Are you devoting enough resources to your organization’s cybersecurity? For many, cybersecurity is one of the most neglected areas of IT budgeting. In ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity 2019 report, 55% of respondents planned to increase their cybersecurity budget over the next year. Even more (60%) indicated their cybersecurity is underfunded.

As a healthcare professional, you know how important it is for patients to balance high-quality care with affordable healthcare costs. This balance also applies to IT services for doctors. Whether you’re streamlining HIPAA compliance with digital technology, or negotiating coverage and quality with insurance companies, you are aware of the constant juggling of cost and security in your industry.

Though often underfunded, cybersecurity is one of the most important aspects of any healthcare organization’s IT needs. When weighing IT services for doctors, physicians and surgeons need to know which security measures are indispensable in order to make the most of their budget.

When considering IT services for doctors, prioritize these 6 cybersecurity needs in your budget, outlined here in our infographic and later in our blog post.

Keep reading to learn more about the biggest security risks in healthcare today and 6 cybersecurity services and technologies to prioritize with your IT spending.

How Due Diligence Assessment and IT Services for Doctors Improve Purchasing Decisions

Attainia reports that hospitals spend an average of $93 billion per year on medical technologies and their related services, making this a major annual expense to consider. Healthcare professionals know the value of efficient, reliable equipment: it sets the pace of productivity and can help set the standard for quality service when handling patients.

Medical technology is an ever-growing field, where the phrase “the newer, the better” frequently applies. However, investing in brand-new medical equipment and software also comes at a heavy price.

Hospitals and medical practices are constantly battling the cost of their sophisticated medical equipment. Further, more advanced medical technologies also typically require more management and support from IT professionals, increasing their cost in the long term.

Not only that, but healthcare organizations also must maintain the hardware (including everything from computers to keyboards), software (such as Microsoft Windows or Mac operating systems), network, and internet connection required to run their equipment and daily operations.

Fortunately, managed IT services for doctors or a due diligence assessment can help identify your biggest tech-related risks and opportunities. By allowing technology experts to evaluate the entirety of your IT, you can gain the insight necessary to determine:

  • Is it better to invest in a new piece of equipment or upgrade your existing tech?
  • How much maintenance will any given technology require?
  • How long will this new solution last? What is its lifespan?
  • Will this technology integrate with your existing systems?
  • Does this technology meet or exceed all compliance requirements?
  • Where could IT deliver the biggest gains to your productivity, efficiency, and revenue?
  • If neglected, which of your IT systems are most likely to cause issues? Which have the potential to cause the biggest crises?

With an informed assessment of these competing concerns, you can efficiently prioritize your IT needs and spending. For many healthcare organizations, cybersecurity is a main area requiring additional investment.

Why Medical Technology and Operations Require More Cybersecurity

Across industries, cybersecurity is often a hard sell because it is an investment that doesn’t produce direct revenue in return. For healthcare organizations juggling the significant costs of medical equipment and technology, the temptation to skimp on cybersecurity is even greater.

But as cybersecurity threats to businesses grow in number and sophistication, hospitals and medical practices can no longer afford to overlook their cybersecurity. In addition to the financial, operational, and publicity risks associated with cyberattacks, healthcare organizations must also contend with potentially devastating HIPAA violations.

Not only that, but hospitals and physicians’ offices are increasingly relying on technology, from cloud-based data management systems, to compliance software, to advanced medical tech. Avoiding cyberattacks and other disruptions can help keep your institution—and the technology it depends on—running smoothly.

Stolen Healthcare Data

The creation of electronic health records has made communication between hospitals, healthcare professionals, and insurance agencies easier and more efficient. However, the quick expansion of digital recordkeeping has also produced a great threat to the healthcare industry as a whole.

Medical software contains protected health information (PHI), such as patients’ birthdates, social security numbers, home addresses, and private medical data. Given the massive amount of sensitive information they handle on a regular basis, industries like healthcare and financial services are major targets for cyberattacks.

HIPAA Violation Costs

HIPAA violation costs, as highlighted by the paperwork in this photos, are just one reason why healthcare organizations benefit from cybersecurity and IT services for doctors.

When medical facilities face a data breach, public morale isn’t the only issue they have to worry about. HIPAA has strict guidelines when it comes to network security. If found negligent or non-compliant, you could face charges up to $50,000 per violation—or, even worse, criminal legal action.

Healthcare organizations are held liable when a data breach occurs, and the resulting HIPAA fines could cost your facility millions of dollars. When patient information is compromised, lawsuits and settlements add even more to your costs.

System Shutdowns

Healthcare organizations may have to shut down their IT systems if faced with a threat to security. Without access to patient medical histories or full use of medical equipment, hospitals and physicians’ offices are left with little choice but to close until the threat is resolved and all systems are brought back online.

For smaller medical facilities, it’s not uncommon for it to take a full day to recover from a system shutdown and get operations up and running again. This leaves your facility vulnerable to theft and your patients unable to receive care, ultimately resulting in a loss of trust and business.

It only takes a single cyberattack to bring down a slew of serious consequences. As the risks continue to grow, it is critical to invest in proper cybersecurity and other IT services for doctors to protect their medical practices and healthcare organizations.

