Databricks bolsters security for data analytics tool

Some of the biggest challenges with data management and analytics efforts is security.

Databricks, based in San Francisco, is well aware of the data security challenge, and recently updated its Databricks’ Unified Analytics Platform with enhanced security controls to help organizations minimize their data analytics attack surface and reduce risks. Alongside the security enhancements, new administration and automation capabilities make the platform easier to deploy and use, according to the company.

Organizations are embracing cloud-based analytics for the promise of elastic scalability, supporting more end users, and improving data availability, said Mike Leone, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. That said, greater scale, more end users and different cloud environments create myriad challenges, with security being one of them, Leone said.

“Our research shows that security is the top disadvantage or drawback to cloud-based analytics today. This is cited by 40% of organizations,” Leone said. “It’s not only smart of Databricks to focus on security, but it’s warranted.”

He added that Databricks is extending foundational security in each environment with consistency across environments and the vendor is making it easy to proactively simplify administration.

As organizations turn to the cloud to enable more end users to access more data, they’re finding that security is fundamentally different across cloud providers.
Mike LeoneSenior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

“As organizations turn to the cloud to enable more end users to access more data, they’re finding that security is fundamentally different across cloud providers,” Leone said. “That means it’s more important than ever to ensure security consistency, maintain compliance and provide transparency and control across environments.”

Additionally, Leone said that with its new update, Databricks provides intelligent automation to enable faster ramp-up times and improve productivity across the machine learning lifecycle for all involved personas, including IT, developers, data engineers and data scientists.

Gartner said in its February 2020 Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine Learning Platforms that Databricks Unified Analytics Platform has had a relatively low barrier to entry for users with coding backgrounds, but cautioned that “adoption is harder for business analysts and emerging citizen data scientists.”

Bringing Active Directory policies to cloud data management

Data access security is handled differently on-premises compared with how it needs to be handled at scale in the cloud, according to David Meyer, senior vice president of product management at Databricks.

Meyer said the new updates to Databricks enable organizations to more efficiently use their on-premises access control systems, like Microsoft Active Directory, with Databricks in the cloud. A member of an Active Directory group becomes a member of the same policy group with the Databricks platform. Databricks then maps the right policies into the cloud provider as a native cloud identity.

Databricks uses the open source Apache Spark project as a foundational component and provides more capabilities, said Vinay Wagh, director of product at Databricks.

“The idea is, you, as the user, get into our platform, we know who you are, what you can do and what data you’re allowed to touch,” Wagh said. “Then we combine that with our orchestration around how Spark should scale, based on the code you’ve written, and put that into a simple construct.”

Protecting personally identifiable information

Beyond just securing access to data, there is also a need for many organizations to comply with privacy and regulatory compliance policies to protect personally identifiable information (PII).

“In a lot of cases, what we see is customers ingesting terabytes and petabytes of data into the data lake,” Wagh said. “As part of that ingestion, they remove all of the PII data that they can, which is not necessary for analyzing, by either anonymizing or tokenizing data before it lands in the data lake.”

In some cases, though, there is still PII that can get into a data lake. For those cases, Databricks enables administrators to perform queries to selectively identify potential PII data records.

Improving automation and data management at scale

Another key set of enhancements in the Databricks platform update are for automation and data management.

Meyer explained that historically, each of Databricks’ customers had basically one workspace in which they put all their users. That model doesn’t really let organizations isolate different users, however, and has different settings and environments for various groups.

To that end, Databricks now enables customers to have multiple workspaces to better manage and provide capabilities to different groups within the same organization. Going a step further, Databricks now also provides automation for the configuration and management of workspaces.

Delta Lake momentum grows

Looking forward, the most active area within Databricks is with the company’s Delta Lake and data lake efforts.

Delta Lake is an open source project started by Databrick and now hosted at the Linux Foundation. The core goal of the project is to enable an open standard around data lake connectivity.

“Almost every big data platform now has a connector to Delta Lake, and just like Spark is a standard, we’re seeing Delta Lake become a standard and we’re putting a lot of energy into making that happen,” Meyer said.

Other data analytics platforms ranked similarly by Gartner include Alteryx, SAS, Tibco Software, Dataiku and IBM. Databricks’ security features appear to be a differentiator.

