Ross & Baruzzini Technology Principal Mike Maselli Featured in Healthcare Business Today

“To create a positive patient experience in hospitals, healthcare leaders need to do more than deliver satisfactory care — they also need to consider every patient-provider touchpoint. ” Ross & Baruzzini Technology Principal, Mike Maselli, was recently featured in Healthcare Business Today, a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare:

Technology is a pillar of modern healthcare, giving patients more control over their experiences, and tech giants such as Apple and Amazon already recognize the space’s potential. Amazon launched an accelerator to foster startups trying to enhance care, lower costs, and improve the patient and clinician experience, for instance. Amazon also started its own healthcare platform, Amazon Care, which promises to make healthcare treatment more convenient.

But technology isn’t the only thing that makes a hospital successful. The holistic patient experience also includes facility design, staffing, continuous training, and patient education. The tech industry knows this, and many healthcare organizations are realizing it, too. With this in mind, hospitals will need to consider how technology can supplement every aspect of the patient experience.

For example, the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta decided to map out every interaction within its facilities and patients’ homes to identify areas that needed to be changed. A patient and clinical advisory team was put together to analyze the data and determine what technology could improve the patient experience.

We facilitated the analysis and provided recommendations while maintaining governance over the budget and operational impact to IT. This was a major undertaking, but it was one the hospital knew was necessary if it wanted to meet the modern needs of patients and maintain its high standard of care.

3 Tech Implementations to Create Smart Healthcare Solutions

Improving patient care should be the No. 1 priority for hospitals in the “next normal.” With that in mind, here are three areas where smart hospital technology can be implemented to create a superior experience for healthcare consumers:

1. Smart rooms in hospitals.

Technology can turn hospital rooms into command centers for patients and family members, giving them control over their entertainment, education, food delivery, and utilities (such as environmental controls and lighting). By empowering patients in this way, hospitals can significantly improve the hospitality experience and make people more comfortable in what are usually stressful situations.

A smart hospital room can also provide patients with more clarity about their condition and treatment. Electronic whiteboards can offer real-time updates to both patients and clinical staff, and digital footwall monitors and displays outside room doors can help ensure that everyone is up to date on patients’ healthcare journeys.

To be effective, patient-centric rooms need to be created with a comprehensive strategy in mind. Rather than haphazardly adding in different technologies that might or might not work together, leaders should make deliberate choices. After all, the spaces must work for patients, families, and staff, all while facilitating a continuous flow of data in real time.

2. Location awareness systems.

Real-time location systems are the cornerstone of a patient-centric smart hospital. This technology helps hospital staff better manage inventory, keep track of important equipment, guide patients through facilities, and know where to go.

A comprehensive, real-time location system will require updates to a building’s infrastructure. New cables will need to be run, and space will need to be created in supply areas for interactive walls. It can be a big undertaking, but with careful planning, location awareness systems can deliver significant benefits and efficiencies.

3. Interactive healthcare solutions.

Modern hospitals need to provide the interactive audiovisual tools and healthcare entertainment options necessary for education and positive distraction. This is especially true for children’s hospitals, where entertainment and education are critical components for creating calm and reassuring a child facing uncertain experiences.

COVID-19 made it especially difficult for hospitals to provide in-person entertainment, illustrating the need for this type of technology. With interactive solutions, healthcare staff can upload videos, livestream events, and bring a sense of fun and community to patients’ rooms. Playing games or video chatting with friends or family can also have a positive impact on children’s recoveries.

Modern consumers require better patient experiences. Technology alone won’t guarantee this need is met. But with care and planning, hospitals can use tech to create smart healthcare solutions that put patients first.

We can help guide your team during your next Healthcare Technology project. Contact us to discuss how our solutions can help you enhance the patient experience.

Forbes Features Ross & Baruzzini Leading Technology in Latest Article

BMW, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Ross & Baruzzini are the three companies featured in a recently published Forbes article on how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies will change how businesses operate.

Our Mobility Systems project, HoloRail, led by Megan Huff, PfMP, Vice President, Managing Principal, is a groundbreaking case study on how AR interfaces for train dispatchers can disrupt the future of railway. This Transportation Research Board-backed project examined the usefulness of AR technology as a train dispatcher’s user interface.

