Archive for October, 2022

Keep Healthcare Workers Safe to Help Protect Patients

healthcare worker on tablet PC

By bringing physical security and cybersecurity together, your hospital or pharmacy can strengthen its ability to deter criminal activity. A robust security plan offers a foundation for connecting the physical and cyber worlds through intelligence sharing, visibility, control, and automation. From deterring workplace violence, theft, vandalism, fraud, and accidents to improving medical device security to setting up a new care facility—there are countless scenarios where an integrated approach can reduce your risk of exposure so you can better care for staff and patients.

Healthcare facilities are easy targets

Medical facilities are considered high-density “soft targets” that generally have many physical access points, as well as limited security personnel in place. 

This makes hospitals easy targets for theft of medical equipment or the personal belongings of patients and staff members. In addition, unwanted visitors or other disturbances can cause unneeded stress to vulnerable patients.

Healthcare organizations are also attractive targets for cybercriminals because they historically under-invest in technology in general—security and cybersecurity specifically. Internally, hospitals have lower data encoding levels and smaller investments in security technology, resulting in poor management and protection of patient data. Reselling stolen health records remains lucrative for criminals, further incentivizing them to continue malicious attempts to extract data.

Hospital workplace violence and theft are on the rise

Whether it be between patients or directed at healthcare workers, hospital workplace violence is a continually increasing threat. More than 5,200 nursing personnel were assaulted in the second quarter of 2022, according to newly released data, while another study revealed that 55.6% of nurses reported having been a victim of violence in the workplace.

Theft is another challenge impacting hospitals. According to the Department of Justice, healthcare workers are just as likely as patients to abuse drugs, and hospital employees often steal controlled substances while on shift. Without a proper physical security plan in place, medication theft can cost the industry millions in losses every year. 

To address violence and theft, your converged plan should include taking advantage of cloud-based infrastructure, remote management, automated system processes, and triggered alerts. This enables teams to mitigate theft and violence by proactively monitoring hospital facilities to quickly understand a threat’s origin and identify those responsible. 

A strong cybersecurity strategy is also essential to safeguard physical security components connected to the internet, such as RFID key card door locks, video surveillance cameras, and smartphones—all common targets for criminals.

Cybersecurity breaches reduce quality of care and increase costs

A recent report showed that healthcare saw the costliest data breaches among all industries, with the average reaching $10.1 million per breach. Between 2009 and 2021, 4,419 healthcare data breaches resulted in the loss, theft, exposure, or impermissible disclosure of over 300 million healthcare records. 

Beyond these impacts, cyberattacks at hospitals can cause post-breach delays and interrupt time-sensitive processes for patient care that can endanger lives, according to a recent study. Researchers found that breached hospitals took a few minutes longer to provide EKGs to patients who needed them, increasing risk of death or serious complications.

While proactive security is necessary to prevent the damages associated with a breach, reactive security is also important. Hospitals cannot anticipate every possible threat. If criminal activity does infiltrate your security measures, data insights from your network and connected devices can enable reactive strategies to prevent repeated incidents. These can include after-breach damage assessments, a thorough investigation of outside attacks, and crisis management.

Create a safe and secure environment for patients, staff, and visitors

Physical security and cybersecurity solutions contribute to a safer environment by ensuring that patients are protected, clinical and administrative staff are safe, and hospitals can get on with doing what they do best—providing medical care to their communities.

Cisco Meraki brings a breadth of healthcare experience, innovative thinking, and technology-driven solutions together on a single cloud-based platform to address these challenges.

The result? By implementing forward-thinking, smart solutions, you can effectively address the inherent security risks associated with healthcare facilities and gain the flexibility to adapt to new challenges and future crises. To learn more, visit our healthcare industry and physical security pages.

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Balancing Privacy and Security

Balancing privacy and security illustration

Cameras serve a vital safety and security need, helping to deter crime, monitor remote spaces, and aid investigations. But they are also invasive by nature, so these benefits come with material privacy concerns. As camera deployments have increased due to new safety and security concerns, as well as new analytics applications, so has the need for privacy and trust.

In order to build trust with employees, customers, and the public, it’s vital for organizations to increase transparency and balance safety and operational needs with privacy concerns. To do this, organizations should consider a variety of factors, including:

  • Where cameras are placed
  • How video and analytics data are used
  • Who has access to the system and how it’s secured

Let’s explore these in more detail.

What do you need to see?

If you’re putting up cameras you’re probably trying to do something specific, like deter crime or figure out how busy an area gets. Understanding what you need to see helps you determine where to place your cameras. 

However, it’s just as important to consider what is adjacent to your area of focus and take steps to avoid capturing anything sensitive or private. When possible, angle the camera or adjust the field of view to capture only what you need to see. If that’s not possible, consider using privacy windows to mask those areas. Privacy windows with MV smart cameras allow admins to easily block sensitive areas in the camera’s field of view so that no video is recorded. 

Privacy window in action

Do you need to “see” it?

