It’s Alive! BlackBerry still Sparking with an ‘ultra-secure hyperconnectivity’ healthcare platform

And this Editor thought that BlackBerry had long since hung up the ‘Out Of Business Sign’. In this era of BYOD in healthcare and software systems like Blue Cedar that secure apps from these BYODs from the device past the server, the image of the ‘Crackberry’ persists–tiny keyboard, tiny screen, and the corporate governed phone. All these loathsome features have now transitioned to iPhone 6s (tiny keyboard, tiny screen, corporate apps, locked down and trackable everything). (So much for that ‘tech will set you free’ world promised by Steve Jobs in the ‘1984’ spot, replaced by Big Brother–Ed. Donna)

BlackBerry, as a company based in Ontario, Canada, endures as a software platform minus the devices. Much like Nokia, they have taken on the world of IoT in areas demanding tight security. Their latest introduction is the BlackBerry Spark, a software platform they claim will lead the Enterprise of Things (EoT) to “ultra-secure hyperconnectivity from the kernel to the edge”. Hyperconnectivity, in their definition, will enable secure IoT equipment with consumer friendly interfaces, leverage AI and manage smart ‘things’ regardless of operating system and existing platforms, and making military-grade security easy and intuitive for users. Spark will be available to companies (thus EoT) by the end of 2018.

BlackBerry has evidently latched on to a messy need–the lamentable lack of security in most consumer IoT devices. They have also identified the yawning gaps in security in almost every healthcare enterprise in connected devices. In Mobihealthnews, their spokespeople expanded on the technology as they are applying it to healthcare via a quantum-resistant code signing server, a new system using blockchain to deliver medical data and an operating system for secure medical devices. More details on how these are being used so far were cited in their most recent release:

  • A blockchain digital ledger for the Global Commission, an organization focused on diagnostics for children with a rare disease. One of the pilots concentrates on BlackBerry’s powering real-time, actionable analysis to shorten time to diagnosis.  
  • A new OS for medical, QNX OS for Medical 2.0. This is described as a real-time operating system for the development of robotic surgical instruments, patient monitoring systems, infusion pumps, blood analysis systems, and other safety-critical products that must pass stringent regulatory approvals.
  • With the Mackenzie Innovation Institute (Mi2), participating in research around comprehensive security, patient privacy and intelligent connectivity in healthcare IoT.
  • Skin cancer research in Australia with the Melanoma Institute Australia.

Certainly BlackBerry is aiming for a certain sweet spot in healthcare and finding some partners all over the world, though the US seems to be absent. Will they be able to ‘crack’ it and the rest of the world? Time will tell.

Orangeworm malware running wild in hospitals for three years: multiple reports

Orangeworm hacker group finds easy pickings in hospitals and healthcare. Reports have multiplied in recent weeks of the Orangeworm hacker (or hackers) threatening healthcare organizations, frequently hospitals. Major info security groups have issued warnings: Symantec, Cynerio, BlackBerry, and Rubicon Labs. Symantec’s report states that 39 percent of the victims come from healthcare, with the remainder coming from manufacturing (15 percent), IT (15 percent), and logistics (8 percent), most with ties to the healthcare sector, and suspected vectors for a supply-chain attack.

‘Easy pickings’ include invading the old computer systems and controls prevalent worldwide in healthcare organizations: devices designed to control X-ray machines, MRIs, and even systems that help patients fill out consent forms. Orangeworm accesses IT systems using the Kwampirs trojan, taking advantage of the fact that most hospital IT systems are old, and as we know from the Petya and WannaCry attacks a year ago, their old, unprotected, and unpatched systems are uniquely vulnerable.

The semi-shocking fact is that this has been spreading quietly in healthcare organizations for over three years. The attackers used, according to both Symantec and Bleeping Computer,  malware that infected systems by copying itself across network shares, methods that are considered antiquated and “noisy”. Orangeworm also didn’t change its command and control (C&C) communication protocol over the three years, seemingly unconcerned about discovery.

The attacks appear targeted and coordinated. Speculation is that Orangeworm is a hacker or a small group of hackers targeting the rich information in healthcare records to sell on black markets. 17 percent of the attacks have been in the US, with UK, Germany, the Philippines, and Hungary at 5 percent each.

