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WannaCry: What Travel Nurses Need to Know

Written by Rose Torrento on Friday, June 09, 2017 Posted in Industry News

wanna cry virus

Travel nurses are used to seeing patients with a variety of ailments and illnesses. But WannaCry is not a biological virus, it is a virtual one. Health care industry insiders constantly fight cyberattacks, but antiquated systems and low IT budgets make these professionals perfect targets for hackers. WannaCry is only one of many potential threats. According to a Crain’s Connecticut article, the health care industry is an attractive target for hackers because the stakes are so high. Adding to this, medical information “fetches a premium on the black market,” making attacks within this industry more enticing as well.

What is WannaCry?

The WannaCry ransomware cyberattack had already infected 200,000 systems across 150 countries by mid-May 2017. Device owners detected the virus after it infected 48 medical facilities in the UK. Attackers hijacked users’ systems, stole clients’ files, and demanded ransoms to restore the files. Officials warned those affected not to pay, as victims had no guarantee hackers would restore the files. As virus issues continue, the best plan of action, especially for medical staff and facilities, is preventing this infection's spread.

The threat

randsomwareThis computer virus poses a huge threat to patients all over the world. Billy Marsh, a health care IT professional with more than 10 years of experience, told CNN the virus could cause critical machines to shut off in the middle of operations. He warned doctors would be forced to rely on "manual methods" in the event of an attack. Although doctors are trained to use these methods if needed, many don’t practice them routinely — and the margin for error is much higher.

Additionally, life-support and medication-administering systems and machines are also at risk of failing due to infected software. Health care professionals have an obligation to protect patient cybersecurity. You can protect yourself, co-workers, and patients from WannaCry by using the best practices below.

  • Do not share work information through private email.
  • Run the latest version of Windows.
  • Do not share or forward email attachments without antivirus scans.
  • Back up all files to off-site storage.
  • Do not open email if you are unsure of its origin.
  • Never share your password or login information.
  • Contact IT if you receive unusual requests asking you to enter your username and password.
  • Know health care facility rules for backing up files, and double-check each change you make to each patient’s chart.
  • Do not use open or shared Wi-Fi connections to transmit sensitive data.
  • Only transmit patient information over company-approved internet connections.

As a travel nurse, you may find yourself at an even greater risk. Connecting to numerous hotspot or Wi-Fi connections in different locations can compromise all other data stored on your devices. If you are not careful, these attackers could target you. The implications could make it more difficult for you to provide patients with the care they need, but taking these precautions can make an impact.

With threats the health care industry has never faced before, you could see even more changes to an already fast-paced field. We want you to know that no matter how health care changes, at HPC, we are here to help. Contact us online or give us a call at 888-299-9800 for access to resources and answers to your questions.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.