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What massive health care cyberattack at Ascension means for your privacy, security

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What massive health care cyberattack at Ascension means for your privacy, security

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Ascension, one of the largest health systems in the United States with 140 hospitals, faced a significant cyberattack that disrupted its operations. It was reported that the attack caused patient record systems to go offline, forcing medical staff to resort to paper records. This event is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of America’s health care system to cyberthreats.

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Hospital workers (Ascension) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

What was the immediate impact of the cyberattack?

The aftermath of the cyberattack was immediate and disruptive. Emergency crews had to divert patients to other hospitals, and staff had to implement manual workarounds. Essential systems like MyChart, phone services and electronic ordering for tests and medications were affected. The company has had to delay some elective procedures and appointments, urging patients to come prepared with detailed notes on their conditions.

What massive health care cyberattack at Ascension means for your privacy, security

Mother, daughter and doctor in hospital (Ascension) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Ascension’s response

Ascension’s response was swift, with an investigation launched to determine the extent of the breach. The health system, which is based in St. Louis, has not provided a timeline for service restoration but has assured us that they are working diligently to resolve the issues. Nurses and staff have had to adapt quickly, facing challenges such as accessing electronic health records and using devices like glucometers that rely on electronic identification systems.

What massive health care cyberattack at Ascension means for your privacy, security

Emergency sign outside hospital (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: HOW GENERATIVE AI COULD CUT HEALTH CARE COSTS AND DEVELOP NEW CANCER DRUGS 

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Cybersecurity in health care

The recent security failures in hospitals have been likened to car owners leaving their keys on the seat with the door unlocked. The American Hospital Association supports voluntary cybersecurity goals but has expressed concerns over mandatory measures proposed by the Biden administration. They argue that such requirements could unfairly penalize hospitals for vulnerabilities introduced by third-party technologies.

Image of stethoscope in hospital (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: A DAD’S LIFE-SAVING INVENTION IS INSPIRED BY HIS WIFE’S NEAR-DEATH ORDEAL

The bigger picture paints concerning trend in health care

This cyberattack is not an isolated incident. It follows a concerning trend of increased cyberthreats to U.S. medical systems. Just recently, Change Healthcare suffered a similar fate, which had widespread repercussions across the health care industry. The Ascension hack, while smaller in scope, directly impacted systems crucial for patient care.

An Ascension spokesperson provided this statement, which is posted on the nonprofit’s website, “Safely caring for patients remains our highest priority as we navigate this cybersecurity incident. We are actively supporting our ministries as they continue to provide safe, patient care with established downtime protocols and procedures, in which our workforce is well-trained. It is expected that we will be utilizing downtime procedures for some time.”

You can read the company’s entire statement here.

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8 proactive steps to take in the face of health care cyberattacks

In the wake of the cyberattack on Ascension, consider taking several proactive steps to protect your personal information and prepare for potential disruptions in health care services:

1) Stay informed: Keep up to date with the latest news from Ascension and other reliable sources to know the status of the systems and services.

2) Personal health records: Maintain personal health records saved on your own devices or printed out, including a list of medications, allergies, past surgeries and other relevant health information. This can be invaluable if electronic health records are temporarily inaccessible.

3) Emergency preparedness: Have a plan for medical emergencies that includes knowing alternative health care facilities and understanding how to reach them if your primary hospital is affected. For example, my nearest emergency department recently had a waiting time of several hours while a top hospital an hour away could see many patients within minutes.

4) Cybersecurity best practices: Practice good cybersecurity hygiene by using strong, unique passwords for online accounts. Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords. Also, enable two-factor authentication where available.

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5) Vigilance against phishing: Be extra cautious of phishing attempts, as cyberattacks often lead to an increase in phishing emails and calls, trying to exploit the situation. The best way to protect yourself from clicking malicious links that install malware that may get access to your private information is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. This can also alert you of any phishing emails or ransomware scams. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

6) Contact health care providers: If you have appointments or procedures scheduled, contact your health care provider to confirm or reschedule as needed should a cyberattack disrupt normal operations.