What is HoloRail?

Most train dispatchers use multimonitor 2D displays to keep trains and crews moving safely and efficiently across the railway network. However, the bulky equipment limits the layout of controls and ties dispatchers to one location.

HoloRail Functionality Outline

HoloRail uses AR technology, which enhances the real world with computer-generated information, enables train dispatching in an interactive 3D environment. Virtual reality typically blocks users’ vision. But with AR, train dispatchers can still see and hear what’s going on around them. HoloRail lets dispatchers see informational panels above trains and get a more holistic view of track layouts thanks to the additional planes of movement the tech offers. HoloRail also enables dispatchers to use head and hand movements to manage track diagrams, alarms, train and station information, and so on.

Why are Tools Like HoloRail Important for Our Future? 

The Forbes piece highlights how AR/VR tools can help connect people and processes as we move into the next normal. By imitating real experiences, AR/VR opens doors to new opportunities to bridge gaps that were previously too wide to navigate. 

As the article reports, “It’s unlikely that things will return to the way they were before the pandemic, so leaders need to take note of what the future of work entails. Only by adopting new technologies and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible will businesses be able to secure competitive advantages.” 

Though the initial HoloRail system is a proof of concept, Megan Huff believes that the widespread adoption of AR technology in the transportation sector is fast-approaching. “About 90% of the dispatchers who used our pilot could complete the test procedures without assistance only after a 10-minute training tutorial on using the equipment and software, and 80% said they felt they could use the platform to complete their job duties,” she says.

“The gesture interface was easier for dispatchers to learn and use than anticipated. AR will change how the control room functions and the everyday work experience for all aspects of the transportation industry.”

Ross & Baruzzini was the only engineering firm to have recognition in the article. 

Please visit the Forbes website to read the full article or click here to read our HoloRail report.

To get in touch with our Mobility Systems team, send us a note here

There’s a Problem With Technology Integration When It Comes to Public Transit in the U.S., and It’s Not the Tech

If you had to assign a letter grade to the United States transportation industry, what would it be?

You might be surprised to learn that America’s transportation infrastructure has failed to score higher than a C-minus for several years, but if you look closer, the reason becomes clearer. In the transit sector alone, about 19% of vehicles are in poor condition, and most railways are made up of legacy infrastructure. Even if more Americans decided to take public transportation, 45% don’t have any access, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Government officials realize this, which is why a $1 trillion infrastructure bill secured a bipartisan win in Congress this year. The deal will expand and modernize roadways, bridges, public transportation, and digital infrastructure — all of which are pillars of an efficient, connected society.

Modernizing transportation infrastructure is a massive undertaking that involves large-scale technology integration. Luckily, the technology is available, but enormous volumes of data are still trapped in silos. Breaking down those silos and utilizing the data to fuel change management will improve the customer journey and drive operational efficiency.

This blog post will specifically look at U.S. railroads and what transit organizations can do to bring them up to speed, but know that these problems extend across all modes of transportation. The entire U.S. transportation industry needs to realize its vision of a smarter system — one where all modes are integrated with each other and additional pieces of city infrastructure (electric, water, trash collection, etc.). Only then will a region truly be able to function in real-time and move its citizens where they want to go, all while minimizing congestion and pollution.

Improving the Customer Journey

It’s possible to build smarter rail infrastructure; technology is not the issue. What’s really preventing transit organizations from closing gaps is siloed people and processes. Data analytics that are integrated across an entire organization’s assets and mined for insights through artificial intelligence can be incredibly powerful. Siloed data and teams, on the other hand, promote deficiencies in the customer experience. In the latter case, the result is a bloated, inefficient transit service.

Think about a hypothetical transit agency in a large city that offers regional rail and light rail options. The agency has implemented operational systems and hired staff for each of these modes of transportation. But it’s rare for them to share actionable, timely data on passenger journeys — even though many people use multiple modes in a single trip. As a result, passengers are subject to lengthy wait times at some transfer stations while the rail lines duplicate each other’s routes in other areas. All that translates to wasted time and money and disincentivizes people to regularly use public transportation.

