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LifeLabs cyberattack one of 'several wake-up calls' for eHealth security and privacy – CBC.ca

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The data breach of the Canadian laboratory testing company LifeLabs is one of “several wake-up calls” for security and privacy challenges that come with the push for a medical system in which eHealth plays a significant role.

“The medical field for us is one of the worst when it comes to cyber security practices,” said David Kennedy, cyber security expert and founder and CEO of TrustedSec, an information security consulting firm.

“What’s interesting about the large push for electronic patient health-care information that you put online is that a lot of these organizations are not designed to withstand attacks.”

Many health-care organizations and professionals are big advocates for eHealth. On its website, Heath Canada describes eHealth as “an essential element of health-care renewal,” which will “result in benefits to Canadians through improvements in system accessibility, quality and efficiency.”

The Electronic Health Record, for example, allows the sharing of necessary information between care providers across medical disciplines and institutions. 

But on Monday, LifeLabs — Canada’s largest provider of general diagnostic and specialty laboratory testing services — announced that a cyberattack on its computer systems had forced the company to pay a ransom to retrieve the sensitive information of millions of customers.

LifeLabs president Charles Brown wrote that information related to about 15 million customers, mainly in British Columbia and Ontario, may have been accessed during the breach.

LifeLabs announced that a cyberattack on its computer systems had forced the company to pay a ransom to retrieve the sensitive information of millions of customers. (Cultura RF/Getty Images)

Other security breaches

And that attack was just the most recent breach in Canada. Just months ago, hackers crippled the computer systems of three Ontario hospitals. 

Meanwhile, in Alberta, breaches have included the disappearance of an unencrypted hard drive containing the personal health information of 650 patients at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in August, and the inappropriate access of 2,158 electronic health records by Alberta Public Laboratories staff at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre earlier this year.    

We’ve probably had several wake-up calls, but it still seems like lots of folks are asleep at the wheel,” said Beau Woods, a cyber safety innovation fellow with the U.S. think-tank Atlantic Council.

Woods suggested it was troubling that Brown didn’t know whether or not the LifeLabs records were encrypted.

“Whether or not encrypted records would have protected the data in this case is to be seen,” he said. “The fact that the CEO, even after probably talking to IT can’t say whether the records are encrypted, says that there’s some kind of fundamental breakdown in governance.”

Hackers like to target hospitals and medical facilities, which are often on very tight IT budgets, said David Masson, director of enterprise security for Darktrace, a cyber AI company.

“They know they’ll be struggling to actually secure their IT networks. So they will see them as easy targets. And that’s why they go after them,” Masson said. 

So security usually falls by the wayside in many cases for most organizations. Security ends up being a very small percentage if any in most hospitals, most health-care providers.– David Kennedy, founder and CEO of TrustedSec

One of the problems is that medical institutions see themselves solely as health-care providers, meaning IT security doesn’t get the focus it needs, TrustedSec’s Kennedy said. 

“So security usually falls by the wayside in many cases for most organizations. Security ends up being a very small percentage if any in most hospitals, most health-care providers that we see out there today.”

Tom Keenan, a University of Calgary professor who specializes in cyber security and researched the issue of electronic health records, said not all hospitals are lax when it comes to IT security, and that it varies across Canada how well hospitals treat the issue.

While human error is often the weakest link, another factor, he said, is that people who build these systems also sell optional extras for security.

‘Take extra measures’

In one particular case he studied, the people who ran the health authority knew they had vulnerabilities and bought an extra auditing package, but never installed it.

“We can take extra measures,” he said. “We need to tighten things up.

Despite the security issues, Keenan said there’s no need to pause when it comes to the push for eHealth, but just beef up security.

“We don’t want to slow it down. If anything, we want to speed it up,” he said. “Full steam ahead but with due regard to caution.”

“I trust my lab, but I would also like them to publish periodically [that they’ve] been audited by a third-party cyber security company.

There’s a lot of cyber hygiene things that you could do that aren’t expensive — that actually can be less costly than not doing them.– Beau Woods, cyber security expert

As well, medical facilities should hire cyber security firms to conduct penetration tests, to determine the vulnerability of their system, he said.

Woods, the cyber security expert, said there are some simple remedies for medical facilities, like updating their software or having multi-factor authentication.

“There’s a lot of cyber hygiene things that you could do that aren’t expensive — that actually can be less costly than not doing them,” he said. “Not looking at cost of breaches and things like that, just operationally less costly and more secure.”

University of Calgary Prof. Tom Keenan says not all hospitals are lax when it comes to IT security, and that it varies across Canada how well hospitals treat the issue. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Sandy Buchman, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said he believes in terms of the human component of security, hospitals are making “extreme efforts” to protect patient privacy.

‘Breaks down trust’

But he said he understands how incidents like the LifeLabs data breach can shake a patient’s trust. 

“It could be something way beyond a physician or hospital’s control, like these cyberattacks that are occurring, but it still breaks down trust in the overall system.