6 Cybersecurity Needs to Prioritize in Your IT Budget

When developing an IT budget for your healthcare organization, cybersecurity should be a top concern. While cybersecurity is an additional cost to consider, the many costs of falling victim to a cyberattack are much greater. To get started, there are 6 cybersecurity services and technologies we recommend factoring into your budget:

1. IT Due Diligence Assessment

Understanding your needs is vital when allocating funds. An IT due diligence assessment compounds your facility’s standards with a clear assessment of your IT infrastructure, systems, personnel, and processes.

Conducted by IT experts, this full-scale appraisal helps you evaluate the assets you have, determine what you need, and spot security vulnerabilities. With this information, you can develop informed priorities for your IT projects and spending.

2. Employee Cybersecurity Education

Employees are often the first line of defense against a cyberattack, making it always important to devote time and resources to proper cybersecurity education for everyone at your organization. In particular, if your hospital or medical practice is strapped for resources, spreading knowledge and awareness about cybersecurity throughout the entire team is an expense that has wide-ranging benefits.

Often, employees will fail victim to social engineering and expose your network to cyber threats. From simply teaching staff not to open links or attachments from strange emails, to conducting cyberattack practice drills with follow-up education for any missteps, cybersecurity training can thwart a substantial number of threats.

Cybersecurity education can also help support security practices you already have in place. For instance, even if you require longer passwords with numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and special characters, your employees may still unknowingly use unsecure practices. They might reuse passwords for multiple accounts, share passwords with others in plain text, leave their password on their desk written on a sticky note, or incorporate information that can easily be guessed in passwords.

Once employees understand the risks and their role in keeping your organization safe, they are much more willing and able to commit to secure practices. When everyone at your hospital or physicians’ office can share this responsibility and knowledge, you greatly increase your security.

3. Antivirus Software

The right antivirus software can make or break an organization. It helps prevent cyberattacks from bots, worms, spyware, and viruses. It fortifies your office computers against network vulnerabilities. Also, it alerts users to potential threats in real time, allowing for faster detection and response.

These capabilities make antivirus software a critical component of your threat detection capabilities, network security, and HIPAA compliance. Moreover, in a time when many employees have had to transition to working from home, antivirus software is an important security measure that can be extended to remote devices.

For medical facilities and hospitals, you want antivirus software that can support multiple users and devices while still maintaining network security. A good antivirus program should also have a recovery feature that will remove an unwanted invasion of your network. This software should have ongoing internet access and be updated regularly for best performance.

4. Database Encryption

Database encryption is an extremely useful tactic for protecting your sensitive information from unauthorized access. Any data stored in your database becomes encrypted, rendering it meaningless to any hackers who manage to access it. When cybercriminals realize your database is encrypted, it can sometimes be enough to keep them from ever trying to attack in the first place.

One way to implement database encryption is to make documents password protected, using complicated passwords to secure documents. With proper cybersecurity education, employees can make this tactic even more effective by creating strong passwords and using safe password practices.

5. Recovery Planning

When all preventative measures fail, your IT should have a recovery plan already in place and tested. Many times, organizations become so focused on stopping attacks from happening that they skip this crucial step.

Your recovery plan should include a designated budget to cover the anticipated costs of a cyberattack. This allows you to act quickly, without having to negotiate or wait for approval before receiving funding. You should also create an action plan, so everyone in your healthcare organization understands their roles and responsibilities in the event of a cyberattack and potential system shutdown.

In the meantime, regularly backing up your data is an important part of building a solid foundation for your recovery plan. This allows you to restore your data quickly, so patients have access to their medical records and you can resume your daily operations.

6. Cybersecurity Managed Services

The first rule of efficient budgeting is to maximize your fixed expenses. It’s dangerous for a budget to have too many fluctuating costs. By outsourcing IT services for doctors’ offices and healthcare facilities, you can take advantage of a fixed expense that adds specialized protection to your network while controlling costs.

Physicians, surgeons, hospital administrators, and healthcare professionals of all kinds have enough on their plates. By finding an IT and cybersecurity provider you trust, you can leave your tech issues to the experts. They should be able to provide ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and support for your systems, so they can fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, keep your systems protected and running smoothly, and make sure you’re prepared for the possibility of an attack.

There are many benefits to outsourcing your IT. You gain access to a wide variety of technology experts, who have the world-class tools and expertise to keep your systems secure and meet your IT goals. In addition to keeping your systems up to date, IT support is just a phone call, email, or chat away whenever you experience a tech issue or possible security threat.

Cybersecurity and IT Services for Doctors from Guardian Computer

A photo of the Guardian Computer team, ready to provide you with IT services for doctors.

It’s a tough feat to balance cost and security when assessing IT services for doctors’ offices and hospitals. Outsourcing offers a solution to the problems of unexpected IT issues and expenses, uninformed prioritizing, and overlooked or underfunded cybersecurity.

With Guardian Computer, you can trade downtime for peace of mind. Test out our services with a one-time IT due diligence assessment, so you can see what we find and make an informed decision about how to proceed. If we’re a good fit, you can hire us to complete specific IT projects or fully manage your IT. Just this year, we proudly achieved a place in the 2020 Channel Futures MSP 501 rankings for managed service providers!