By breaking down silos and encouraging technology integration, agencies can better understand the customer journey and improve the design of the transit experience. But technology itself won’t solve the problem; it’s only an enabler. Agencies need to thoroughly invest in change management. Even if an agency pledges $100 million to collect and analyze more transportation data analytics, nothing will change if it doesn’t use the data to drive behavioral changes across the entire organization. That’s a people problem that must be addressed through strategic thinking and cooperation.

Achieving Operational Efficiency

Data silos also have an enormous impact on operational efficiency. Consider how complex public transit is in the U.S. Agencies must manage the flow of passengers in and out of their stations, the maintenance of their equipment and infrastructure, and the logistics of getting equipment out — all on top of day-to-day operations. Not only are these systems siloed off from one another, but they also often have silos within them.

Without an environment driven by connected data, it’s difficult to determine what maintenance work needs to be done, where that work should be concentrated, and when it should be performed, among other factors. For instance, let’s say a public transit agency needs to temporarily take a rail out of service to repair a portion of the track. Unbeknownst to the team in charge of the physical track layout, the rail also needs signal repairs. But because the two systems are siloed from one another, the repairs are completed one at a time. This means that the rail is out of service for more time than it needs to be.

If the agency had technology integration, it could have performed both repairs at once to improve operational efficiency. And with real-time data collection and advanced pattern analysis, the agency might be able to predict when elements of the system needed routine maintenance before breaking down and interrupting service. Considering all the technology available, modern railway systems should function more efficiently — not less.

What’s Next for Public Transit in the U.S.?

Transit currently has the lowest grade on America’s infrastructure report card. There’s currently a $176 billion public transit backlog in the U.S., and that deficit threatens to balloon to more than $250 billion by 2029. Considering the work that needs to be done, the transit sector is a great place to start solving this problem with technology integration.

The Congress-approved infrastructure bill will devote countless dollars to the modernization of infrastructure. However, the country won’t be able to truly ease the transportation industry’s issues without breaking down organizational silos and embracing change. Although we only explored transit in this blog post, all transportation sectors can encourage collaboration and use data to facilitate change management.

Megan Huff is the vice president and managing principal of mobility systems at Ross & Baruzzini, a premier international technology consulting and engineering firm.

The Future of Aviation: The Pandemic’s Lasting Impact on Air Travel Innovations

The aviation industry was hit hard by the pandemic, but there is a silver lining when this issue is viewed from an innovation angle. The pandemic is ushering in a new age of digital and automated technologies. This momentum presents a great opportunity for organizations to rethink their digital experiences in ways that are seamless, health-conscious, secure, automated, and personalized.

Airports of all sizes need to have a plan for their digital evolution to take advantage of this time when their board members, passengers, and stakeholders are asking for innovation. The sky is the limit for those with a knowledge of touchless technology and the network to get things done. Consider the following advancements:

1. Adopting touchless technology.

Touchless technology and personalization aren’t new concepts, but they grew more popular during the pandemic and will define the future of aviation. Passengers, workers, and employers desire less person-to-person interaction due to health concerns. And considering the proliferation of smartphones, people are expecting personalized information at their fingertips throughout their days.

This digital transformation of the customer experience has been evolving for years. In 2006, Disney launched a biometric initiative across its parks to streamline and personalize the visitor experience. Another significant milestone for biometrics occurred in 2013 when Apple added Touch ID to the iPhone, which generated awareness, interest, and greater consumer acceptance of people’s digital identities.

Touchless technology isn’t a new concept to aviation, either. The Department of Homeland Security launched the Apex Screening at Speed program to enable a seamless checkpoint experience. Using passive detection technologies, the program quickly and efficiently screens people for threats as they walk through the security portal.

Graphic rendition of airport check-in in the future from Apex Screening at Speed (SaS) Program

Fast forward to a post-pandemic world, and touchless technology is becoming the norm and a business imperative. Consider how the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport uses facial recognition technology. Future-forward airports should prioritize touchless experiences and redefine the customer experience in the next normal.

2. Welcoming self-service and autonomous innovations.

Self-service is a major component of the evolving passenger experience, and it is maturing at a rapid pace. A full 89% of airports offer self-service check-in options, and technology providers are working with airports, government partners, and the commercial airline industry to roll out solutions. These technological advances in aviation include biometric bag dropsfood delivery droids, and Transportation Security Administration screening time reservations.

