By Keri Forsythe-Stephens


Keri Forsythe-Stephens, Chief Edtior

Before I start my diatribe about what a scary world we live in, I wanted to say how excited I am to be back in the HTM journalism field. I was out of it for nearly seven years—where I subsequently worked for logistics magazines and stayed at home with my daughter—and the field is just as exciting as I remember. And as a mother whose child has been in the hospital on multiple occasions, I wanted to say thank you for making hospital equipment as safe as possible. (Because when your child—or anyone—is in the hospital, the last thing you want to worry about is whether their equipment is functioning correctly.)

But enough with the sappy stuff. What’s really on my mind right now is cybersecurity—or a lack thereof.  In this issue’s cover story, Chris Hayhurst explores health care organizations’ vulnerability to cyber-attacks and discusses steps HTM departments can take to keep their networks and devices as secure as possible. After all, Hayhurst notes, more than 90% of health care facilities have suffered at least one data breach over the last two years. And when human lives are at stake, even one breach could have potentially devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, the health care sector is hardly alone. Last year, I went to a aviation logistics conference, where the leader of Boeing’s Cyber Security team shared a scary—and sobering—truth: If you think you’re immune to a cyber-attack, you’re simply naïve. “There are two types of [organizations],” Boeing’s Faye Francy said. “Those that have been hacked and those that don’t think they’ve been hacked.” The amount of sinister activity that’s looming behind the scenes is staggering, she said.

And hackers are often very persistent—and calculated—when staging an attack. “What happens is that when they’re ready, they take advantage of the data to either disrupt your operations or actually take down your organization,” Francy maintained. Unfortunately, most organizations are unaware of a breach until hackers have been inside of their system for six to nine months. “It’s pretty stunning that [people] don’t even recognize that someone’s in their network until it’s too late,” she said.

Francy may have been addressing the aviation sector, but her message is clearly universal. Health care organizations learned the hard way just how vulnerable they are to hackers in February when a Los Angeles-based hospital shelled out $17,000 to retrieve their network following a massive malware attack—an incident Chris covers in his article. And cybersecurity made global headlines last month when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton accessed hundreds of confidential e-mails on an unsecure server during her tenure as Secretary of State. Even FBI Director James Comey admitted that foreign governments may have intercepted her communications. There’s no indication either way, he said.

Suffice it so say that cybersecurity is an issue that’s not going away anytime soon. So what can we do to truly protect ourselves from these invisible and insidious threats? I don’t know, but I’m glad that conversations are taking place about it.