Geek Speak

4 Posts authored by: gretchen.hellman

In a private notice to healthcare providers, the FBI has issued a warning that the United States healthcare industry is not as resilient to cyber intrusions compared to the financial and retail sectors, therefore the possibility of increased cyber intrusions is likely. 

"The healthcare industry is not as resilient to cyber intrusions compared to the financial and retail sectors, therefore the possibility of increased cyber intrusions is likely," the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a private notice it has been distributing to healthcare providers, obtained by Reuters.

In addition to weaker defenses, there is more to gain.  Health data is far more valuable to hackers on the black market than credit card numbers because it tends to contain details that can be used to access bank accounts or obtain prescriptions for controlled substances.

So why has this occurred?  Does healthcare just not care about security?  That’s far from the case.  Here are some challenges we’ve seen healthcare organizations have in building stronger defenses:

  • Weak regulatory enforcement:  While the HIPAA security standard is one of the oldest IT security regulations out there, until recently, it hasn’t been well policed.  This means that healthcare, which is largely cost-sensitive and for a large part not for profit, didn’t make security spending as big a priority. 
  • Availability Trumps All:  Whether its doctors that refuse to take extra steps to access health data, or concern that certain security measures may threaten availability and the care process, healthcare as a process is resistant to any security measures that might block or delay access. 
  • Managing the Cost of Care:  The debate on how to lower the cost of care has been going on for decades.  Healthcare is particularly sensitive on managing costs and security often doesn’t come cheap – from both a product and workforce perspective. 


Aside from the FBI Warning, there are real costs associated with data breaches and non-compliance has never been greater for healthcare. 

Need Some Tips on Improving Healthcare Security? 

Watch our 2 Part Video: For helpful tips on how to manage these changes, we’ve put together a short 2 part video series on how to improve healthcare security without spending a fortune.

Part 1 covers the shift in the regulatory and risk environment and Part 2 goes through some helpful tips on how to cost-effectively improve healthcare security


Read a SolarWinds security expert developed guide on improving security:  For more information, read this free white paper to understand more about healthcare IT security and risk management.


Share your tips and tricks here too.  We'd love to keep the conversation going. 

The Heartbleed survey results are in – and the good news is that the vast majority SolarWinds Thwack Users are in the know and on top of it (of course, this comes as no surprise!).


Here are the results



  • Of those 61 respondents surveyed – only 6.6% were not sure if they were effected by the Heartbleed vulnerability and 100% were aware of the vulnerability.

  • When asked if the organization had a clear action plan to address Heartbleed – a whopping 81% were not vulnerable or had fully addressed the vulnerability.  Only 5% were still trying to identify steps or didn’t know what to do.




  • The cleanup of Heartbleed has made an impact on IT, but there is confidence in fast remediation for the most part.  Almost half of respondents said it only took hours to address.  30% said days, 11% said weeks and 10% were not sure.






  • When asked about overall effort/cost of tasks associated with the cleanup, the largest cited effort was following up with vendors to determine if products were effected. In second place – replacing digital certificates was cited and addressing customer concerns about the privacy of data was in third.  Surprisingly, addressing internal concerns about the vulnerability was ranked last, which is either a promising indicator of fast and clear communication as part of the incident response process or a lack of security awareness.




  • And finally, in terms of cleanup effort – the answers were pretty even across operating systems, websites and third party applications.


So, to sum up, its great to see that in spite of all the hype, while it may have been painful, it wasn't devastating to most.  We put a lot of effort into providing a fast vendor response on our end, and we hope that made it a bit easier for our beloved IT pros out there.

Its another year and another 5 stars for SolarWinds Log and Event Manager in SC Magazine’s SIEM Group test!  The reviewers tested every aspect of our SIEM - with a dual focus on log and event management as well as strong attention to usability, scalability, reporting, third party support, and ease of implementation.


The verdict? “This is a solid product, worthy of consideration.”

SolarWinds has put together another outstanding product. The SolarWinds Log & Event Manager (LEM) offers a quality set of log management, event correlation, search and reporting facilities. This gives organizations the ability to collect large volumes of data from virtually any device on a network in real time and then correlate the data into actionable information. The company does this by paying attention to the need for real-time incident response and effective forensics, as well as security and IT troubleshooting issues. Another winning set of features are the quality regulatory compliance management and ready-made reporting functions.”


With the increase of attacks on compliant companies, the previously separate focuses of security and compliance are converging.  At the same time, attack methods are growing more sophisticated and harder to detect.  At SolarWinds, we are dedicated to providing the situational awareness and visibility previously only available to large enterprises to companies of every size.  We are pleased that SC Magazine saw the results of our efforts.


Their one weakness we can easily address: “Consider a Ticket Management System for smaller companies”.  We offer Alert Central as a free ticket management system that easily integrates with LEM.  For those that need more robust reporting and tracking, we also offer Web Help Desk as a low cost alternative.


To read the review, visit

My teenage daughter thinks my technology job in security is boring most of the time  (especially when I talk about it in front of her)- but when she heard about the SnapChat breach, I quickly received a call asking for advice.  The user names and phone numbers of many users were breached and exposed.  So should my daughter and her friends be worried?  Whenever there is a breach or new vulnerability found, there can be a lot of hysteria.  Its scary to know that your information was stolen - but there are varying degrees of damage that can be done by breaches.  I performed a quick risk assessment for her and thought, given the large numbers of SnapChat users, I would share the results. The outcome? She personally did not need to be very worried – although some might need to be.  Here’s why:


  • Right now, there is no indication that passwords were exposed.  I recommended she change her password anyway just to play it safe. Since I use SnapChat as well to communicate with her, I did the same.
  • Her user name, combined with her phone number, doesn’t provide much identifying information about her at all.  It could lead to annoying spam texts and calls – but since she is using a respectable user name that is not her full name, the two pieces together do not clearly identify her and should not cause embarrassment.  She is almost 20, so we are not very concerned about her receiving content from those she doesn't know - because she can always block those people.  Younger kids and their parents should take some precautions.
  • New incoming photos can’t be accessed with just a user name and phone number – so  new photos coming in are safe as long as passwords weren't breached (and we changed our passwords to play safe)
  • Old photos, while remnants remain on her device – are not accessible even if her account was breached because the SnapChat application does not maintain them for user access
  • Her name with her phone number is already public information because it is listed on her blog with her resume

So who should be worried and when?

  • Parents of younger children (my daughter is almost 20) should be concerned because their kids can be added by people who don't know them and their numbers have been exposed to spammers which may, in turn, expose them to inappropriate content and messages.  Downloading a new version of the app released today and opting out of "Find Friends" should definitely be performed with younger kids.  Also, making sure younger kids come to you immediately if they see inappropriate content in spam messages on their phone is essential.
  • If you have an inappropriate user name, this information combined with your phone number could cause embarrassment.
  • If it turns out that passwords were in fact breached – then someone could gain access to new incoming snapchats.  There are no reports of passwords being breached I recommend changing passwords now just to play safe
  • If the user name contains identifying information and you want to keep your number private (for example – famous people) – then it could cause an issue.  In that case, getting a new phone number from your mobile provider is the option to correct it.

Reasonable security decisions – both in businesses and in our personal security online -  are about assessing the value of the information combined with the difficulty for an attacker to gain the information.  Those who phone numbers were exposed might have some annoyances with spam to their mobile phones – but unless more data than phone numbers and user names were stolen or if you fit the “worry” criteria – that should be the extent of the damage from this breach.

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