When using video analytics, the data is more important than the video itself. In some instances, the video may not matter at all, like when using cameras to understand desk and meeting room usage. Knowing how employees are using a space is valuable. It can enable hot-desking for hybrid work, increase employee productivity, and optimize the use of space, however, this use case relies on analytics, and retaining video raises privacy concerns.

An intelligently designed system can analyze video in real time, eliminating the need to store video and process it somewhere else. When placing cameras for analytics applications, like hot-desking, consider whether or not video needs to be retained. If not, configuring these cameras to not record video and restricting viewing access can protect privacy and minimize potential for abuse. 

Nothing (for you) to see here 

Once you have determined camera placement and video use, the final consideration is system security and video access. Organizations should make sure that video is secure to prevent unauthorized access by managing granular security and permissions policies for authorized users. 

When it comes to access, less is more. Grant users the minimum permissions required to perform their job duties. Which cameras does someone need to see and what do they need to do with the video? A security guard at a front desk may only need live viewing permission to access doorway and exterior cameras, whereas a loss prevention team may need to see all footage from a store’s cameras to conduct investigations. It’s also important to audit video use once the system is up and running. This helps protect against potential abuses by authorized users accessing cameras for unwarranted, casual observation. 

Securing video systems can be hard, but Meraki MV smart cameras make it easy by taking a security-by-default approach. Video is automatically encrypted, and cameras include a Cisco Trust Anchor module (TAm) for hardware security and firmware image signing (firmware is easily kept up-to-date via the Meraki dashboard). Additionally, there are no default usernames and passwords, SAML/SSO support streamlines the configuring of bespoke access at scale, and access logs provide an easy way to audit use. 

Let me tell you what I can see

Cameras are easily recognized by the casual observer. This is often by design, when the mere presence of a camera acts to deter theft because it means people know they are being watched. In some places, this is accepted, expected, or even welcomed, like at entrances, retail stores, or parking lots. But in other places, like workspaces, it may raise concerns, with people feeling rightfully wary about being on camera.  

In these situations it’s important to openly communicate the steps being taken to safeguard access and storage and protect privacy. Openly sharing the policies and security measures in place helps drive trust through transparency. Learn more about how Cisco Meraki is leading the way for security, privacy, and trust in physical security.

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When Sustainability and Finance Can’t Agree, Ask IT

Illustration, sustainability concept

Scott Wierstra is Senior Manager, Product Management IOT at Cisco Meraki

For many years, prioritizing sustainability initiatives pitted well-meaning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) leaders against their finance counterparts. Return on investment was often the bane of the sustainability manager’s day-to-day—how do you calculate the return when impact is nearly impossible to measure? However, recent innovations—along with increased global ESG risks—mean there are now multiple clear-cut winners when using the right technologies to deliver on sustainability pledges.

While sustainability and finance leaders may have competing priorities, success typically comes down to what’s being measured and how. In our era of data, analytics, and the cloud, there’s good news: quantifying this information and its impact has never been easier.

Look up

The timing has also never been better, given so many organizations’ ongoing and expanding embrace of cloud-first initiatives to power their transition into digital operations. The move away from paper, on-premises, and other manual- and cost-intensive resources complements both cost- and environmentally friendly strategies.

In fact, continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide being emitted between 2021 and 2024, according to International Data Corp. This is due to the enhanced efficiency of cloud technology, which helps reduce data center emissions by more effectively managing power, cooling, and server usage rates. 

Love air supply

Organizations can decrease their energy consumption and related carbon emissions by 20-50% by using free cooling, hot aisle containment, ASHRAE guidelines, environmental sensors, psychrometric charts, and PUE monitoring.

Most of the energy a data center uses goes to HVAC, which cools the massive servers that otherwise could overheat and malfunction. Using alternatives—like outside air—defrays the cost to budgets and the environment. In fact, combining an economizer and free cooling can cut costs up to 60%, this Cisco Meraki whitepaper explains. 

For example, a global advertising company reduced the annual energy costs of one of its campuses by 27% after it deployed Meraki MT sensors and a free cooling economizer. The ad agency’s costs dropped to $134,000 from $183,000, according to the Total Economic Impact™ report of Meraki MT sensors, conducted by Forrester Consulting. 

Focus on customers

Combining multiple key priority goals can deliver impressive results. In the competitive world of financial services, that was the story at Campus USA Credit Union, which melded together a focus on customer service, a plan to enhance experiences with its upcoming branch expansion, and a decision to leverage technology to deliver these benefits. 

One key component was an environmental monitoring solution to ensure the back of the credit union kept running as smoothly as the front offices. Campus USA deployed the Meraki temperature and humidity sensor, the open and close sensor, and the water leak detection sensor in each branch location. 

Only months after this installation, the air conditioning was unexpectedly shut off on a Saturday. After a sensor sent an alert, the team fixed the issue. Without an alert, the equipment might have overheated and the credit union could have lost about $60,000 worth of hardware and been left unable to serve customers until the outage was remediated. 