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Workspot VDI key to engineering firm’s pandemic planning

Like many companies, Southland Industries is working to accelerate its virtualization plans in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The mechanical engineering firm, which is based in Garden Grove, Calif., and has seven main offices across the U.S., has been using the Workspot Workstation Cloud virtual desktop service. Combined with Microsoft Azure Cloud, Workspot’s service enables engineers to build design-intensive work at home and enables Southland to keep pace as technology advances. When COVID-19 emerged, the company was transitioning users in the mid-Atlantic states to virtual desktops.

Israel Sumano, senior director of infrastructure at Southland Industries, recently spoke about making the move to virtual desktops and the challenges posed by the current public health crisis.

How did your relationship with Workspot first begin?

Israel SumanoIsrael Sumano

Israel Sumano: We were replicating about 50 terabytes across 17 different locations in the U.S. real-time, with real-time file launches. It became unsustainable. So over the last five years, I’ve tested VDI solutions — Citrix, [VMware] Horizon, other hosted solutions, different types of hardware. We never felt the performance was there for our users.

When Workspot came to us, I liked it because we were able to deploy within a week. We tested it on on-prem hardware, we tested it on different cloud providers, but it wasn’t until we had Workspot on [Microsoft] Azure that we were comfortable with the solution.

For us to build our own GPU-enabled VDI systems [needed for computing-intensive design work], we probably would have spent about $4 million, and they would have been obsolete in about six years. By doing it with Microsoft, we were able to deploy the machines and ensure they will be there and upgradeable. If a new GPU comes out, we can upgrade to the new GPU and it won’t be much cost to us to migrate.

How has your experience in deploying Workspot been so far? What challenges have you met?

Sumano: It was a battle trying to rip the PCs from engineers’ hands. They had a lot of workstations [and] they really did not want to give them up. We did the first 125 between October 2017 and February 2018. … That pushed back the rest of the company by about a year and a half. We didn’t get started again until about October of 2019. By that time, everyone had settled in, and they all agreed it was the best thing we’ve ever done and we should push forward. That’s coming from the bottom up, so management is very comfortable now doing the rest of the company.

How did you convince workers that the virtualization service was worthwhile?

Sumano: They were convinced when they went home and were able to work, or when they were in a hotel room and they were able to work. When they were at a soccer match for their kids, and something came up that needed attention right away, they pulled out their iPads and were able … to manipulate [designs] or check something out. That’s when it kicked in.

In the past, when they went to a job site, [working] was a really bad experience. We invested a lot of money into job sites to do replication [there].

[With Workspot,] they were able to pick up their laptops, go to the job site and work just like they were at the office.

The novel coronavirus has forced companies to adopt work-at-home policies. What is Southland’s situation?

Sumano: We have offices in Union City [California], which is Marin County, and they were ordered to stay in place, so everyone was sent home there. We just got notice that Orange County will be sent home. Our Las Vegas offices have also been sent home.

Our job sites are still running, but having this solution has really changed the ability for these engineers to go home and work. Obviously, there’s nothing we can do about the shops — we need to have people on-hand at the shop, [as] we’re not fully automated at that level.

On the construction site, we need guys to install [what Southland has designed]. Those are considered critical by the county. They’re allowed to continue work at the job sites, but everybody from the offices has been set home, and they’re working from home.

We hadn’t done the transition for the mid-Atlantic division to Workspot. We were planning on finishing that in the next 10 weeks. We are now in a rush and plan on finishing it by next Friday. We’re planning on moving 100 engineers to Workspot, so they’re able to go home.

How has it been, trying to bring many workers online quickly?

Sumano: I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve implemented large virtual-desktop and large Citrix environments in the past. It’s always been a year to a year-and-a-half endeavor.

We are rushing it for the mid-Atlantic. We’d like to take about 10 weeks to do it — to consolidate servers and reduce footprint. We’re skipping all those processes right now and just enacting [virtualization] on Azure, bringing up all the systems as-is and then putting everyone onto those desktops.

Has the new remote-work situation been a strain on your company’s infrastructure?

Sumano: The amount of people using it is exactly the same. We haven’t heard any issues about internet congestion — that’s always a possibility with more and more people working from home. It’s such a small footprint, the back-and-forth chatter between Workspot and your desktop, that it shouldn’t be affected much.