7) Patient portals: If you use patient portals like MyChart, monitor them for updates regarding your medical records and communication with health care providers.

8) Data breach response: In case of a data breach, be ready to follow instructions from Ascension or any affected medical provider regarding credit monitoring or other protective measures.

By taking these eight steps, you can help safeguard your personal health information and ensure better continuity of care during cyber-related disruptions.

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Kurt’s key takeaways

The cyberattack on Ascension underscores the urgent need for stronger cybersecurity measures in health care. With the White House pushing for “mandatory minimum” cybersecurity standards, it’s clear that voluntary measures are no longer sufficient. The health care industry must prioritize cybersecurity to protect against such threats and ensure the safety and privacy of patient data. For us as patients, we need to have a backup plan and keep track of our medical records as much as possible.

What role should government agencies play in bolstering cybersecurity measures within private health care systems? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

Answers to the most asked CyberGuy questions:

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Technology

ChatGPT, explained

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ChatGPT, explained

Some writers have declared that the debut of ChatGPT on November 30th, 2022, marked the beginning of a new chapter in history akin to the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Others have been more skeptical, wondering if this is just another overhyped tech, like blockchain or the metaverse.

What history will call ChatGPT remains to be seen, but here’s one thing I do know for sure: nobody has shut up about it since.

From injecting itself into presidential debates and Saturday Night Live sketches to creepily flirting with talking to you Her-style (well, briefly at least), ChatGPT has captured the public imagination in a way few technologies have. It’s not hard to see why. The bot can code, compose music, craft essays… you name it. And with the release of GPT-4o, it’s even better than ever.

Yet, as it gets smarter, the tech is also becoming less comprehensible. People are also getting more scared of what it can do, which is understandable given some are already losing their jobs to AI. It doesn’t help that a lot of sensationalism surrounds the subject, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction.

That’s why we decided to throw together this explainer so we can cut through all the BS together. You ready? Let’s begin.

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What is ChatGPT?

Do you want the simplistic answer or the complex one?

The easy answer is that ChatGPT is a chatbot that can answer your questions by using data it’s gathered from the internet.

The complex answer is that ChatGPT is an AI chatbot powered by language models created by OpenAI that are known as generative pre-trained transformers (GPTs), a kind of AI that can actually generate new content altogether as opposed to just analyzing data. (If you’ve heard of large language models, or LLMs, a GPT is a type of LLM. Got it? Good.)

So what’s OpenAI?

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OpenAI is an AI company founded in December 2015. It created ChatGPT, but it’s also responsible for other products, like the AI image generator DALL-E.

Doesn’t Microsoft own it? Or was that Elon Musk?

No, but Microsoft is a major investor, pouring billions into the tech. Elon Musk co-founded OpenAI along with fired and rehired OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Ilya Sutskever (who has since left), Greg Brockman, Wojciech Zaremba, and John Schulman. However, Musk eventually cut ties to create his own chatbot called Grok.

So, will ChatGPT take over the world?

It will most definitely replace people with machines and — along with other AI bots like Amazon’s Alexa — basically take over the world. So you’d better start playing nice with them.

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Nah, I’m messing with you. I mean, nobody knows for sure, but I highly doubt we’re going to see a job apocalypse and have to welcome in our new robot overlords anytime soon. I’ll explain more in a minute. 

Phew! But how is it so smart?

Well, like I said, ChatGPT runs on GPTs, which OpenAI regularly updates with new versions, the most recent being GPT-4o. Trained by humans and a ton of internet data, each model can generate human-like conversations so you can complete all kinds of tasks.  

Like? 

Where do I begin? The possibilities are practically endless, from composing essays and writing code to analyzing data, solving math problems, playing games, providing customer support, planning trips, helping you prepare for job interviews, and so much more.