Give us a call at 504-457-0005 or contact us online today to discuss a personalized IT plan that best suits the needs of your healthcare facility.

In 2017, the number of exposed records and data breaches reached an all-time high according to Statista. The 1,579 data breaches serve as a reminder that our accounts aren’t always as safe as we think they are! The simple “username and password” log-in approach can be compromised within minutes by skilled hackers. Even with your longest and complicated passwords! Your business needs an additional security layer that addresses the vulnerabilities of a standard password-only approach.

What is Two Factor Authentication?

Two Factor Authentication, commonly abbreviated, 2FA, is a method of securing online accounts through two means of authorization. In the case of two factor authentication, you’ll need two factors (or verifications) to successfully log in. This includes something you know, usually a password, and some other method of verifying your identity. This is usually a code sent via text or email. It’s essentially an extra layer of protection designed to ensure that you’re the only person who can access your account, even if someone else knows your password.

Purpose of Two Factor Authentication

An email or any other cloud-based application hack can cost a company thousands of dollars. Hackers aren’t reading your emails for fun. They’re going in to learn how your company works. They’re waiting to see how they can utilize that information to their own gain. Hackers can look through emails for private client information like bank account numbers, or personally identifying information. Once the hacker finds the information they need, they can steal huge amounts of money.

Phishing scams, where fake but authentic-looking emails are used to steal information, are one of the easiest ways hackers can gain password information. When two factor authentication is used, it makes it considerably harder for a hacker to be successful in logging into the account.

Even if the hacker is able to crack your password, they won’t be able to log into the account without access to your second factor. Some of the benefits of two factor authentication include improved security, reduction of fraud and theft, and the increase of productivity and flexibility.

Security Solutions for You and Your Business

The easiest and most common way to implement two factor is by receiving a text message with an access code every time you log into an account. But, no solution is 100% secure. Getting two factor authentication from text messaging does have some vulnerabilities. Specifically, it leaves you exposed if someone steals your smartphone or its SIM card.

For businesses with high-security needs, hardware-based two factor authentication is the most secure option. Instead of typing in a passcode from a text message to log in, a physical security key has to be plugged into your device when prompted. This method is often used for highly sensitive systems used industries such as the financial and healthcare industries. Security keys can be found online for as low as $20 and are available for both desktop computers and mobile phones!

Our Favorite Free 2FA Applications

Many websites you use for business have some sort of two factor authentication built in such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon, and Rackspace. To protect your other online accounts, there are apps specifically for providing two factor security. Our two favorite 2FA apps are Authy and Google Authenticator.

  • Authy simplifies using 2FA on your online accounts using your smartphone. It generates a code each time you open the app. You’ll have 20 seconds to log in after which Authy will generate a new code. It’s free, desktop and mobile-friendly, and available Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Chrome.
  • Google Authenticator is a mobile-only app, so you’ll need to have your phone with you. This provides stronger security for your Google Account. A small authenticator is tied to a single device, you must manually change it in your Google settings when you switch phones.

Personal Use of Two Factor Authentication

We don’t just recommend this for businesses, it’s important to protect your personal accounts as well. Many of the social platforms that you use every day have options for enhancing security.

Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter all have options for two factor authentication. Go to the settings of your account, then scroll down to security. Each application has different options including the texting feature we’ve mentioned. Utilizing two factor authentication whenever possible will help to keep you safe online!

John On Two Factor Authentication:

Two factor authentication is only one step in security. There are many ways to keep yourself protected online, such as using secure cloud storage, secure online backup, and a VPN solution. We help our clients to ensure the security covers all of their users! Let’s chat about how we can improve your business security!

Utilizing cloud technology can make a huge impact on the bottom line of your business.

We’re talking about saving your time, your money, and staying safer in an emergency. Every business can get on board with that, right? Even though there are so many positives to using cloud technology, many businesses are hesitant to make the leap. This post is going to cover everything you’ll ever want to know about cloud computing as it relates to your business.

First Things First, What is The Cloud?

We’re sure you’ve probably heard of the cloud or cloud technology by now. Don’t worry, it’s not as intangible of a concept as it may sound. When working with tech companies, you’ll often hear the term “cloud” when talking about storing your data “in the cloud” or “working in the cloud”.

Simply put, the cloud is the software and services that you can access from the Internet rather than locally on your computer. A great example of a cloud service is Google Drive. Instead of storing files on your desktop or laptop, you can create documents on Google Drive and access them from anywhere, on any device, so long as you’re signed into your account.

The Main Uses For The Cloud

In our experience, we see three main uses for the cloud, besides as a storage solution.

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). For example, using Salesforce, Box, and Office 365 all use the cloud.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). This category includes services like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). This includes services like Google App Engine, AWS PaaS, and Azure PaaS.

What Are the Benefits of Using the Cloud?

The benefits of switching to the cloud can be huge for your business! We know because we help our clients make the transition all the time. The major benefits of using the cloud break down into four categories: cost, power, recovery, and security.

Cloud Technology Cost

Using the cloud helps to remove or reduce the need for an upfront capital investment. That alone can be huge for a business! When using local servers, the costs of maintenance and management are often unpredictable. But, when you use the cloud, the cost of system upgrades, new hardware and software are usually included in cloud provider contracts. Plus, you get the option for services and storage just when you need it. This means you can pay as you go instead of investing all at once.