Symantec’s advice is extensive and detailed here, but can be summed up as: quit using Windows XP based systems, patch and update software and systems, use anti-virus, protect file sharing. Also Digital Health, Information Security Buzz News, Security Intelligence.

BlackBerry’s investment: what’s in it for NantHealth

This week’s news of BlackBerry Ltd’s minority investment in the Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong eight-company combine called NantHealth has generally focused on BlackBerry. Across the board, BlackBerry is depicted as the party badly needing a raison d’être. Down for the count in both retail and enterprise mobile phone markets it dominated for years, BB’s six-months-in-the-saddle CEO is now going back to those same enterprises singing the wonders of their QNX operating system and upcoming BBM Protected communication platform to highly regulated verticals which need max security: healthcare, finance, law enforcement, government. Although FierceCMO inaccurately reported that BlackBerry was acquiring NantHealth (Reuters/WSJ reports to contrary), it’s generated yawns from former tea-leaf readers such as ZDNet as yet another flail of the Berry as it sinks beneath the waves. Add to this the bewilderingly written CNBC ‘Commentary’ under BlackBerry CEO John Chen’s byline–who should fire the ghostwriter for inept generation of blue smoke and mirrors–and you wonder why the very smart Dr. Soon-Shiong even desires the association with a company most consider the equivalent of silent movies. It is certainly not for the investment money, which the doctor has more than most countries–an expenditure carefully considered at BlackBerry, undoubtedly. 

Cui bono? NantHealth first, BlackBerry second is your Editor’s contrarian bet. Consider these three factors:

  1. Way down the column in most coverage is that BlackBerry and NantHealth are developing a healthcare smartphoneIt will be optimized for 3D images and CT scans but fully usable as a normal smartphone. Release date: late 2014-early 2015 (Reuters). (more…)

Fast funding and sale roundup for Thursday/Friday

A quick summary of news on both recent funding, another recently released funding analysis to add to the pile and sales–one completed, one potential:

  • The StartUp Health accelerator is now producing its independent analysis of health tech funding deals, presumably to catch the fire of RockHealth’s recognized quarterly report [TTA 9 July]. The July 2013 Digital Health Insights Funding Report is available in Slideshare format on their website with the most reported news being the 47 percent year-over-year growth to date, contrasting to RockHealth’s 12 percent, though the difference in all three may be the sampling. Practice management, big data and body computing/sensors lead the trends, according to their summary.
  • What is intriguing in the July deals is the whopping $40 million Series A funding of Oscar, which will integrate telemedicine (presumably consults) and free generic medications to its members in New York State, where they’ve stated they will be integrated into the Health Exchange in NY State. One wonders how they plan to do so on insurance exchanges which haven’t even started yet and which will be having their own challenges being a retail platform for health plans. Not unexpectedly you’ll find Khosla Ventures and Thrive Capital on the roster. MedSynergies led with a $65 million Series A for their software which will facilitate hospital networks performance monitoring of practices and provider referrals/scheduling. Internationally, Withings raised a $30 million Series A in July. MedCityNews also delves deeper into what they see as trends.
  • Fitbit just raised an additional $43 million to add to their previous $23 million. While they are still lagging fitness monitoring rival Jawbone UP by $84 million, rumors abound on what Fitbit plans to do with it: a more fully featured smartwatch? Additional apps to keep their user base engaged?–at the risk of overcomplication?   Fortune, TechCrunch
  • Toronto-based Diversinet closed their sale to New Jersey-based IMS Health for what seems like a small amount: (US)$3.5 million. Its MobiSecure technology provides government-security level mobile app security to customers such as AirStrip and the US Army. However, they were embroiled in early days in a breakup with a mobile provider, AllOne Health, and despite all their high-level tech clearances, the income realized, according to Mobihealthnews, was only in the $1 million range per year and declining and losses increasing. IMS Health is best known for its healthcare informatics, but has been involved with Ford’s in-car SYNC in development of the Allergy Alert app [TTA 7 Aug 12].
  • The ‘For Sale’ sign is also up at BlackBerry, with a corporate committee now officially exploring alliances and a sale, in the usual depressing drill. In a company once ubiquitous enough for smartphone usage to be dubbed ‘Crackberry’, and which still enjoys major worldwide market share and enterprise favor, they cannot get traction with new models. This Editor never used or liked BB, but it’s still kind of sad. ZDNet.