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Here’s just a short list of what it’s capable of: 

I mean, honestly, it could probably summarize this entire explainer. The AI world is your oyster.

So what you’re saying is, it’s basically smarter than me. Should I be worried?

Eh, not really. For all its hype, at its current level, ChatGPT — like other generative AI chatbots — is very much a dim-witted computer that sits on a throne of lies. For one thing, it hallucinates. 

Pardon?  

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Oh, sorry, not that kind of hallucination. Hallucination in the AI world refers to an AI-generated process in which the tool tries to extrapolate and create from collected data but gets it absurdly wrong, in turn creating a new reality. 

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the word. It doesn’t really bear resemblance to actual human hallucinations, and I think it makes light of mental health issues — but that’s another subject. 

In other words, sometimes ChatGPT generates incorrect information? 

Incorrect information is a weak way of putting it. 

Sometimes ChatGPT actually fabricates facts altogether, which can lead to the spread of misinformation with serious consequences. It’s made up news stories, academic papers, and books. Lawyers using it for case research have gotten in trouble when it cited nonexistent laws.

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And then, there are times when it gives the middle finger to both reality and human language and just spouts out pure gibberish. Earlier this year, for example, a malfunctioning ChatGPT that was asked for a Jackson family biography started saying stuff like, “Schwittendly, the sparkle of tourmar on the crest has as much to do with the golver of the ‘moon paths’ as it shifts from follow.” Which is probably the worst description of Michael Jackson’s family in the world.

The Jackson 5 deserved better, ChatGPT.
Photo: CBS Television via Wikipedia

Right, but isn’t ChatGPT getting better?

Many AI researchers are trying to fix this issue. However, a lot of AI researchers think hallucinations are fundamentally unsolvable, as a study out of the National University of Singapore suggests. 

But hallucinations aren’t the only issue ChatGPT needs to iron out. Remember, ChatGPT essentially just regurgitates material it scrapes off the internet, whether it’s accurate or not. That means, sometimes, ChatGPT plagiarizes other people’s work without attributing it to them, even sparking copyright infringement lawsuits.

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It can also pick up some really bad data. Likely drawing from the more unpleasant parts of the internet, it’s gone so far as to insult and manipulate users. Hell, sometimes it’s just downright racist and sexist.

So, basically, what I’m hearing is ChatGPT — like other generative AI chatbots — has a lot of critical flaws, and we humans are still needed to keep them in check. 

But isn’t it possible OpenAI could iron out these issues in time?

Anything’s possible. But I would say that one thing is for sure: AI is here to stay, and so it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to leverage these tools. Plus, they really can make life easier in the here and now if you know how to use them. 

So, how do I start playing around with it?

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If you’re on a desktop, simply visit chat.openai.com and start chatting away. Alternatively, you can also access ChatGPT via an app on your iPhone or Android device.

Great! Is it free?

Absolutely. The free version of ChatGPT runs on an older model in the GPT-3.5 series but does offer limited access to the newer and faster GPT-4o. That means free users, for example, will soon be able to access previously paywalled features, like custom GPTs, through the GPT Store.

ChatGPT also now freely supports the chatbot’s web browsing tool, meaning it can now search the internet in real time to deliver up-to-date, accurate results. The new model can also recall earlier conversations, allowing it to better understand the context of your request, while users can now upload photos and files for ChatGPT to analyze.

Why would I want one of the paid tiers?

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You do get more advanced capabilities through its paid tiers — ChatGPT Plus, ChatGPT Team, and ChatGPT Enterprise — which start at $20 a month. 

For starters, you have fewer usage restrictions, rendering them the better option if you plan on using ChatGPT often. Free users have usage limits OpenAI has yet to specify but has said that Plus subscribers are allowed to send five times as many messages as free users. The pricier Team and Enterprise subscription plans offer even fewer usage restrictions, though at this point, OpenAI has yet to divulge specifics.

