Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Surges and spike, storm season is coming – are your computers protected?

We are headed into storm season. During this time when when thunderstorms and the occasional blizzard can cause power surges, sags and spikes. It is estimated that lightning causes about $6 billion dollars of damage each year. Computers are sensitive electronic devices that are very susceptible to these changes in electricity. A lot of damage can be done to your expensive devices. But not just your computers, but your flat screen TVs, digital video recorders (DVR), home routers and other other similar devices. How can you protect your devices from surge damage? We’ve written up a quick guide that should provide you with everything you need to know to protect your computer and other devices this winter.

What are power surges? Spikes or a sags?

Computers need a constant flow of electricity coming into them to function properly. during normal times, the flow of electricity is constant. Think of it like water going through a pipe. When the water level drops, the flow coming out of the pipe drops. This is what a power sag is. When your air conditioner comes on and all the lights in your house flicker or dim a bit, that is a power sag.

Back to our water pipes. When the flow is down and then suddenly it goes back to full pressure, you get a burst of water that is a lot more than normal. The pressure is much higher. That is what a power spike or surge is.; too much electricity coming into your devices at one time.

How do storms effect computers?

When a thunderstorm comes in, it can cause lightning strikes that hit power lines. This can cause surges of electricity can flow down the power line directly into your house and then into any devices that are plugged in. Another way a surge can come is when the power is off and then it comes back on. This is like the water flow that is suddenly more than the pipe is used to handling.

When surges comes into a computer or other device like a flat screen TV, the extra amount of electricity can do damage to the sensitive electronics.

A sag can cause the power processing parts of a computer to be damaged over time. Computers need that constant flow of electricity and when a sag hits, the computer may lock up or not write data correctly and cause corruption.

How to protect your devices from surges and sags

There are several ways to protect your devices. First, we will discuss the most thorough way to do it. Most power companies offer a service known as whole house surge protection. This usually involves placing a surge type device outside near the meter so that all electricity coming into the house is filtered. The monthly charge is usually very cheap and it it is well worth the investment. This will protect your entire house from surges but not sags. This cannot maintain a constant flow of electricity into your house.

The next way is to use surge protectors to plug all of your devices into. But be careful here. A power strip and a surge protector are not the same thing. A power strip is just a strip that allows for more devices to be plugged into one outlet. A surge protector contains a fuse that will blow similar to how a breaker operates in your power panel. When a surge comes into the surge protector, the fuse will blow and stop the flow of electricity into your devices. Surge protectors are more expensive than power strips.  You should expect to spend between $20 and $30 per surge protector. This also won’t protect your devices from sags. It will protect from surges only.

Power strip - these offer no protection from surges

Power strip – these offer no protection from surges

 

Surge protector

Surge protector

 

 

The final method, and the most comprehensive, is to use uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). These are batteries that your devices plug into and can handle both power surges and sags. Also when the power goes off, it will give you time to properly shutdown your computer so that you can save your data. UPSs are the most comprehensive and offer the best protection. The downside is the expense and that you need one for each major device. For example, you will need one for your computer, one for your TV, etc. This can get expensive but its far easier to replace a $100 UPS than to buy a new computer or flat screen TV.

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

 

Iron Comet can help you protect your devices from storm season. If you need help, give us a call for a free assessment on the best option to protect your valuable devices. Call us at 770-506-4383 and we will be happy to help.

 

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computer security

Computer security in the US elections – a real fear?

With the election coming on November, we have all been fed a steady stream of intense drama from both candidates. However, one subject we haven’t heard much about is just how safe is our election process? How good is the computer security of the election machines? Most people don’t realize that most voting machines are now simply just small computers. In addition, voter databases are stored on servers in state voting agencies. These databases can be tampered with to add or delete voters.

Reading these headlines should give you a fright:

Foreign Hackers access state voting database (Arizona and Illinois)

Russian hackers target half if US states voting databases

In addition to these, it was found that hackers had probed the computer security of the state of Washington as well.

But the most troubling breach of computer security was in the state of Arizona.

Just how bad was it?

 

Can bad computer security tilt an election?

Back in June, the FBI contacted the Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan with news that they had discovered user credentials for sale on the dark web that allowed voters to either be edited, added, or even deleted from state voter registration databases. The dark web are places where criminals go to sell services and stolen products to each other. In this case, the FBI found the credentials that would allow changes to the voting database but not the voting machines.

The good news is that voting machines are not connected to the internet. It would take a personal visit to all the machines in a specific area. the attacker would need to spend at least a few minutes with each machine he wanted to alter. To have an effect on the national elections, this would need to be done in very specific swing states and many machines would need to be effected. That borders on the impossible.

But this does bring up the validity of the integrity of the voting system and its computer security. Perhaps local elections or less important races than the national election could be tampered with.

A quote from Arizona Secretary of State Reagan says it all –

“The last thing we want is outside forces, especially from outside the country, trying to make people think that there’s no integrity in their vote,” Reagan says. “That shakes the very foundation of what we’re trying to do.”