What’s your level of confidence going forward, given that this may be a protracted situation?

Sumano: We’re very confident. We planned on being 100% Azure-based by December 2020. We’re well on track for doing that, except for, with what’s happening right now, there was a bit of a scramble to get people who didn’t have laptops [some] laptops. There’s a lot of boots on the ground to get people able to work from home.

Most of our data is already on Azure, so it’s a very sustainable model going forward, unless there’s a hiccup on the internet.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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Adaptive Biotechnologies and Microsoft expand partnership to decode COVID-19 immune response and provide open data access – Stories

Differentiated approach may improve detection methods and inform vaccine discovery for COVID-19

Other industry leaders including LabCorp, through its Covance drug development business, Illumina, and Providence join forces to accelerate this critical effort

Infographic showing decoding the immune response to COVID-19

SEATTLE and REDMOND, Wash. — March 20, 2020 Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp. (Nasdaq: ADPT) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) on Friday announced they will leverage their existing partnership mapping population-wide adaptive immune responses to diseases at scale to study COVID-19. Finding the relevant immune response signature may advance solutions to diagnose, treat and prevent the disease, augmenting existing research efforts that primarily focus on the biology of the virus. These data will be made freely available to any researcher, public health official or organization around the world via an open data access portal.

“We can improve our collective understanding of COVID-19 by decoding the immune system’s response to the virus and the disease patterns that can be inferred from studying these data at the population level,” said Chad Robins, CEO and co-founder of Adaptive Biotechnologies. “Immune response data may enable detection of the virus in infected people not showing symptoms and improve triaging of newly diagnosed patients, potentially solving two of the challenges we are facing in the current diagnostic paradigm.”

To generate immune response data, Adaptive will open enrollment in April to collect de-identified blood samples, using a LabCorp-enabled mobile phlebotomy service, from individuals diagnosed with or recovered from COVID-19 in a virtual clinical trial managed by Covance. Immune cell receptors from these blood samples will be sequenced using Illumina platform technology and mapped to SARS-CoV-2-specific antigens that will have been confirmed by Adaptive’s proprietary immune medicine platform to induce an immune response. The immune response signature found from the initial discovery work and the initial set of samples will be uploaded to the open data access portal. Leveraging Microsoft’s hyperscale machine learning capabilities and the Azure cloud platform, the accuracy of the immune response signature will be continuously improved and updated online in real time as more trial samples are sequenced from the study.

To expedite the development and relevance of the immune response signature across the global population, the companies are seeking additional participation from institutions and research groups around the world to contribute blood samples to this open data initiative. Providence, a large health system with 51 hospitals, including the one near Seattle that treated the first U.S. COVID-19 patient, is an initial clinical collaborator.

“The solution to COVID-19 is not likely going to come from one person, one company or one country. This is a global issue, and it will be a global effort to solve it,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president, AI and Research, Microsoft. “Making critical information about the immune response accessible to the broader research community will help advance ongoing and new efforts to solve this global public health crisis, and we can accomplish this goal through our proven TCR-Antigen mapping partnership with Adaptive.”

Timing and enrollment details about the upcoming study and the open data access portal will be coming soon. Institutions or collaborators interested in contributing blood samples can direct inquiries to [email protected]

For additional resources go to https://www.adaptivebiotech.com/about-us/media-resources/.

About the Adaptive and Microsoft partnership

Adaptive and Microsoft partnered in 2018 to create a TCR-Antigen Map, an approach to translating the genetics of the adaptive immune system to understand at scale how it works. Together we are using immunosequencing and machine learning to map T-cell receptor (TCR) sequences to diseases and disease-associated antigens. Using these data, we aim to develop a blood test for the early and accurate detection of many diseases, translating the natural diagnostic capability of the immune system into the clinic. In 2019, we confirmed clinical signals in two diseases, and established our first proof of concept in Lyme Disease. We expect to submit our first clinical application to the FDA in 2020.