The medical community has to be diligent and press for the improvements needed in the security of personal health information, he said.

“We have to be better as a health-care community in demanding that. I’m not a cyber security expert. I know we can’t let off the pressure — to be pressing for this at all times in whatever ways are technologically possible.”

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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Sept. 22 – CBC.ca

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waits to speak near a memorial for people who have died as a result of COVID-19 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. (Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada’s top doctor warns of sharp rise in COVID-19 cases if Canadians don’t follow guidelines 

Canada is at a crossroads in its pandemic battle, and the actions of individual Canadians will decide whether there’s a massive spike in COVID-19 cases coming, according to the latest projections from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Federal health officials presented new modelling Tuesday that shows the epidemic is accelerating nationally. They warned that if Canadians don’t step up preventative measures, the virus could spread out of control and trigger a wave of infections bigger than the first one.

“With minimal controls, the virus is capable of surging into a very sharp and intense peak because most Canadians don’t have immunity to the virus,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told a news conference in Ottawa. Short-term projections show there could be up to 155,795 cases and up to 9,300 deaths by Oct. 3. If the current rate of infection is maintained, the epidemic is expected to resurge — but if that rate increases, it is expected to resurge “faster and stronger,” she said.

Rapid detection of new cases and a swift response to outbreaks are both key to controlling the pandemic, PHAC modelling documents show. Tam said there has been a significant demographic shift in the caseload since June: instead of the virus disproportionately affecting elderly Canadians, most infections are now being reported in Canadians aged 20 to 39.

The last modelling figures were released on Aug. 14. At that time, Canada’s public health officials said they were striving for a best-case scenario but preparing for the worst: a so-called “fall peak” of COVID-19 cases across Canada that would threaten to overwhelm the public health-care system.

The recent rise in cases coincides with the flu and cold season, which could put added strain on hospitals and other health resources. Health-care workers have been working on the front lines for months now and are bracing for a possible spike in hospitalizations, prompting concerns about potential burnout.

Click below to watch more from The National

As cases of COVID-19 rise, there are growing fears that more needs to be done to protect seniors in long-term care homes — places especially hard-hit during the first part of the pandemic. 1:59

IN BRIEF

Federal Conservatives make use of a COVID-19 test not sanctioned by Health Canada

The Ontario caucus of the federal Conservative Party made use of a COVID-19 serological test that has not yet been approved by Health Canada, according to Conservative MP Scot Davidson. Davidson, the Ontario caucus chair, said the caucus used the device “for safety” prior to a recent caucus retreat.

COVID-19 cases are rising sharply in parts of the country, including Ontario, and party leader Erin O’Toole, his wife and at least one of his staffers have all tested positive for the virus. O’Toole’s wife, Rebecca, received a positive test result late Monday after developing symptoms over the weekend.

A spokesperson for O’Toole said the Ontario caucus invited a Canadian company that is seeking approvals from Health Canada to distribute its serological test to appear at its regional meeting. Interested MPs were given the chance to take the test after they were shown a presentation by the company promoting the testing device, she said. The spokesperson said the test already has received approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The tests — which use a blood sample from a finger prick — usually are reserved for people looking to learn whether they’ve been infected by coronavirus at some point in the past. The FDA warns that these kinds of tests can’t “diagnose active coronavirus infection at the time of the test or show that you do not have COVID-19.”

Canada nails down 5th deal for potential COVID-19 vaccine

Canada has now committed more than $1 billion to buy doses of COVID-19 vaccines after securing a fifth deal with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline Tuesday. Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday that Canada has a deal in place to buy up to 72 million doses of their experimental vaccine candidate, which is just starting the second of three trial phases this month.

In all, Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies, and most of that money will not be refunded even if the vaccines never get approved. “We need to make a substantial investment in order to ensure that Canada is well positioned to secure access to the successful vaccine or vaccines,” Anand said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “The way in which we are doing that is to bet on multiple horses at the same time in order to ensure that as one or more of those horses crosses the finish line we have access to those vaccines.”

Canada has signed deals with Moderna, Pfizer, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and now Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, all of which are among some of the most promising vaccines, but none of which have completed all the required clinical trials, or been approved for use in Canada.

Anand said Canada has also signed an agreement with Gilead Sciences and McKesson Canada to get 150,000 vials of remdesivir, the only antiviral drug that has proven effective at treating patients with COVID-19. Health Canada approved the drug for use on COVID-19 patients at the end of July. The doses will begin arriving at Canadian hospitals this month.

COVID-19 limits possibilities for former prime minister John Turner’s state funeral

Planning for a state funeral for former prime minister John Turner is proceeding in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic as his family and the government decide how to honour his public life while public events are restricted. Turner died last Friday at 91.

Typically, a former prime minister would be honoured with a public observance of the highest dignity and pomp. But the prospect of spreading COVID-19 will curtail the possibilities for Turner, as it has for many others who have died during the pandemic. The Turner family’s spokesperson, Marc Kealey, said Tuesday the family is still discussing with government officials the date of the funeral and how many people will attend in person.