 

 

 

mobile security

Mobile security – Is your mobile phone being used to attack the Internet

Sometimes we get the question of why does my mobile phone need protection? Its just a phone right? Why do I need mobile security? Sometimes people also believe the same about their internet connected devices such as TVs and video cameras. But what many people might not realize is that any device that is attached to the Internet can be hacked into and used to attack other devices or computers on a network.

A recent attack on web hosting company Akami was performed using 145,000 web connected devices such as routers, phones, and cameras. Hackers had broken into networks world wide to take over these devices. Once they had built up and enormous collection, they were able to use the devices to attack Akami. Akami is a very large web hosting company and has enormous bandwidth resources of its own. But even they weren’t able to defend against such a massive attack that these hackers were able to perform.

So that’s the technical explanation of what happened. Here is what that means. hacker s broke into home routers like the kind you use for your DSL or cable connection. They took over these devices and then used them to send large amounts of random data to the Akami’s network. These devices also included mobile phones, network cameras, and network attached storage such as backup drives (not the USB kind). So once the attackers had taken over enough devices, in this case, 145,000 such devices. they were able to send enormous amounts of random data to Akami. Akami wasn’t able to block all of this data and eventually, it was knocked off the Internet. To be specific, it was a particular website that was being hosted by Akami that was being attacked.

How does this relate to mobile security and your personal phone?

Mobile phones are becoming much more complicated devices and now are basically tiny computers in our pockets. Add to that the fact that most are always connected to the Internet either via a WiFi or data connection and you can begin to see why this is an important issue. A device that is always on the Internet, lacks the protection software that almost all computers have installed, and gives no warning of when it has been infected? It’s a target too tempting for hackers to pass up. Its far easier to take over an unprotected mobile phone or internet camera than it is to take over a computer.

Mobile Security the easy way

This isn’t device specific, so I won’t be discussing iPhones vs Androids. Most of these tips will be useful for both devices.

  1. Install an antivirus package software. Most mobile security products will include antivirus, a firewall, and even a location service for your device. Install it and let it handle keeping your mobile phone secure.
  2. Never install software from sources that you don’t know. Generally this isn’t an issue, especially on Apple. But its still possible for people to get around this and install bad software. Make sure you only install software from either the Apple store or Google Play.
  3. Make frequent backups. Just in case something happens, you can always reset your phone to factory standards and then reinstall your data. This is more of a “Worst case mobile security” but its always best to have a plan B.

As we get more and more dependent on our phones, mobile security will become increasingly important. If you follow these basic steps, then you will go a very long way to making sure your phone is protected.

You can read all the details here at Healthcare IT news.

 

 

mobile security

Mobile protection – 5 ways to protect your mobile phone

In just a few short years, motile devices have become more common than our computers.  We use our phones for everything from taking pictures, calendars, organizing our lives, Facebook, and even as health trackers. Because of this, we have put more and more of our lives onto these mobile devices. Many users record their own medications o use apps such as Walgreens or Walmart pharmacy to renew their medication information. Another common use is for two factor authentication. This is where a website you are logging into will send you a text message and you need to enter into the site to gaina ccess. Without your phone, its very hard to get access. Every day, we put more and more information on our phones.

It doesn’t matter if you use an Apple iPhone or an Android device. All devices suffer from security weaknesses that need to be addressed.

5 ways to protect your mobile device

  1. Use a password – Make sure your device is password protected. You can use finger prints also if your device supports it. However, be aware that some fingerprint scanners are easier to hack. But by setting a password, you can make your device protected in the event you lose your mobile device or of its stolen. If you use a password, make sure you use a more complex password that
  2. Encrypt your data – If your device supports it, make sure you encrypt your data. This will further protect your data in the event your phone is lost or stolen.
  3. Install a locating software (or use Find my iPhone) – This can help you locate your device if its stolen or you simply lost it. It can often allow you to remote wipe your device. This is useful in the event the device is stolen, you can make sure no one gets access to your data.
  4. Install protection software – this will protect against virus and other forms of malware. This is becoming more and more prevalent as attackers focus more on mobile devices. It also protects against web born attacks, email attachments, and other forms of attacks to your phone.
  5. Be careful where you access the internet – when you are out in public, be careful about what WiFi networks you connect to. Attacker are setting up fake access points to get you to connect to them. Then they will capture your passwords and traffic to the sites you visit. And in this type of attack, SSL encryption in your browser won’t help you.

One extra free tip – make frequent backups of your phone

Make backups of the data on your phone. Its becoming as important as having backups to your computers. You can use automated software to handle it or manual sync software like iTunes. Just make backups.

If you need help protecting your mobile device or just have questions about what threats you may be facing, give us a call at 770-506-4383. We can help you protect your phones or other devices quick and easy.

 

Healthcare Entities Largely Unprepared for ICD-10 Implementation: KPMG Survey

From GlobeNewswire

According to a recent survey performed by accounting firm KPMG, most healthcare entities are unprepared for the coming ICD-10 changeover.