About Adaptive Biotechnologies

Adaptive Biotechnologies is a commercial-stage biotechnology company focused on harnessing the inherent biology of the adaptive immune system to transform the diagnosis and treatment of disease. We believe the adaptive immune system is nature’s most finely tuned diagnostic and therapeutic for most diseases, but the inability to decode it has prevented the medical community from fully leveraging its capabilities. Our proprietary immune medicine platform reveals and translates the massive genetics of the adaptive immune system with scale, precision and speed to develop products in life sciences research, clinical diagnostics, and drug discovery. We have two commercial products, and a robust clinical pipeline to diagnose, monitor and enable the treatment of diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions and infectious diseases. Our goal is to develop and commercialize immune-driven clinical products tailored to each individual patient. For more information, please visit adaptivebiotech.com.

About Illumina

Illumina is improving human health by unlocking the power of the genome. Our focus on innovation has established us as the global leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies, serving customers in the research, clinical, and applied markets. Our products are used for applications in the life sciences, oncology, reproductive health, agriculture, and other emerging segments. To learn more, visit www.illumina.com and follow @illumina.

About LabCorp

LabCorp (NYSE: LH), an S&P 500 company, is a leading global life sciences company that is deeply integrated in guiding patient care, providing comprehensive clinical laboratory and end-to-end drug development services. With a mission to improve health and improve lives, LabCorp delivers world-class diagnostics solutions, brings innovative medicines to patients faster, and uses technology to improve the delivery of care. LabCorp reported revenue of more than $11.5 billion in 2019. To learn more about LabCorp, visit www.LabCorp.com, and to learn more about Covance Drug Development, visit www.Covance.com.

About Providence

Providence is a national, not-for-profit Catholic health system comprising a diverse family of organizations and driven by a belief that health is a human right. With 51 hospitals, 1,085 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing and many other health and educational services, the health system and its partners employ more than 119,000 caregivers serving communities across seven states – Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, with system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Beth Keshishian, Adaptive Media, (917) 912-7195, [email protected]

Lynn Lewis or Carrie Mendivil, Adaptive Investor, (415) 937-5405, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at https://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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For Sale – HP 800 G1 USDT Intel Core i3-4360 3.7GHz 12GB DDR3 240GB SSD Windows 10 Pro

I am selling an HP EliteDesk 800 G1 USDT desktop PC with Intel Core i3-4360 3.7GHz cpu, Intel HD4600 graphics, 12GB 1600MHz DDR3, 240GB SSD and Windows 10 Pro installed. Sold in excellent working order. Comes with original HP 19.5V 135W power adapter and UK plug.

I have replaced both the CPU and rear case fans with high quality Noctua NF-A6x25 PWM fans for silent running. There is also a Broadcom dual band AC1200 + BT 4.0 wireless card with two antennas.

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Coronavirus: VPN hardware becomes a chokepoint for remote workers

VPN hardware has become a bottleneck for companies with a high number of workers staying home to avoid spreading the coronavirus, networking vendors reported.

Many companies have VPN concentrators or gateways with insufficient licensing or capacity to accommodate the unexpected demand, executives said. As a result, some businesses have had to scramble to provide network access to the high number of remote workers. Many of those employees live in cities that have closed schools and asked people to stay home.

“It seems to be at the enterprise gateway that we see issues,” Angelique Medina, director of product marketing at network monitoring company ThousandEyes, said. 

Competitor Kentik saw similar problems with VPNs used by the corporate customers of internet service providers and telcos, said Avi Freedman, CEO of Kentik. About half of the vendor’s customers are service providers with enterprise subscribers.

Kentik found that the high number of remote workers is overtaxing the typical 1 Gb link that connects the concentrator or the gateway to the corporate network. A gateway can include a router and firewall.

“It’s not a lot of traffic by internet standards, but it is by some of the corporate architectures that are in place,” Freedman said.

Freedman and Medina said companies would likely look at cloud-based VPN gateways as a faster way to offload traffic than buying, configuring and installing more hardware. However, Freedman pointed out that the cloud might not be an option for highly regulated companies or organizations with strict compliance policies.

“Draining internet traffic, looking at cloud solutions are absolutely in the top three, along with upgrading the infrastructure that you have,” Freedman said.

Cisco customers up VPN licensing

The use of VPNs has risen considerably since schools and businesses have closed in states that include California, New York, Illinois, Ohio and Maryland. Verizon reported this week a 34% increase in VPN use since last week and a 20% rise in web traffic.