This last one can be a huge help for small and medium businesses: no extra staff needed. An in-house expert on staff tends to be a high salary position. For big companies, they may need help to maintain servers, storage, and backup/recovery. But, honestly, there is rarely justification for keeping such a person since it doesn’t require a full-time person for a small or medium sized business.

Capacity and Computing Power

When using an in-house solution, you would need to buy more hardware each and every time you needed to increase storage. Now, with cloud technology, businesses of any size can tap into computing resources that were once only available to large corporations.

Cloud computing allows practically unlimited data storage and processing power due to the pooling of computer resources. It provides on-demand scalability that corresponds to a company’s needs so as your applications grow, you can add as much storage, RAM and CPU capacity as needed. Cloud-based applications have the ability to automatically refresh and update, which saves you time and resources.

Backup and Recovery

Private cloud solutions include backups that offer an easier, less resource-intensive method to protecting your data. In fact, most cloud providers distribute backups between data centers to ensure access.

When critical business information is saved on the computer or a server at your office it can be damaged in an emergency situation. In these cases, there is no guarantee that your data is able to be recovered. Utilizing cloud technology solves this problem.

No matter the event, a natural disaster, power failure, or other crisis, the cloud services will provide quick data recovery. For example, having critical data stored in the cloud ensures it is backed up and protected in a secure and safe location. This allows companies to conduct business as usual, minimizing downtime and loss of productivity. When critical business information is saved on a computer or a server at your office it can be damaged in an emergency situation. In these cases, there is no guarantee that your data is able to be recovered.

Enhanced Security

Our cloud is fully managed and secure, which means your data is secure no matter where you access it from. The economies of scale which apply to computer resources also ensure that the best security measures can be put in place with high-level oversight from IT security experts.

The key to this amped-up security is the encryption of data being transmitted over networks and stored in databases. By using encryption, information is less accessible by hackers or anyone else not authorized to view your data. As an added security measure, with most cloud-based services, different security settings can be set based on the user.

How We Protect Our Clients In The Cloud

While most people know that the cloud gives you a lot of flexibility, there are some security concerns if done improperly. We’ve seen concerns such as:

  • Theft of data from cloud infrastructures or applications.
  • Lack of a plan for GDPR Compliance.
  • Cloud providers using data centers in potentially unstable countries.
  • Advanced attacks against cloud infrastructure.

At Guardian Computer, we protect the intellectual property, Protected Health Information (PHI), and sensitive data of our clients who use cloud technology. With over 50 years combined in the tech solutions industry, we bring our experience to the table. We help our clients avoid the pitfalls, know the right questions to ask a potential cloud provider, and ensure our clients have a comprehensive plan to migrate to the cloud.

Questions You Should Ask A Potential Cloud Provider

Not all cloud technology service providers are of the same caliber. We have a comprehensive list of questions you should ask before making any decisions on your cloud service provider.

Transitioning To Using The Cloud

At Guardian Computer, we help organizations understand how a migration to the cloud is different than what IT administrators are used to deploying in their legacy infrastructure environments. We want our clients to understand what they are getting into, how the process works and what they should expect.

For example, often a business’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded to handle the stress and traffic of a full-scale migration to the cloud. We help organizations develop and execute a plan for the data migration including deciding which applications and datasets need to migrate to and what tools and technologies ease the migration process.

Changing to the cloud can be challenging to start! But is more than worth it for the time and expense your business will save. Want to chat more about cloud technology? Let’s chat!

The healthcare industry is incurring a higher rate of data breaches than any other industry.

This makes HIPAA regulations of critical importance to doctors and healthcare organizations of every size. Patients (rightfully) demand it as a protection of their personal information. Not doing so, can cause a HIPAA Violation that can be exceptionally devastating to a business. Besides being an important step in protecting their patients, it’s also a great business practice to know how to keep data safe.

Some small clinics may think that because there are larger organizations to keep an eye on, they wouldn’t get investigated. But, they may be surprised by just how many investigations are initiated by a single patient complaint.

What is HIPAA Law?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. There are 5 major rules of the act that covers: privacy, security, transactions and code sets (TCS), unique identifiers, and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) enforcement.

This act was created to develop a national standard of how medical professionals need to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health info. Patients now have much more control over their health information. Boundaries have been set on the use and release of their health records. HIPAA violations are investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Office for Civil Rights.

How Do HIPAA Violations Occur?

Many people are surprised when we tell them that the single biggest threat is from inside of a healthcare organization. According to McAfee, insiders (including doctors, and other healthcare professionals) are responsible for 43 percent of data breaches. The Information Security Forum puts that number at 54 percent.

These are not usually actions with malicious intent. Human error plays a significant role in data breaches. Here are two easily done HIPAA violations:

  • Lost or Stolen Devices – Laptops and mobile phones are easily lost or stolen. When the theft includes Protected Health Information (PHI) stored on the phone it becomes a HIPAA violation.
  • Texting Patient Information – When using standard texting software on your phone, it ’s too easy for information to be stolen by cybercriminals.

