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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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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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