In an email, Cisco security CTO Bret Hartman said customers are upgrading their VPN licenses to cover more simultaneous users. Also, just in the last seven days, trial requests for Cisco’s AnyConnect VPN software has reached 40% of the total for last year. Meanwhile, the number of authentication requests made to VPNs through Cisco’s multi-factor authentication software Duo has increased 100% over the previous week, Hartman said.

Despite the increase in internet activity, Verizon and AT&T have not reported significant network problems. Both companies were closely monitoring usage in areas where the coronavirus outbreak is most severe.

“We will work with and prioritize network demand in assisting many U.S. hospitals, first responders and government agencies, as needed,” Verizon said in a statement.

Verizon reported in a recent Security Exchange Commission filing that it planned to increase capital spending from between $17 billion and $18 billion to $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion in 2020. The additional money was to “accelerate Verizon’s transition to 5G and help support the economy during this period of disruption.”

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ConnectWise threat intelligence sharing platform changes hands

Nonprofit IT trade organization CompTIA said it will assume management and operations of the Technology Solution Provider Information Sharing and Analysis Organization established by ConnectWise in August 2019.

Consultant and long-time CompTIA member MJ Shoer will remain as the TSP-ISAO’s executive director under the new arrangement. The TSP-ISAO retains its primary mission of fostering real-time threat intelligence sharing among channel partners, CompTIA said.

MJ ShoerMJ Shoer

Nancy Hammervik, CompTIA’s executive vice president of industry relations, discussed CompTIA’s TSP-ISAO leadership role with Shoer during the CompTIA Communities and Councils Forum event this week. CompTIA conducted the event virtually after cancelling its Chicago in-person event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Shoer said CompTIA is uniquely positioned to enhance the TSP-ISAO. “If you look at all the educational opportunities and resources that CompTIA brings to the table … those are going to be integral to this in terms of helping to further educate the world of TSPs … about the cyber threats and how to respond,” he said.

He added that CompTIA’s involvement in government policy work will contribute to the success of the threat intelligence sharing platform, as “the government is going to be key.” ISAOs were chartered by the Department of Homeland Security as a result of an executive order by former president Barack Obama in 2015.

Hammervik and Shoer also underscored that CompTIA’s commitment to vendor neutrality will help the TSP-ISAO bring together competitive companies in pursuit of a collective benefit. “We all face these threats. We have all seen some of the reports about MSPs being used as threat vectors against their clients. If we don’t … stop that, it can harm the industry from the largest member to the smallest,” Shoer said.

About 650 organizations have joined the TSP-ISAO, according to Hammervik. Membership in the organization in 2020 is free for TSP companies.

Shoer said his goal for the TSP-ISAO is to develop a collaborative platform that can share qualified, real-time and actionable threat intelligence with TSPs so they can secure their own and customers’ businesses. He said ultimately, the organization would like to automate elements of the threat intelligence sharing, but it may be a long-term goal as AI and other technologies mature.

Wipro launches Microsoft technology unit

Wipro Ltd., a consulting and business process services company based in Bangalore, India, launched a business unit dedicated to Microsoft technology.

Wipro said its Microsoft Business Unit will focus on developing offerings that use Microsoft’s enterprise cloud services. Those Wipro offerings will include:

  • Cloud Studio, which provides migration services for workloads on such platforms as Azure and Dynamics 365.
  • Live Workspace, which uses Microsoft’s Modern Workplace, Azure’s Language Understanding Intelligent Service, Microsoft 365 and Microsoft’s Power Platform.
  • Data Discovery Platform, which incorporates Wipro’s Holmes AI system and Azure.

Wipro’s move follows HCL Technologies’ launch in January 2020 of its Microsoft Business Unit and Tata Consultancy Services’ rollout in November 2019 of a Microsoft Business Unit focusing on Azure’s cloud and edge capabilities. Other large IT service providers with Microsoft business units include Accenture/Avenade and Infosys.