More examples of human error resulting in data breaches include improper disposal of records, sharing of photos with patients on social media, and accessing patient information on home computers or public wifi networks.

Who Does a HIPAA Violation Affect?

When a HIPAA violation occurs, it is damaging for the doctor and the patient alike. Potential attackers will specifically target healthcare providers to obtain medical records, financial records, and intellectual property. This doesn’t just threaten the patient’s security. On average, medical identity theft victims pay $13,500 to resolve the issue.

When the violation is reported and action is taken against the doctor or clinic, there is usually a significant fine. The fines are adjusted based on the severity of the violation but can range anywhere between $100 to $1.5 Million, and can even include prison time.

Besides the fines, doctors can also be impacted by potential lawsuits, a disruption of care, damage to their reputation, and loss of patient’s trust.

HIPAA Violation Fines

The fines that doctors or clinics can receive for violating regulation are significant and can be highly destructive for their business. To determine the fine, the Department of Health and Human Services have created four tiers of severity.

  • Tier 1 – The least severe violation. In this tier, the violation was unknown, and would not have been known while exercising reasonable due diligence. These violations are often covered by cyber insurance. Cyber insurance is important to have because it’s usually excluded from professional liability insurance policies. Fines can range from $100 to $50,000.
  • Tier 2 – In this tier, the violation had a reasonable cause, but was not due to willful neglect. Negligence due to “sticking your head in the sand” automatically raises the violation to Tier 2. Fines can range from $1,000 to $50,000.
  • Tier 3 – When this violation occurred, it was due to willful neglect, but it was corrected within a reasonable time period. Fines in this category can range from $10,000 to $50,000.
  • Tier 4 – The most severe violations are in tier 4. This is when the violation was due to willful negligence and no attempts were made to correct the violation. The fines in this tier range from $50,000 up to $1.5 million with a potential jail sentence.

Becoming HIPAA Compliant as Small or Medium Healthcare Organizations

It is important for small and medium-sized organizations to understand they will never reach the perfect state of 100% compliant. It would simply be cost prohibitive to do so. What we do recommend is finding the biggest risks and solving those first. From there we advocate for building a clinic culture of compliance and ongoing education.

This involves doing a full assessment, creating processes and procedures, educating employees and management, and using security applications and technology.

How We Cover HIPAA Compliance

When we start working a doctor or clinic, the first step is to do a comprehensive HIPAA security review. This is to determine their current state of compliance and any specific violations they may have already had. We tie each HIPAA rule to an assessment question, then we rank the likelihood, impact, and risk of not being in compliance with that rule.

Some of the Questions We May Ask our HIPAA Compliance Clients are:

  • Does your organization control access to electronic PHI and other health information by using encryption/decryption methods to deny access to unauthorized users?
  • Do employees ever leave an unlocked computer alone in a room with an unauthorized employee or patient?
  • Can employees identify potential ransomware? If so, do they know what to do with it?
  • Do employees know how to use their phone and computer in a HIPAA compliant manner when using public or hotel Wi-Fi?

Benefits of HIPAA Compliance Assessment

For each rule, we share with our client solutions for ensuring their compliance. Which includes improving their processes, procedures, education, and technology. This, in turn, helps a clinic to make more informed decisions on where to focus their efforts and resources with remediation.

For example, those two HIPAA violations we mentioned above both have quick fixes to prevent the violation. We would password protect and encrypt most devices like phones and laptops. Then, we would also install encryption for texting to allow safe communication of PHI.

Going through an assessment like ours can lessen the penalties associated with violations. Generally, when you have an assessment and a plan in place, you can keep a violation in tier 1, the least severe.

How to Prevent a Violation

According to the Ponemon Institute’s Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft, 68% of patients aren’t confident in the measures taken to protect their medical records. It’s important not only for the patient but the clinic too, that each and every staff member knows their role in HIPAA compliance.

With only 33 percent of healthcare providers believing they have sufficient resources to prevent a data breach, education is critical. We always advocate that our clients focus on education and training. Ensuring that the office staff understands their role in HIPAA compliance is a critical part of protecting their patients’ medical records. It takes a commitment to make internal training a priority and continuing to educate the staff of the proper processes and procedures.

Since we are considered business associates to our healthcare clients, we are required to be HIPAA compliant as well. We practice what we preach with constant HIPAA training along with reviewing and updating our processes and procedures. To make sure your business is kept safe too you must have plans set in advance.

The Five Security Tests We Use In HIPAA Compliance Audits

We always perform five tests when helping clients become HIPAA compliant. Learn more about these necessary tests!

Staying HIPAA compliant is a critical move all doctors and clinics need to do. It keeps your patient’s information safe and keeps your business safe from hefty fines. These regulations are also good business practices for ensuring every staff member is on the same page and takes their position seriously.

Interested in your company’s HIPAA compliance? Let’s chat.

Create an emergency preparedness plan for your business

When disaster strikes, the last thing you should be worried about is how it will affect your business.

As a New Orleans IT firm, we can tell you from experience that when a natural disaster occurs, your people and your family come first. Making sure your business and IT systems have a clearly defined emergency preparedness plan ready in case of any extreme event saves you time, money, and heartache after it’s done. As our IT disaster preparedness expert Charles Andrews (Andy) says, “the biggest problem is the one you aren’t prepared for.”