Delta biometric-based self-service bag drop

Health safety becoming a priority during the pandemic also bolstered the use of autonomous systems for sanitization. For example, Pittsburgh International AirportGerald R. Ford International Airport, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport deployed autonomous robots to clean floors with disinfectants and/or ultraviolet light as a tangible demonstration of their commitment to passenger health.

3. Innovating Together.

The most successful technological advances in aviation have been driven through strong partnerships. For example, in 2016, Delta partnered with the TSA and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to deploy the first automated security lanes. The system streamlined security processing by extending divesting points, diverting alarmed bags to a separate inspection area, and automating the return of empty bins. Wait times were reduced, and the solution began rolling out across the aviation system.

Atlanta Airport TSA checkpoint

Historically, partnerships in aviation focused on coordination among airports, airlines, and government entities. But now, airports and the commercial airline industry are increasingly choosing to form flexible partnerships that promote speed and creativity to deploy new solutions. In contrast to a prescriptive formal approach, open partnerships align toward broader objectives and allow evolving solution deployments. For instance, over the pandemic, Denver International Airport entered a long-term partnership with Daon to deploy contactless solutions that enhance traveler confidence and streamline airport operations.

Moving Forward

The aviation industry can make the most of a tough situation by investing in touchless technology, autonomous innovations, and creative partnerships. These opportunities will define the future of aviation, so leaders can get ahead by exploring what’s possible.

Looking for a technology consultant and engineering firm with experience in the aviation sector? Click here to check out Ross & Baruzzini’s work in the space.

////

Chris Runde is the head of corporate strategy and innovation at Ross & Baruzzini, a premier international technology consulting and engineering firm. He specializes in technology and analyzing its impact on infrastructure and security. Join him at the Future Travel Experience Global 2021 on December 7-9 at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas as he discusses airport innovation in digital twins, autonomous systems, and robotics.

Multiple Ross & Baruzzini Healthcare Clients Make CHIME 2021 List of ‘Most Wired’ Hospitals.

Most Wired Hospitals Use Information Technology for Improved Patient Experience

This year’s “Healthcare’s Most Wired” survey, conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), recently recognized several Ross & Baruzzini Healthcare Technology clients. CHIME’s Most Wired list acknowledges healthcare organizations that have adopted and deployed information technology to improve patient safety and health outcomes across the industry.

Our featured clients include:

Children’s Hospital Colorado

UCHealth

Duke University Health System

Essentia Health

Genesis Healthcare System

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Parkview Health

Saint Barnabas Medical Center

SCL Health

UNC Health

University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital

“Digital transformation in healthcare has accelerated to an unprecedented level since 2020, and the next few years will bring a wave of innovation that empowers healthcare consumers and will astound the industry,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell. “The Digital Health Most Wired program recognizes the outstanding digital leaders who have paved the way for this imminent revolution in healthcare. Their trailblazing commitment to rapid transformation has set an example for the entire industry in how to pursue a leadership vision.”

Building Patient-Focused Healthcare Systems:

Our Technology team understands the impact of patient experience relating to growing market share in a competitive landscape. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, improving patient experience can enhance health outcomes, build greater employee satisfaction, and boost an organization’s bottom line.

Achieving high patient experience ratings requires leveraging today’s advanced healthcare technology and digital tools. Learn how we can help your healthcare team accelerate efficiency, quality, and safety across your entire facility. For more information on how we can help improve your patient experience, contact our Technology team.

Acoustics in Healthcare: Achieving LEED Silver Certification for MUSC Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Women’s Pavilion

When we think of acoustics, many of us tend to imagine auditoriums, theaters, or places of worship. But how does sound affect healthcare environments? 

Imagine recovering from a major illness while highway traffic rattles the patient room or working as a neurosurgeon team performing complex surgery with a constant whirl of air ventilation and noisy pipes. Excessive noise affects both physical and mental well-being, causing a range of health issues including stress, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and disturbed sleep patterns – all counterproductive conditions for a hospital. 

Thoughtful acoustic design promotes patient healing and increases staff efficiency. At Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion in Charleston, South Carolina, we provided acoustic consulting services with architecture partner Perkins & Will and general contractor Robins & Morton.