Other news

  • 2nd Watch, a professional services and managed cloud company based in Seattle, unveiled a managed DevOps service, which the company said lets clients take advantage of DevOps culture without having to deploy the model on their own. The 2nd Watch Managed DevOps offering includes an assessment and strategy phase, DevOps training, tool implementation based on the GitLab platform, and ongoing management. 2nd Watch is partnering with GitLab to provide the managed DevOps service.
  • MSPs can now bundle Kaseya Compliance Manager with a cyber insurance policy from Cysurance. The combination stems from a partnership between Kaseya and Cysurance, a cyber insurance agency. Cysurance’s cyber policy is underwritten by Chubb.
  • Onepath, a managed technology services provider based in Atlanta, rolled out Onepath Analytics, a cloud-based business intelligence offering for finance professionals in the SMB market. The analytics offering includes plug-and-play extract, transform and load, data visualization and financial business metrics such as EBITDA, profit margin and revenue as a percentage of sales, according to the company. Other metrics maybe included, the company said, if the necessary data is accessible.
  • Avaya and master agent Telarus have teamed up to provide Avaya Cloud Office by Ring Central. Telarus will offer the unified communications as a service product to its network of 4,000 technology brokers, Avaya said.
  • Adaptive Networks, a provider of SD-WAN as a service, said it has partnered with master agent Telecom Consulting Group.
  • Spinnaker Support, an enterprise software support services provider, introduced Salesforce application management and consulting services. The company also provides Oracle and SAP application support services.
  • Avanan, a New York company that provides a security offering for cloud-based email and collaboration suites, has hired Mike Lyons as global MSP/MSSP sales director.
  • Managed security service provider High Wire Networks named Dave Barton as its CTO. Barton will oversee and technology solutions and channel sales engineering for the company’s Overwatch Managed Security Platform, which is sold through channel partners, the company said.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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For Sale – 4TB Red Pro | SOLD: 2 x 2TB WD Red HDDs, 8TB Red

Are you putting up any more of these reds in the coming days?

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CIOs should plan for a spike in healthcare cyberattacks

Healthcare organizations face a growing risk of healthcare cyberattacks during the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government is relaxing regulations so that providers can treat patients from home and use consumer-grade technologies like Skype and FaceTime. The measures are aimed at keeping providers and patients at home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19. But there is also a downside to making healthcare more accessible: The measures are creating more points of entry into healthcare systems for cyberattackers.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the healthcare industry was already one of the most likely industries to be attacked. The industry pays the highest cost to detect, respond to and deal with the fallout of a data breach, averaging just under $6.5 million per breach, said Caleb Barlow, president and CEO of healthcare cybersecurity firm CynergisTek.

Caleb BarlowCaleb Barlow

Now in the midst of a pandemic, the healthcare industry is more vulnerable than ever, and cyber criminals are likely laying the groundwork for major healthcare cyberattacks.

“If you put yourself in the mindset of an attacker right now, now is actually not the time to detonate your attack,” Barlow said. “Now is the time to get on a system, to move laterally and to elevate your credentials, and that’s likely exactly what they’re doing. There are a lot of indicators of that. We’ve seen a significant rise in COVID-19-focused phishing, both that is targeting individuals as well as institutions.”

There is not going to be a plea to bad guys of, ‘Please not right now.’ It just doesn’t work that way. It is coming. Get prepared, you have a few weeks. It is that simple.
Caleb BarlowPresident and CEO, CynergisTek

Healthcare systems and even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are seeing phishing and other similar attacks right now, but Barlow warns that healthcare CIOs and CISOs need to prepare for the more insidious healthcare cyberattacks that are coming, including ransomware.

“We have to realize that these attackers are highly motivated,” Barlow said. “Many of them, particularly with things like ransomware, are nation-state actors. These are how nation-states fund their activities. There is not going to be a plea to bad guys of, ‘Please not right now.’ It just doesn’t work that way. It is coming. Get prepared, you have a few weeks. It is that simple.”

Cyberthreats seen on the front lines

Anahi Santiago, CISO at the Delaware-based ChristianaCare health system, said there has been a rapid increase in social engineering attacks — including phishing, where bad actors appear as a trusted source and trick healthcare employees into revealing their credentials — that are testing healthcare systems during the coronavirus crisis.

Anahi SantiagoAnahi Santiago

Although the ChristianaCare health system has security tools to prevent phishing attacks on the organization, Santiago said home computers may not have the same protections. Additionally, Santiago said threat actors are setting up websites using legitimate coronavirus outbreak global maps to trick people into visiting those sites and, unbeknownst to them, downloading malware. While the healthcare system’s security tools block malicious websites, clinicians may not have the same types of protection at home.