Read on to learn why you need a disaster preparedness plan and to download our FREE checklist!

Who Needs To Be Prepared For A Disaster?

Different areas of the US are more or less likely to have significant weather events that can cause an IT disaster. We’re in the heart of hurricane country, but events like tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires can be disastrous for businesses all over the country.

But, no business can afford to ignore creating an emergency preparedness plan. Even if your business is located in an area that doesn’t often see natural disasters there are still vulnerabilities. Anything from fire, gun violence, and terrorism can affect a business, their people, and their data.

Every potential disaster comes with its own set of challenges, but, we strongly feel that it’s better to be prepared for the unexpected than it is to do damage control after it happens. We believe every business needs an IT disaster plan to be integrated into their overarching disaster plan that should address their people, processes, and technology.

The First Thing A Business Should Do:

First things first, you need to know your risks. Doing a risk assessment lets you know the potential impact to your business of not being prepared. In our experience the biggest issues are:

  • The business has no emergency preparedness plan in place.
  • The business has a plan but doesn’t fully cover all three prongs (people, process, and technology).
  • The plan relies on the wrong technology or relies on recovering data in a way that isn’t in line with actual IT capabilities.
  • The plan is untested, or not fully tested.

It’s critical that your employees know their role in preparing your business for potential disasters. We often see coastal businesses focus on hurricane preparedness but neglect planning for other unexpected disasters.

Disaster Affects Every Aspect Of Your Business

When a disaster hits, very little is untouched. There are the obvious issues with the loss of sales or income from the business being down. You can also find revenue delayed if there is a disruption in the supply line, or your customers were likewise affected by the disaster. Plus, you may find yourself with a lack of cash flow as you wait for insurance to kick in.

But, it’s not just a money waiting game. You’ll likely have increased expenses from cleaning up, purchasing new equipment, recovering damaged inventory, and paying overtime if necessary. You could also experience contractual penalties if you have a major contract as a vendor or supplier. Delays in providing your product or service could breach a contractual agreement.

What’s The Biggest Weakness When A Disaster Hits?

Any physical part of your business that can be affected is going to be a huge problem. From our experience, we’ve found that the weakest link is having critical IT systems on physical servers in the office. If you have any critical applications or data saved only on a local server, you need to take the physical machine with you when you evacuate.

If that server is damaged by any physical attack (fire, water, even terrorism) it can be devastating for a business. We have even seen simple events like a hardware failure, electrical surge, and accidental user deletions make physical servers extremely problematic.

What About Data Recovery?

Although data recovery is possible, you’d be depending heavily on luck! It’s not as simple as restarting your computer. There is usually a significant expense and time used to recover data after a disaster if no other backup is used.

What You Should Do Instead

We firmly believe that you shouldn’t have a physical server on-site that houses your critical systems. Andy says that off-site backups are by far the best step to take when protecting business data. For such a significant safety measure, off-site backups are an easy and inexpensive process to implement.

Keep It In The Cloud

Utilizing the cloud makes off-site backups easy. Systems are stored in specialized facilities (or data centers) and most data centers have off-site redundancy. This means your information is stored on multiple servers in different locations, which makes sure that your data is safe even if one server goes down.

This is also important for businesses with multiple office locations. Having multiple servers can be a huge risk if a disaster hits. In order to protect your data, you would need to set in place failover options between locations, which can be expensive to implement. Plus, these systems need to be constantly monitored and routinely tested to ensure that they’re working. Instead of having a server down in one area affecting all the others, using the cloud eliminates a lot of challenges.

We Know From Experience

Over 10 years ago, Hurricane Katrina forced us to put our own emergency preparedness plan into action. We had to take our servers with our critical systems with us, which taught us just how important it is to use the cloud. Those precious hours you have to prepare need to be spent on family and your own personal belongings, not hauling servers. After Katrina, we became early adopters of cloud technology, and we’ve used it ever since. We store everything in the cloud including all of our client documentation, automated monitoring systems, and service call systems.

Our Emergency Preparedness Plan

When hurricanes threaten our area, we start implementing our plan early. Our emergency preparedness plan includes two different teams. One team assists our clients who are disaster preparing, and the other focuses on our business. We all know our own roles and we practice year-round to keep us fresh and ready or any unexpected disasters.

We have created specialized programs that monitor our clients’ IT systems and often correct any hiccups before they become problems. This way, much of our work can run on auto-pilot for a short period of time if necessary.

Also, we use hosted VOIP phone system and online chat. This allows us to stay in contact with our clients and our team without relying on cell service, landlines or other local systems. Lastly, we have a prearrangement with technical resources outside our own company. This 3rd party service can handle our client requests while we are in crisis mode taking care of our own families.

FREE Disaster Preparation Checklist

We know just how important it is to keep your business safe. Download our emergency disaster checklist to make sure you’re prepared if disaster strikes.

A disaster can hit anywhere at any time. We know your first priority is keeping your people and your family safe through the storm. To make sure your business is kept safe too you must have your emergency preparedness plan set in advance.

Interested in your company’s risk in a disaster situation? Let’s chat.