The Healing Power of Quiet

The design of the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and the Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion advances healthcare for children and women in South Carolina and the Low Country region. With a ten-story patient tower, rooftop helipad, and adjacent four-story diagnostic and treatment podium, this facility provides specialized care for high-risk pregnancies, pediatric trauma, delivery care, and other services all within a sensory-friendly setting. 

This project is the first comprehensive inpatient hospital project in South Carolina with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at any level. In addition, our firm’s recommendations as Acoustical Consultant earned two LEED points for Healthcare Acoustics, without which, this project would not have reached the point total required for overall LEED Silver Certification.

Working in Complex Environments

Ross & Baruzzini Associate Principal Richard Brink, MS, CTS-D, used his 30 years of acoustical consulting and technology design to help bring the $300 million, 650,000 sq-ft project to life. 

Designing for acceptable levels of sound creates unique challenges, however final testing for this project presented a one-of-a-kind experience for Brink. 

Under normal circumstances, sound testing is scheduled before opening doors to the public. Due to extenuating circumstances, post-project testing was completed after the hospital was open.

“The hospital was already open when I completed testing,” said Brink. “This was a unique kind of testing environment since the hospital already began seeing patients. In addition to the hospital opening, I also had to work with COVID-19 restrictions at the time. I completed my normal testing around a steady cadence of people since the ER served as the sole point of entry at the time.” 

Brink completed acoustic testing in late 2020. Because of COVID-19 protocols, the hospital limited access to the main ER entryway to better manage visitor flow. 

Despite unusual testing circumstances, the hospital successfully achieved LEED silver status. 

Engineering Holistic Acoustics Design

Ross & Baruzzini collaborates with designers, builders, architects, and owners to improve sound environments for hospitals as well as higher education, research, corporate, and commercial venues. Our full acoustical consulting services include:

•   Mechanical Systems Noise Impact 
•   Architectural Finishes
•   Acoustical Privacy and Intelligibility
•   Partition Selection
•   Vibration Analysis
•   Certification Analysis and Verification including LEED and WELL Building

How can we help your next project? Contact our Acoustics team to learn more and view related healthcare projects here

Photography via Perkins & Will. 

As Featured in Yahoo, Ross & Baruzzini Appoints Chris Tallerico as Principal – Managed Services & Cybersecurity

Advancing our commitment to our clients and their operations, we are proud to welcome security veteran Chris Tallerico as Principal – Managed Services & Cybersecurity

Tallerico is a highly respected industry professional with deep IT expertise in cybersecurity, network infrastructure, project management, and customer initiatives, while leading high-performance teams to create significant growth for some of the world’s leading commercial brands. 

In his new role, he will provide managed services for cybersecurity, delivering added value for our clients’ businesses. 

He holds several advanced certifications with FortinetCisco, and Motorola while serving as an active member of FBI-InfraGard, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and members of the private sector for the protection of U.S. critical infrastructure.

Tallerico will leverage his previous client experience with companies such as SalesforceCBREJLLShorensteinCushman & WakefieldHarvest Properties, and Columbia Property Trust to expand our digital advisory services into private and public markets across the world. 

“As technology develops, our clients face new risks and challenges. Emboldened by the growing number of people online, including remote workers and learners, threat actors are on the rise,” said Security Principal and Director of Operations, Brian Coulombe P.E. “His traditional network security and cloud infrastructure experience will be an essential piece in leading our clients to security resilience.”

Ross & Baruzzini has extensive experience protecting people, technology, and operations throughout a number of different markets including aviationcommercialeducation, and healthcare.

“An effective cybersecurity strategy involves a holistic blueprint and collaboration,” added Tallerico. “I am thrilled to join a global team supporting a multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity.”

Let us help you build an integrated cybersecurity strategy tailored to your specific needs, ensuring your business is safe and secure.

For further information, please contact our Security Experts.

Or visit Yahoo for the full press release.

HoloRail: A Case Study of Augmented Reality in Train Dispatching

To read the full report on HoloRail, click here.

The United States is at a critical crossroads with its transportation infrastructure.

In late July, Senate Republicans and Democrats voted to push forward a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that would help rebuild antiquated transportation systems. Considering how critical transportation is in the U.S., this is good news.