From the original article:

“The KPMG poll, conducted from October to December of 2013, found that while the majority of payer and provider respondents acknowledged that they had completed an ICD-10 impact assessment (76 percent) and had allocated budget toward readiness efforts (72 percent), they were significantly deficient in preparing for key aspects of implementation. Comprehensive system testing, determination of impact on cash flow and revenue cycles were where the majority of respondents revealed that their respective organizations had not properly addressed the impact of ICD-10 implementation.”

This is something that should be of concern to all involved.  Nearly half of the respondents to the survey felt that there would be a significant increase in denials due to the change over.

From the original article:

“In terms of specific processes, nearly half of those surveyed (45 percent) believed that denial/variance management would be most affected in the transition outside of coding and documentation,” added Randy Notes, a principal in KPMG’s Healthcare & Life Sciences practice who specializes in revenue cycle operations and improvement. “Successfully managing denials and variance entails a thorough analysis of not just the new codes, but reviewing trends of the previous ICD-9 codes and mapping high volume medical necessity. Organizations also must familiarize themselves with claims rejections and denial representatives under the new process and designing a brand new billing process. It is easy to see why this was a leading pain point among our field.”

One of the issues is that many entities will wait to the last minute to perform their changeover and testing. This will help increase chances of errors and running out of time. Healthcare entities are being encouraged to begin testing now and have their staff trained to be ready for the changeover that is just months away.

 

 

Physicians will need cash reserves for the ICD-10 transition

ICD-10 – Practices must have emergency cash available

With the ICD-10 deadline looming on October 1st, 2014, practices will need to start making arrangements to have access to emergency cash. That is the the consensus amongst health care providers across the united States. Even if practices are on target to complete the transition by the deadline, they will likely be effected by the transition itself.

(For an ICD-10 Implementation checklist, head over to the Iron Comet ICD-10 Implementation Checklist)

 

Physicians will need emergency money for ICD-10 Transition

Physicians will need emergency money for ICD-10 Transition

ICD-10 will cause significant delays in reimbursements

ICD-10 will cause delays in physician payment reimbursements and there will likely be a great number of denied claims. Claim denials will certainly be a focus due to office staff learning the new codes and just how to use them. During these trying times, it will be crucial for physicians to have access to emergency funds so that they can continue to run their practices. Staff must be paid, rent and utilities, also. To continue operating, it will be critical for physicians to begin planning on just how they will tackle these issues. Having access to extra funds can go a long way to relieving the stress that ICD-10 is certain to cause.

Vendors of EMR and practice management software have been testing and retesting to help their users to be ready. McKesson recently released Medisoft v19 that is ICD-10 ready for Medisoft users. But even though software may be ready, this doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be delays in physicians receiving their reimbursements.

Office Staff will be critical for ICD-10

The office staff of a practice will be the critical component to a smooth transition.  How quickly do they pick up on the changes and are able to adapt to them? How much training will be required to achieve this level of efficiency? These are questions physicians need to start answering to help limit the impact that ICD-10 has on their practices.

In addition, retaining office staff that has been trained will be an important consideration going forward. It won’t be inexpensive to train office staff to prepare for the transition. Once staff has been trained, it will be very important for practices to work to keep them to further limit the impact to cash flow.

Its important that physicians start addressing these issues so that if and when the delays in reimbursements occur, practices won’t be effected and keep running as smoothly as possible.

If you would like more information about the ICD-10 transition, head on over to the Iron Comet ICD-10 page.

If you would like more information on McKesson’s Medisoft v19 and how it will help your practice be ready for ICD-10, visit our Medisoft v19 page.

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ICD-10, Is your practice on the right track?

This video was created by the Georgia Department of Community Health to help practices prepare for ICD-10. The audio quality isn’t that great, but it’s a great primer on ICD-10 and how to get started implementing.

They do mention the ICD-10 implementation being delayed and the deadline being uncertain. Please keep in mind that this video was released mid-2012 before the final decision to change over in October 2014. Remember, Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national coordinator for healthcare IT, stated there would be no more delays  on the changeover to ICD-10. The deadline will remain October 1st, 2014.

ICD-10 Video Outline

The video is laid out in six sequence outline. The outline is below.

Storyline Update

Opening Act

Act I – The Process

Act II – Checklist

Act III – Moving Forward

Act IV – Going Forward

ICD-10 Guide from Georgia Department of Community Health

ICD-10 Guide from Georgia Department of Community Health

 

The video does a good job ox explaining what the impact of ICD-10 will be for practices and how to begin to prepare for it. It is the first of a four part series that we will post. The first part of the video also goes into detail on why we will be switching to ICD-10 in 2014.

The checklist is useful but not as thorough as it could be. It does contain information useful to most practices, but it does not cover all areas of an ICD-1o implementation.

If you would like to get a free ICD-10 implementation checklist, checkout ours! It can be downloaded for FREE from here. We tried to cover all areas of an implementation so as t be useful to practices of all sizes.

We have also prepared a collection of ICD-10 links to help you get all the information you need to be ready. Those can be accessed from here.

MEDISOFT USERS – Only Medisoft v19 is ICD-10 compatible. To be ready, you must upgrade to Medisoft v19. No version previous to Medisoft v19 will be able to use the ICD-10 codes.To get more information on Medisoft v19, please visit our page here.