Everyday there is a battle of Good versus Evil on the internet. Every morning guys and girls like me wake up, have a cup of coffee, and prepare to do battle with malicious programs out there on the world wide web. Fortunately for me, a NOLA IT professional, there are a few lines of defense that make my job a whole heck of a lot easier; namely the end user, firewalls, antivirus software, etc.

But let me be honest, none of these forms of protections are perfect. Firewalls and antivirus software are not entirely impenetrable, and I can’t tell you how many times I come across “PEBKAC” errors [Problem exists between keyboard and chair)], but as a Networking Technician it is my mission to better educate you guys on how to keep your computers safe while exploring the vast sea that is the Internet. This morning, I want to focus on how YOU, the end user; and how YOU can keep your sensitive information safe

1. Never call Microsoft

What do you mean never call Microsoft? Shouldn’t they be the most prepared to confront a virus that has made its way into my operating system?

And the answer to that is… Yes, absolutely. But the bullet point is purposefully misleading to emphasize a point. It should actually read “Never call Microsoft if your computer tells you to do so.” Often times, if we are not careful, we may accidentally click on the wrong button, link, or drop down menu that these internet villains programmed to cause a pop-up to come up on your screen that looks something like this:

nola it professional don't call microsoft
Do NOT Call Microsoft if a Warning Screen like the one Pictured Above Pops Up!

Don’t be alarmed if this happens to you! These pops-up are designed to scare us. Some of them will even cause alarming sounds to come out of your speakers. These sounds are designed to raise your heart rate and spook you into calling that number. DON’T!!! All you have to do is close out of the browser and the message and the annoying sounds should go away. Some of these

Some of these pop-ups are a little more malicious and therefore harder to close, and if that is the case we need to open our Task Manager and force the browser to close.

Here is  a list of instructions at the end of this section about how to do that:

Steps Open/Use Task Manger to Close Pesky Pop-Ups

  1.  Press ctrl+alt+delete.
  2.  Open Task Manger
  3.  Right click on the browser that generated the pop-up
  4.  Select the option that reads “End Task” . The pop-up should close and the noises should stop
  5.  (optional): The likely hook of a virus getting on your machine if you close this popup without clicking else is pretty low, but for safe measure use your antivirus software to run a scan on your computer to make sure it is clean.

Don’t feel alone or dumb if this ever happens to you, everyone here at the office has done it at one point or another. Accidents happen!  Even if you do click the pop-up, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed as long as you’re anti-virus works properly and you don’t call any numbers.

What they want you to do is call this number so they can “show” you that your machine has a “virus,” and then will attempt to solicit you into giving them your credit card information so that they can “fix” your computer. It is ALWAYS a scam. Microsoft will NEVER contact you about viruses on your computer.

2. Uninstall McAfee and Norton Antivirus

I am absolutely certain that everyone who has ever used the internet has heard of Norton and McAfee Antivirus software, and I guarantee that those same individuals, at one point or another, have been prompted to download or even offered a free trial version of these two programs. Well, I’m typing before you today to BEG YOU to avoid this software at all cost. These programs are known to be more malicious to your operating system than most of the common viruses out there. They update at inappropriate times, they may cause your operating system to freeze suddenly, and they definitely do not play nice with other applications on your computer. Not only that, but uninstalling these programs is not exactly a

These programs are known to be more malicious to your operating system than most of the common viruses out there. They update at inappropriate times, they may cause your operating system to freeze suddenly, and they definitely do not play nice with other applications on your computer. Not only that, but uninstalling these programs is not exactly a straight forward process; and even after they are uninstalled occasionally little bits of the software are still left behind on your machine and a technician such as myself will have to open the registry and remove the bits and pieces by hand.

*WARNING! Do not! I repeat! DO NOT open the registry to your computer without knowing exactly what you are doing. While the registry is open, one can destroy the computer’s operating system with a couple of mis-clicks of the mouse; thus, causing the user to lose ALL of the data they have stored on their computer. *

In fact, McAfee is so rough on computers that the former CEO, John McAfee, put out a rather comical but extremely inappropriate video about how to uninstall the McAfee Software; and let’s just say, he “disposes” of the computer entirely using a firearm. (As a disclaimer, I would link you guys the YouTube video but as previously stated the video is extremely inappropriate, and does not reflect the opinions, ideals, or beliefs of Guardian Computer in any way, shape, or form.)

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3. Free Antivirus Software We Recommend

bit defender fre

Bit Defender– If you already have Windows 10 installed on your computer, oh boy do I have good news for you! Windows 10 already has a built in Antivirus Software known as Bit Defender. It works really well for users who do what they are supposed to be doing on their computers and not clicking on anything too suspicious.


Avast– I personally used Avast before I upgraded to windows 10. It generated a few more popups than I would like, but those can easily be turned off in its settings. We really want our antivirus software to be “seen and not herd,” if you know what I mean. I only my antivirus software to yell at me if there is a major problem, but then again if there is a major problem with my computer I am probably going to recognize the change in performance of the computer right around the same time that my antivirus software does.


Malwarebytes– This is a Guardian Computer’s favorite. We use Malwarebytes pretty much every day to clean up computers that are already infected, and its antivirus works well and will not bog down a computer’s performance. The free version of this software performs a thorough scan of your machine should you ever accidently click on the wrong link and is quick to quarantine these bugs from doing any more damage to your machine.