Aside from being able to use ChatGPT longer, paid subscribers can do more. They can, for example, create their own custom GPTs and even monetize them via the GPT Store. Plus, only paid subscribers can access the DALL-E 3 model, which generates images from text prompts. 

Paid subscribers also get early access to the newest AI features. The voice capabilities OpenAI demonstrated onstage should arrive over the next couple of weeks for Plus subscribers, while ChatGPT’s desktop app for Mac computers is already rolling out for Plus users.

Custom GPTs?

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Custom GPTs are basically chatbots you can customize. There are millions of versions on the GPT Store that you can use to accomplish all kinds of tasks, from providing tech support to personalized hiking trail recommendations. Some customized GPTs currently trending include an image generating bot, a bot that makes logos, and a chatbot that helps people perform scientific research.

By the way, what’s all this I hear about trouble within OpenAI?

There have been some upheavals in the company — we’ll keep you in the loop.

Are there any ChatGPT alternatives I could check out?

Yes, there are quite a few, and each varies in terms of features, pricing, and specific use cases. One notable example is Google’s AI chat service Gemini. As a Google product, it offers deeper integration with Google services like Workspace, Calendar, Gmail, Search, YouTube, and Flights. The latest version, Gemini 1.5 Pro, also offers a longer 2 million token context window, which refers to the amount of information the AI model can understand.

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Anything else you think I should know? 

Yeah! Did you know ChatGPT sounds like “chat j’ai pété” in French, which roughly translates to “cat, I farted.” Somebody even created a website with a cat who farts when you click on it, and I just can’t stop clicking.

The French version of ChatGPT.
Image Credit: Chat J’ai Pété

You should be. 

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Technology

How to make a fun sticker of yourself from a photo on iPhone

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How to make a fun sticker of yourself from a photo on iPhone

Have you heard about a cool feature in the latest iPhone software update? 

It’s all about turning your favorite photos into fun stickers to share with friends and family. 

And guess what? You can create not one, not two, but five different types of stickers: Original, Outline, Comic, Puffy and Shiny. Let’s dive into how you can start sticker-fying your memories.

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How to create a sticker from a photo on iPhone (Apple)

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How to transform your photos into personalized stickers on your iPhone

Turn your favorite snapshots into stickers right on your iPhone; here’s how to get started:

  • Open up the Photos app on your iPhone
  • Find that perfect photo, maybe it’s your pet, a selfie or a memorable landscape.
  • Now, press and hold your finger on the subject of the photo until a silver outline appears around it.
  • A box will pop up with a few options. You’re looking for “Add Sticker.” Give that a tap, and voilà, you’ve just added your new sticker to a collection that’s uniquely yours.

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iPhone stickers 2

How to transform photos into personalized stickers on iPhone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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How to add some flair to your sticker

  • Want to spice up your sticker? Long press on the sticker in your collection.
  • You’ll see the option to Rearrange, Edit Effect or Delete. Click Edit Effect.
iPhone stickers 3

How to transform photos into personalized stickers on iPhone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Here’s where the magic happens. Choose between five styles and watch your sticker come to life in unique ways. You can select the following:

  • Original: Keep it real with the unedited version.
  • Outline: Add a white outline to give it that fresh-from-the-sticker-sheet vibe.
  • Comic: Transform your sticker with a cool filter that screams comic book chic.
  • Puffy: Make your sticker pop with a 3D effect that moves as you tilt your phone.
  • Shiny: Give your sticker a holographic sheen that changes with your phone’s movement.
iPhone stickers 4

Five styles to change your stickers in unique ways (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

ASK KURT: HOW TO AVOID PHISHING SCAMS AND PROTECT YOUR IPHONE

How to sticker-fy your photos

Now, let’s get those stickers onto your photos:

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  • Open the Photos app on your iPhone
  • Select a photo you want to add stickers to.
  • Once the photo is open, tap Edit in the right-hand corner of the screen.
  • In the editing mode, you’ll see several icons at the top of the screen. Click the pen icon inside a circle.
iPhone stickers 5

Steps to sticker-fy your photos (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

  • Tap the plus (+) sign at the bottom of the screen while in markup mode.
  • Tap Add Sticker
  • Choose a sticker from the menu that appears
  • After choosing a sticker, it will appear on your photo. You can move, resize and rotate your sticker by pinching and dragging it.
  • Once you are happy with the placement and size of your sticker, tap Done in the right-hand corner to save your changes.
iPhone stickers 6

Steps to sticker-fy your photos (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

  • Tap Done again to exit the editing mode and save the edited photo with the sticker.
iPHone stickers 7

Steps to sticker-fy your photos (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

How to add stickers to your messages

Ready to show off your stickers in messages? Here’s how:

  • Open Messages app
  • Start a new chat or pick an existing one
  • Tap the plus (+) button next to the text input field
iphone stickes 8

Steps to add stickers to your messages (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

  • Scroll through the app icons and tap Stickers
  • Choose your sticker icon
  • Select a sticker you created earlier
  • Now, tap on the sticker you want to send. The sticker is going to be added to the conversation. You can add text before sending it.
  • Then tap the up arrow to send it

iphone stickers 9

Steps to add stickers to your messages (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

With these simple steps, you can personalize your photos and messages with custom stickers that are sure to bring smiles all around. So go ahead, get creative and let your stickers do the talking.

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Kurt’s key takeaways

Isn’t it amazing how a simple photo can transform into a sticker that expresses a thousand words? With just a few taps, your memories aren’t just frozen moments in time but lively characters in your digital story. So, keep creating, keep sharing, and most importantly, keep smiling with every sticker you send.

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What other features would you love to see in future updates that could bring even more fun to your photo-sharing experience? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

Follow Kurt on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Answers to the most asked CyberGuy questions:

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Copyright 2024 CyberGuy.com. All rights reserved.

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Technology

Fortnite’s new post-apocalyptic season has Fallout, Magneto, and vehicular mayhem

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Fortnite’s new post-apocalyptic season has Fallout, Magneto, and vehicular mayhem

Out with the gods, in with… a post-apocalypse. After some teasing, Fortnite just launched its latest battle royale season — we’re up to Chapter 5: Season 3 — and it’s heavily inspired by Mad Max and Fallout (in fact, Fallout is part of it). It’s called “Wrecked,” and it introduces a new wasteland region, a larger focus on vehicular combat, and, for some reason, Magneto.

First up, let’s talk about the island itself. In the game’s fiction, a massive sandstorm rolled in, completely changing the southern section of the map. There are three new locations: a refinery called Redline Rig, a vehicle arena called Nitrodrome, and a beach area called Brutal Beachhead. To go along with them are “Wasteland Warriors,” which are basically this season’s boss characters, with names like The Machinist and Ringmaster Scarr. Also: there are now two War Buses patrolling the island, which players can hijack and take over.

It appears there are two main gameplay updates. One is a substance called Nitro, which you can either drink or use on your vehicle: it’ll make players faster, stronger, and reload quicker, while cars will go faster, consume less gas, and be able to ram with increased power. To go along with this, vehicle mods are back, so you can outfit your car with gun turrets, bulletproof tires, and more. And since Fallout is now part of the Fortnite universe, Nuka-Cola is being added to the game. Drinking it will replenish health and slowly build your shield.

Speaking of Fallout, those who purchase this season’s battle pass will get themselves some T-60 Power Armor, along with other characters, including a sentient pea pod. Starting in July, X-Men’s Magneto will be unlockable as well. Here’s the full crew:

This season will run until August 16th. And it follows a pretty busy period for the game, which included collaborations with everyone from Star Wars to Billie Eilish and Lofi Girl.

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