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PRODUCTS & SERVICES Data security concerns should not


overcome RTLS allure yet Reality: No system is ‘hack-proof’ by Rick Dana Barlow


hen Healthcare Purchasing News learned that certain types of bar-code technology could be tampered with, courtesy of their pro- gramming, the revelation brought to mind earlier reports of biometric imaging capabilities encountering its own security issues, despite expectations that they were effective in protecting data and informa- tion access. HPN almost immediately wondered if — or how — asset tracking platforms and technologies that don’t require “line- of-sight” aiming and beaming might fare against clever and industrious computer coders and programmers with this pro- spective challenge in their crosshairs. Could real-time location system (RTLS) modalities and platforms be targeted? Peter Ginkel, P.E., Vice President, ID


W


Integration Inc., the company that brought the challenges of 2-D bar coding to light, differentiated concerns about asset loca-


tion systems and bar coding issues and urged caution.


“Asset Locating systems are a closed envi- ronment with a limited data set and a mini- mal number of characters encoded,” Ginkel told HPN. “We have not seen any possibility for these systems to become compromised if even a modicum of precautions is taken. The malicious barcode issue, however, is quite real and potentially destructive in that it is so easy to encode malicious commands into a code.” The moral of the story, according to sources, is that while these techniques and technologies may provide more protection and security than, say, doing or using noth- ing at all, they certainly weren’t completely safe and secure or “hack-proof.” Realisti- cally, they acknowledged, nothing is — at least for long.


But comparing the effectiveness of online or electronic safety and security protocols and technologies to, say, an annual flu


shot, may be unrealistic at least and unfair at most.


Healthcare providers and suppliers have known for years that wireless signal trans- missions between devices, equipment and systems can be interrupted, which moti- vated the development and implementation of a variety of protocols to better manage the plethora of electronic technologies on the market against the backdrop of healthcare information privacy rules. Consequently, HPN Senior Editor Rick Dana Barlow reached out to a group of RTLS suppliers to gauge the security measures of the various platforms — not to stoke doubts and fears about RTLS but to explore the possibilities and ignite initial ideation on protective measures.


HPN: We’ve heard of “free-form” 2-D bar-coding symbologies that can enable increased risk of malicious PC attacks via embedded PC system commands, leading us to wonder how the threat of cyber- attacks/hacking/malicious coding may migrate to RTLS modalities and platforms. How vulnerable are RTLS systems to cyber- attacks, hacking or malicious coding that can breach firewalls and computer security to affect device performance and tracking?


Sagi Geva, Director, Acute Care Solutions, STANLEY Healthcare, Waltham, MA


“RTLS systems consist of two components: The software components that manage the system (engine, database, software) and the infrastructure components. For on-premises installations, the software components are really no different from any other system inside the hospital. They, of course, require robust protection with firewalls, encryption, authentication, regular OS updates, etc., but no special measures. Naturally, hospitals must ensure that their RTLS vendor is capable of quickly updating their software to stay current with the latest OS and all security patches and enhancements. Page 68


66 March 2018 • HEALTHCARE PURCHASING NEWS • hpnonline.com


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