CynergisTek’s Barlow said the “threat landscape has increased dramatically,” as regulations have been relaxed to enable physicians to work and treat patients remotely. That increased threat landscape includes a physician’s home network, which gives bad actors more opportunity to gain access to a healthcare institution.

As cyberattackers capitalize on this opportunity, Barlow said it’s important for health systems’ security teams to mobilize and for healthcare CIOs and CISOs to have a plan in place in case their healthcare system is breached.

Santiago echoed Barlow’s call on security teams, saying awareness and ensuring the cybersecurity posture remains intact are key to preventing these kinds of attacks.

“We have been working very closely with our external affairs folks to communicate to the organization so that our caregivers have awareness, not only around potential phishing and social engineering attacks that might come through the organization, but also to be aware at home,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of enablement for the organization, but also making sure that we’re thinking about our caregivers and their families and making sure we’re giving them the tools to be able to go home and continue to protect themselves.”

Aaron MiriAaron Miri

Aaron Miri, CIO at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and UT Health Austin, said he has heard of academic medical institutions and healthcare systems being under constant attack and is remaining vigilant.

“During any situation, even if it’s a Friday afternoon at 5 o’clock, you can expect to see bad actors try to capitalize,” he said. “It is an unfortunate way of the world and it’s reality, so we are always keeping watch.”

Preparing for cyberattacks

Barlow said there are a few steps healthcare security teams can take to make sure providers working at home are doing so securely.

First, he said it’s key to make sure clinicians have proper virtual private networks (VPNs) in place and that they’re set up properly. A VPN creates a safe connection between a device that could be on a less secure network and the healthcare system network.

Second, he said security teams should make sure those computers have proper protection, often referred to as endpoint security. Endpoint security ensures devices meet certain security criteria before being allowed to connect to a hospital’s network.

The next step is getting a plan in place so that when a healthcare system is breached or hit with ransomware, it will know how to respond, he said. The plan should include how to manage a breach in light of the pandemic, when leaders of the organization are likely working from home.

“If you are hit with ransomware, how are you going to process through that, how are you going to do that when you can’t get everybody in the room … how are you going to make decisions, who are you going to work with,” he said. “Get those plans up to date.”

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Coronavirus: Surge in remote work strains Zoom services

Zoom has struggled to keep some of its services online this week amid a spike in remote work because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Users have had to wait significantly longer than usual to access recordings of Zoom meetings in the cloud. The company said its engineering team was working to resolve the issue, attributing the backlog to “excessive demand.”

Zoom’s dial-in numbers have also faltered several times this month. Elevated traffic has so far clogged audio lines in Japan, New York and Hong Kong, forcing users to connect to a meeting’s audio using the internet. A dial-in number in Australia was also inaccessible at times this week. 

Meanwhile, some users were intermittently unable to make and receive calls through Zoom Phone, the vendor’s cloud telephony service, for extended periods of time this week.  

Users have now dealt with 18 non-scheduled Zoom service disruptions in March. There were no such incidents in January and just one in February (an issue that affected only subscribers in Brazil).

In a statement, Zoom said it was working to find a “long-term, sustainable solution” to the issues affecting Zoom Phone. The company thanked customers for their “patience and understanding” during an “unprecedented and challenging time for everyone.”

Zoom is not the only collaboration vendor struggling to cope with a sudden surge in usage. Many users of Microsoft Teams were unable to send messages and perform other tasks on Monday. Some Teams users in Europe were affected by another chat outage on Tuesday.

Last week, experts said they didn’t expect any of the major collaboration vendors to suffer outages that forced their services completely offline for multiple days. So far, that prediction has held. Nevertheless, the influx of remote workers is having some impact.

Zoom has not said how many new users it has gained in recent weeks, but its mobile client is now the most popular free download on Apple’s App Store. Notably, countless schools and universities worldwide have begun to hold virtual classes on Zoom.

Statistics shared by other vendors provide clues to the surge in traffic Zoom is likely dealing with. Microsoft Teams gained 12 million daily active users between March 11 and March 18, a 37% increase. Slack added paid customers at nearly three times its typical rate between Feb. 1 and March 18.

Zoom’s support team is also likely fielding complaints related to factors outside of the vendor’s control, such as the quality of a user’s home Wi-Fi. Residential connections are often less reliable than corporate networks.

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