Breathe deeply

Measuring and demonstrating air quality is becoming more important as fires, pandemics, and pollution raise public concern about airborne hazards. Businesses and government agencies are using proven technologies to improve transparency with stakeholders.

For example, the town of Opelika, Alabama, incorporated sensors into its smart city plan. The longtime Cisco customer installed dozens of sensors to monitor parking, nitric oxide levels, industrial park gasses, and water quality. 

Hold the rolls

Using smart cameras and sensors with a dashboard view across a cloud platform gives organizations the ability to see without necessarily—or physically—being there. 

This visibility empowers IT departments and managed service providers to monitor Meraki access, WAN, IoT, and Cisco access technologies in one place. This also supports sustainability efforts by better optimizing the need for travel to work on-site. This also frees up time to focus on higher-value activities. 

“As a network consulting service, the Meraki dashboard has saved us time on truck rolls and troubleshooting by providing quick and easy access and visibility into our clients’ networks,” says Brian Martin, Client Network Engineer at MCNC.

Lights on 

In politics, compromise often means a deal gets done but nobody walks away happy. While that may work to get laws passed, it’s not how technology implementations should go—certainly not successful ones. While we all wear many hats these days and have competing priorities, it’s also true that we can care about multiple causes at once. This is certainly true for sustainability. Thankfully, today’s technologies can support these initiatives in a way that delivers on sustainability pledges while making value clearly measurable.

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The Connected Campus and Digital Transformation

Universities and college campuses are moving beyond the emergency response phase of the past few years and onward to a new era of digital transformation. For them, the path of digital progression leads to the creation of the connected campus—one that both engages students with robust digital learning experiences and meets their expectations for flexibility and reliability at every stage of their education. 

The transition to digitalization future-proofs institutions against the ever-amplifying challenges of displaced students, inequity of access to education, stretched budgets, and ongoing closures.

Read on to discover how innovative technology solutions can address these and other challenges for the campus.

Future-proof campuses with a combination of IT and IoT technologies

The 2022 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report highlights technology as one of the key areas institutions should focus their efforts to facilitate successful, meaningful hybrid learning experiences. Sharing links, assignments, and feedback online has become the new norm—as is expecting a fast, secure, and reliable campus network

Beyond the network, faculty are being called upon to redefine instructional modalities using novel hardware like AR/VR and video tools to engage a dispersed student body. The classroom of the future incorporates creative ways to blend physical environments with virtual experiences, requiring the implementation of new hardware and an ecosystem of IoT devices.

IT teams are challenged to keep up as the number of devices—and the amount of bandwidth needed to support them—increases exponentially. 

Institutions like Virginia Commonwealth University, Albany State University, and Butler University are turning to cloud-based wireless solutions to meet their needs, in and outside of the classroom.

“If a student is happy in their dorm room and on campus, able to collaborate and speak with family and friends remotely, and don’t have connection challenges, they will have a better experience and get to their goal of graduating and earning a degree.”

Noore Ghunaym, Director of Infrastructure at Albany State University

Physical security and cybersecurity remain top concerns

Ensuring a safe, secure learning environment also means ensuring visibility on school grounds and an ability to resolve issues quickly.

Agile, intuitive smart cameras provide actionable insights with on-device storage and remote access, while environmental sensors monitor door activity in restricted areas and report on health metrics like air quality, temperature, and classroom capacity. 

Keeping in line with the now inextricable combination of in-person and virtual solutions, security in the cyber world is another concern. Education is by far one of the most affected industries when it comes to cybersecurity threats and susceptibility to malware.

Keep devices protected and data encrypted while enabling IT to spend more time on proactive security projects and less time and budget managing and troubleshooting security solutions.

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Overcoming the enrollment cliff

Institutions are attempting to get ahead of the impending enrollment cliff by enticing a digital-centric incoming cohort with creative recruitment tactics, attractive new technology programs, and flexible learning. 

One such example: colleges are launching esports programs at an increasing rate. Indicative of growing interest, the Google search term for “esports” has seen a constant uptick over the past decade as the “esports adolescence” is coming to college age. 

Hosting esports requires a high-density, reliable, and secure network to avoid latency issues or a maxed-out client limit. Using a full-stack solution with access points, switches, and security appliances supports a competitive student gaming center, as Cisco Meraki deployed at Illinois College.

The future of learning is cloud-based

Higher education has proven itself resilient by moving from pandemic-reactive technology implementations to proactive solutions. Digital transformation is at the core of maintaining a full classroom and an engaged student body. Using the Meraki dashboard, lean IT teams can gain complete visibility and control, valuable insight into network usage, and remote troubleshooting tools without increasing costs or hiring additional IT staff. 

Above all, university IT departments are looking to empower students in a safe environment. As you work on your IT strategy for the upcoming year, learn how federal relief and ARPA funding can help secure Meraki solutions for your team and ensure an exceptional, equitable, and sustainable student experience.

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