Americans feel the effects of our outdated transportation infrastructure every day, so it makes sense that the infrastructure bill has been enormously popular with both parties. The 2021 American Society of Civil Engineers report on U.S. infrastructure emphasises the need for transportation network investment, citing:

“As this study shows, we risk significant economic losses, higher costs to consumers, businesses and manufacturers – and our quality of life – if we don’t act urgently. When we fail to invest in infrastructure, we pay the price.” – ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith 

To create a more resilient transportation system, we can’t simply patch up old infrastructure. Leaders in transportation need to start thinking in new ways to prepare for the future.

The Future of Train Dispatching

Ross & Baruzzini received a grant from the Transportation Research Board to develop HoloRailOur objectives were:

  • Test the usefulness of augmented reality (AR) technology as a train dispatcher’s user interface 
  • Recieve feedback from train dispatcher staff
  • Publish our results

Most train dispatchers use multimonitor 2D displays to keep trains and crews moving safely and efficiently across the railway network. However, the bulky equipment limits the layout of control theaters and ties dispatchers to one location.

HoloRail uses AR technology, which enhances the real world with computer-generated information, enables train dispatching in an interactive 3D environment. Virtual reality typically blocks users’ vision. But with AR, train dispatchers can still see and hear what’s going on around them. HoloRail lets dispatchers see informational panels above trains and get a more holistic view of track layouts thanks to the additional planes of movement the tech offers. HoloRail also enables dispatchers to use head and hand movements to manage track diagrams, alarms, train and station information, and so on.

Putting HoloRail to the Test

Staff from the Utah Transit Authority and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority partnered with us on the project to determine its requirements, perform user testing, and provide feedback.

After 10 minutes of training, 90% of dispatchers learned to use the interface. About 80% said they would feel comfortable using HoloRail on the job. Given these positive results, we believe it is a viable future option after additional testing is completed.

The primary limitations we encountered involved the hardware. The headset battery, for instance, lasted two and a half hours during user testing. However, train dispatchers usually work eight-hour shifts.

Additionally, some dispatchers mentioned that the headset felt uncomfortable after an hour. The good news is the manufacturers are making significant improvements in wearability and battery life daily, improving the likelihood of AR technology adoption by train dispatchers in the future. 

The Vast Potential for AR in Transportation

AR’s use cases in transportation don’t begin and end with train dispatchers. For example, AR also offers an exciting breakthrough in remote maintenance. Field technicians can wear AR headsets to collaborate with remote technicians who will be able to see what the field technician sees and highlight items in their line of sight. And when the technicians need information or specifications, they can simply overlay it on the dynamic display.

Additionally, there’s an opportunity to modify the train dispatching platform to work for bus dispatching. Such a platform could display 3D map views of bus locations, seamlessly integrate camera feeds, and communicate important information.

To meet our current and future needs, we must focus on technology adoption. At Ross & Baruzzini, we’re committed to sensing and responding to disruption in the transportation industry in order to address emerging needs and usher in the future of intelligent transportation systems. 

To learn more about our mobility team, check out our intelligent transportation systems projects as well as our work in rail and transit.

To read the full report on HoloRail, click here.

Megan Huff, PfMP is the vice president and managing principal of the Mobility Systems division of Ross & Baruzzini, a premier international technology consulting and engineering firm. With more than 20 years of experience in the transportation industry, Megan has an extensive track record in end-to-end delivery of complex, high-priority projects on tight schedules within mission-critical service organizations.

Ross & Baruzzini Expands with Addition of Three Security Experts

Our Security team has expanded with the hiring of Robert Warmack, as Lead Security Consultant; Vince Aragon, PSP, CPP, as Lead Security Consultant, and Charles Messenger as Associate Engineer.

Robert Warmack | Lead Security Consultant 

As a Lead Security Consultant, Robert will analyze security systems, assess potential breach areas, and recommend appropriate solutions for our clients.

With over a decade of industry experience, Robert received his Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies from the University of Mississippi and has worked as Corporate Security Manager for the Georgia Power Company.

Vince Aragon | Lead Security Consultant 

Vince Aragon, PSP, CPP will also work as a Lead Security Consultant, managing security project designs and ensuring projects are compliant with standard implementation.

