and the desire to ensure the integrity of sensitive information.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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