Well if that is the case then I would have to recommend using Webroot. This is the soft where we put on all our Managed Services machines and it works like a charm. Occasionally, we will have to step in to fix a few bugs that leak through, but since we have started using Webroot I haven’t seen to many major viruses get through; but that does not give our users the go-ahead to freely click around the Internet I’m just pointing out that it has been doing a solid job of protecting our machines! If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please give us a call at the office and one of our Techs would be happy to discuss the inner workings of Webroot in more detail with you over the phone!

Conclusion from a NOLA IT Professional on Internet Safety

No matter what antivirus you are using do not assume you are completely protected out on the Internet. At the end of the day, it is always up to the user to be cautious of the links they are clicking on and the files they are downloading.

At this point in the 21st century, “What is the Wi-Fi password,” is an instinctual phrase for kids of all ages. And let’s be honest, most of you adults also have acquired this learned behavior as well. The real question is though, does either party know what is at stake while they surf the web on public Wi-Fi?

Whether you are checking in on the latest Trump versus Hillary debate or getting lost in the vast world of YouTube, we all need to take these necessary precautions to ensure that our devices and personal information are safe when we sync our devices to a foreign network.

1. Whose Wi-Fi Am I About To Use?

Always be suspicious of which network you connect to in public places. It would take minimal effort for a hacker to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot outside of a local coffee shop with a network name like “FreeCoffeeShopWifi”. This actually happens all of the time! Hackers do this to trick innocent bystanders into joining their network.

If you get lured into joining a hacker’s network like this, then you have essentially left a key under the mat for the hacker so that they may let themselves into all of your personal data! With that being said, always make sure to as an employee of the establishment for the Wi-fi Name to make sure you connect to a safe network.

2. NEVER, EVER Perform Any type of Banking or Personal Transaction Away From Home

Stick to looking up the latest meme or catching up on the news while using public Wi-Fi; your bank account will thank me later. Even a seemingly innocuous banking transaction, like transferring money from your savings account to your debit card, can lead to a hacker infiltrating your account.

3. Stay On Recognizable Websites

Preferably you should stick to what IT nerds call the surface level of the web, i.e. Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, etc. You know, the websites almost anyone with an internet connection can identify.  By taking these precautions, it makes it difficult for someone to intercept any data you send out or receive.

If you insist on exploring beyond the basics, makes sure to just visit secure websites and applications. When using your laptops on a public network always look for the HTTPS:// line rather than just HTPP:// to confirm you’ve established a secure connection.

4. Turn Off File Sharing

Turning off file sharing will only take a minute and it could potentially save you a lifetime worth of problems. Below is a guide.

For Windows users, we can find this option by opening the Control Panel and making our way to the Network and Sharing Center. From there, we want to Change Advanced Sharing Settings and Turn Off File Sharing.

For Mac users, we want to find our Systems Preferences on our toolbar and be sure to uncheck the box next to File Sharing

5. What If I Want To Work On a Public Network? Is My Data Safe?

In short, the answer is:  NO, your data is not safe!

The good news for you is that this does not have to be the case, there are numerous ways to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so that the data being shared between you and your work is encrypted in case a hacker decides to make you his next victim!

Without the encryption key, it is going to make it challenging for the hacker to make any sense of the data he intercepts from your device thus leaving you and your company files protected. Unfortunately, these types of networks are not always ready, but if you would like to look into getting one of these virtual connections set up one of our Guardian Computer Networking Consultants would be we would happy to help you and your company stay protected!

Ask a New Orleans Tech Conclusion: Public Wi-Fi Is Definitely NOT Safe

The internet is a wonderful place, and it is amazing that we have access to the internet on every street corner. Unfortunately, this ability to access the internet so easily is exactly what makes everyone so vulnerable to cyber-attacks! If we keep these ideas in mind on our next trip to the local coffee shop, I promise you will be able to enjoy that mocha frappuccino much more knowing that your personal data is not being exposed. Please be safe, and always keep your head on a swivel when you are out there on the world wide web!

disaster recovery plans matthew hurricane model

As we watch Hurricane Matthew make landfall, we are sending out our thoughts and prayers to those impacted by the storm. As New Orleans citizens, we empathize with the damage storms like Matthew have on communities.

By the way, for those of you in our area not vigilantly tracking the storm, there is a small chance it may, for a better lack of a meteorological term, do a loopty-loop back in our direction. We are not in the clear yet so keep an eye on your preferred weather channel.

No matter where you are, but especially in hurricane and flood-prone areas, it is a good idea to have a disaster recovery plan in place to protect your data. We have years of experience creating comprehensive virus protection and disaster recovery systems. We’ll also back up all your mission-critical data off-site for safekeeping.

Businesses of every size need a plan to protect their electronic information. Often, companies do not come up with any such plan until after disaster strikes which is not the ideal way to do things. We much prefer it when clients take steps before they’ve lost data which is critical to the continued operations of their business.

Give us a call at 504-457-0005 if you or anyone you know needs to make a plan to protect data from Matthew or other potential disasters. We can get you on the right track with a comprehensive disaster recovery plan for your IT infrastructure fast.

Most importantly: everyone stay safe out there!