Vince is an U.S. Navy veteran with previous experience at Stanley Security Solutions and Burns & McDonnell. He holds two Bachelor degrees from Missouri State University. 

Charles Messenger | Associate Engineer 

As an Associate Engineer, Charles Messenger will implement and monitor security measures for the protection of systems, networks, and information.

With a Master of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management from Purdue University Global, Charles is an experienced project engineer with a strong background in physical security.

To learn more about current security job openings with Ross & Baruzzini, visit our careers page.

The Top 7 Cybersecurity Stories of 2020: Insights from Last Year

2020 was a strange and extraordinary year. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of secure systems as hackers kept busy with an aggressive barrage of data breaches and ransomware.

The new normal changed how we viewed technology. Terms like “Telehealth” and “Zoombombing” are a part of our everyday lexicon while online services like food delivery and remote work tools are now considered essential. 2020 has been a transformative year, and our list of top stories reflect the many ways cybersecurity was at the forefront of our digital transformation:

RossBarTopCybersecurity

1. Serious Trouble for Twitter

2020 was not first year a social media platform was hacked, but it was one of the most memorable incidents for the social networking site, Twitter.

Twitter’s woes began when their employees fell prey to a bitcoin phishing attack. The hackers took over the high-profile accounts of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Uber, Apple, Kanye West and Jeff Bezos. By the time the dust settled, 130 accounts were affected, but less than 50 were used to send a scam “we’ll double your bitcoin if you send us money” message to users.

twitter screenshot

To regain control, Twitter took some drastic action. Administrators blocked tweets from both verified and compromised accounts. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote, “Tough day for us at Twitter. We all feel terrible this happened. We’re diagnosing and will share everything we can when we have a more complete understanding of exactly what happened.”

During this incident, Twitter’s stock price fell by 4%.

In addition, Twitter faces a possible $250 million Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fine for misusing emails and phone numbers. The alleged time period for the improper use of personal information to display targeted ads is between 2013 to 2019.

For now, there is no finalized timeline for these fines.  

2. Colossal SolarWinds Hack Affects Both Government and Private Industries

Although first reported in mid-December 2020, the SolarWinds hack happened during the better part of the year. Austin-Texas-based SolarWinds provides “IT monitoring and management tools”, and hackers compromised SolarWind’s software distribution network. From there, the attackers could monitor, steal, remove, or change sensitive data information from over 18,000 customers.

At the beginning of 2021, top U.S. officials blamed an international hacking group for the sophisticated malware attack.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this attack allowed hackers to track public and private organizations including:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. State Department
  • Department of Energy
  • National Nuclear Security Administration
  • U.S. Treasury
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • Intel
  • Deloitte

The Wall Street Journal also reports that some victims may never know if they were directly affected, due to the covert nature of the attack. Some cybersecurity experts say the size of the company was turned into its Achilles’ heel:

“We don’t think anyone else in the market is really even close in terms of the breadth of coverage we have,” the former chief executive, Kevin Thompson, said in during an early 2020 earnings call. “We manage everyone’s network gear.”

This wide-spread presence of SolarWinds in the market was used to the hackers’ advantage.  

3. Zoom Bombing and Video Conferencing Growing Pains

In March 2020, organizations from schools to hospitals frantically switched to remote learning and working due to emergence of COVID-19. Zoom became of the most popular choices for video conferences.

While convenient, the online meeting platform had multiple vulnerabilities ready for threat actors to abuse privacy and security weaknesses. Zoom-bombing occurs when unauthorized attackers gain access and disrupt live meetings or chats. Once inside the call or session, attackers share offensive or disturbing materials.

During the initial wave of attacks, Google, SpaceX, and even NASA banned their remote work employees from downloading Zoom. However, in recent months, Zoom has worked to enhance security and privacy. Some of these upgrades include end-to-end encryption and meeting controls, giving hosts the ability to remove unwanted participants.

Here’s some quick tips on how you can protect yourself during Zoom calls:

  • Use passwords to protect your meeting.
  • Don’t include public links on social media – send participants their login link directly.
  • Create a waiting room to screen your participants.
  • Use a different meeting ID each time.

For more tips to keep your calls and chats safe, visit Forbes.

4. Garmin Paid Multimillion Ransom to Company Hackers

In late July, Garmin announced a “cyber-attack that encrypted some of our systems on July 23 2020.” Users noticed something was amiss when Garmin’s website and other services were offline; employees said their internal communications were down. Garmin did not share many details at first, but many speculated that ransomware was the culprit. 

The predictions were right. Several days later, Garmin officially released a statement reporting the cyberattack, stating sensitive customer or employee data was not put at risk. 

In the following weeks, the ransomware tool, WasteLocker, was connected to the Garmin attack. According to Kaspersky, WasteLocker “is an example of targeted ransomware — malware tweaked to attack a specific company.” The attack is believed to be linked to a small but growing Russian hacking group named “Evil Corp”.

Although not confirmed by Garmin, sources report the company paid $10 million as a ransom for service restoration. In the past, ransom amounts usually totaled over $100,000. This story’s seven-digit demands marks a dangerous new chapter in ransomware.

No matter the size of the company, any organization can be crippled by a relatively small group of malicious hackers.

5. First Ransomware-Related Death Reported in Germany

In Germany, local authorities opened a negligent homicide inquiry in connection to a ransomware incident in September 2020. Prosecutors believed a woman under the care of University Hospital of Düsseldorf received delayed treatment as a direct result of the cyberattack.

The strike against the hospital’s systems caused major network issues, which required the 78-year-old woman receiving care at the Düsseldorf hospital to be transported to another medical facility. Sadly, the patient passed away during this incident.

According to the note left behind by the attackers, the ransomware was intended towards a different hospital, Heinrich Heine University. As soon as authorities notified the perpetrators, the demand was removed, and the decryption key was provided. The BBC reports that the case is being investigated as a homicide.

“If confirmed, this tragedy would be the first known case of a death directly linked to a cyberattack,” Ciaran Martin, formerly the chief executive of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute.

Cybersecurity authorities in Germany said the cybercriminals used a notorious vulnerability in Citrix VPN software. This weakness was made public in January 2020.

6. More Social Media Woes: Tik-Tok, Instagram, and YouTube Info Exposed

This next incident shows the importance of protecting your digital assets. In 2020, security experts discovered a compromised database with scraped data of 235 million Tik-Toc, Instagram, and YouTube users.

Scraping data, or web scraping, is used by some companies to collect data from websites. While technically legal, this practice puts the user’s privacy at risk because hackers have easy access to an individual’s full online profile.

According to Cybersecurity Insiders, these hackers targeted a firm called Social Data. This organization kept records on:

  • Profile Name
  • Legal Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Profile Photo
  • Account description
  • Location

To make matters worse, security professionals found this data was not encrypted. What can you do to help protect yourself? Build smarter passwords using a reputable password manager, use search engines that don’t track you, and keep your data “clean” by managing your privacy settings.

7. Coronavirus Phishing Scams Grow Across the World

COVID-19 created upheaval in both our personal and professional lives, and this ensuring chaos created a perfect environment for hackers to strike. We saw the first COVID-19 phishing scams back in January 2020, spreading misinformation on readily available cures and vaccines.

Although many parts of the U.S. and other countries are now beginning to distribute vaccinations to healthcare workers and first responders, it will still take time for the general public vaccinations.

Email attacks try to instill fear and urgency:

“Go through the attached document on safety measures regarding the spreading of corona virus. This little measure can save you.” This message came from a fake scientist who claimed to have vital information on the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was not spared; this international group was targeted in March 2020 by phishing email attacks.

2020: The Year of Hacker?

In 2020 alone,hacker activity increase by a startling 600%. In addition to large companies, smaller organizations and individuals also saw an increase in attacks. From financial to healthcare, hackers have inundated a wide variety of industries.

The average day in 2020 saw over 4,000 attacks. 90% of attacks are successful because of human error – a phishing email from your doctor’s office or an online message about COVID-19 vaccines. These emails may look legit, but they can be a gateway into your network.

To help your organization prepare for these growing attacks, Ross & Baruzzini can design a custom cybersecurity plan to protect your business. We are your operational resilience partner. Contact us today to protect your organization from this year’s threats and beyond.