Canadian Heritage spokesperson Amelie Desmarais said all decisions regarding funeral arrangements will be made in accordance with the family’s wishes and following advice from public health authorities. She said Canadians can send their condolences to the family by signing an online book of condolences or by sending their thoughts privately.

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data from Canada and around the world

THE SCIENCE

COVID-19 antibody testing finds ‘significant’ number of cases in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside 

Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a heightened level of concern for what might happen to residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside if the neighbourhood was exposed to an outbreak of the disease. Many residents of the community live with limited resources, and poverty, drug use and other issues have left a trail of underlying health conditions.

Yet, while more than 8,200 British Columbians — nearly 3,000 of them within the Vancouver Coastal Health region — have tested positive for the virus, the Downtown Eastside appears to have avoided a major outbreak. But it’s now clear that the neighbourhood hasn’t been spared, according to the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre (VIDC) — an independent non-profit that provides clinical services, research and outreach on infectious diseases in the Downtown Eastside.

Bloodwork from residents taken by the VIDC and sent to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control for testing indicates that many have had the disease, VIDC medical director Dr. Brian Conway said. “Our preliminary results suggest that a significant number of residents of the Downtown Eastside carry antibodies to COVID-19, indicating that they were infected at some point,” Conway said.

Of the few hundred residents Conway’s team tested, a couple of dozen have the antibodies, he said. There appears to be high levels of infection, at least in shelter environments where there is limited ability to maintain physical distancing, he said. Conway’s work is progressing to the contact tracing phase on Tuesday, as he and his team begin to meet with some of the people who tested positive to try to determine how they experienced the disease, when they had it, where they were, and to whom they might have transmitted COVID-19.

AND FINALLY…

NFL issues more than $1M US in fines to teams, coaches who didn’t wear masks during games 

Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs wears a face shield as he looks on from the sidelines during a game in Inglewood, Calif., Sunday. (Harry How/Getty Images)

NFL coaches thumbed their collective, and exposed, noses at the NFL’s mask mandate in Week 2 of the season. The league responded with hefty fines of $100,000 US per coach and $250,000 per club. The first three to get fined were Denver’s Vic Fangio, San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan and Seattle’s Pete Carroll, according to a person with knowledge of the punishment who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the coaches were not identified.

The punishment was meted out a week after the NFL reminded team personnel on the sidelines about the rules for wearing face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic, lest they put the fledgling season at risk. More coaches and clubs can expect similar punishments as the memo last week from Troy Vincent, who oversees the league’s football operations, was largely ignored throughout the weekend, with multiple offenders from coast to coast.

In his strongly worded memo, Vincent said teams “must remain vigilant and disciplined in following the processes and protocols put in place by not only the league, union and clubs, but also by state and local governments.” The rules don’t apply to players, but all other individuals with bench area access, including coaches and members of the club medical staff, are required to wear face coverings at all times.

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here

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Elon Musk sees 'big target' in mining costs – Kitco NEWS

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Calling traditional metal refining processes “legacy” and “insanely complicated”, Elon Musk said today his company has re-thought and simplified how lithium and nickel will be processed for his future batteries.

Musk made the comments during a live simulcast presentation of Battery Day held in a parking lot in Fremont, California, near his manufacturing facilities. Musk shared part of the presentation with Drew Baglino, SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering at Tesla.

Musk called the traditional cathode process of processing nickel “a big target” due to its high cost.

“It’s insanely complicated,” said Musk. “These things just grow up as legacy. We looked at the entire value chain and asked how can we make this as simple as possible.”

Bagnilo and Musk said many steps in the traditional refining method could be skipped resulting in 66% less investment, 76% less processing cost and 0% waste water.

The CEO of FPX Nickel, Martin Turenne, concurred with Musk: mineral processing can be made cleaner and more economical.

“The current methods of processing [nickel] are generally well established, and they’re done for a reason, because they work and because alternatives would be costly or they’re at an unproven stage,” said Turenne in an interview with Kitco after he watched Tesla’s Battery Day presentation.

At his own FPX, Turenne believes his nickel is in a form that would be suitable for batteries with the potential to skip the smelting step.

Musk and Bragnila imagine Tesla factories processing raw nickel powder for processing.

“Raw materials from a mine go to the plant and out comes a battery,” said Bragnila. “We are just consuming the raw nickel powder. It dramalitcally simplifies the raw nickel refining part of the whole process. We can eliminate billions in battery grade nickel intermediate production. It is not needed at all.”

What struck Turenne during the presentation is the forecast level of demand.

“At three terawatt-hours of battery cells per annum by 2030, that would entail approximately annual consumption of 2 million tonnes of nickel. That’s almost the entire scale of the current global nickel output,” said Turenne.

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Cases could spike sharply if Canadian epidemic stays on current course, Tam warns – The Globe and Mail

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Hundreds of people wait in line at a COVID-19 assessment centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto on Sept. 22, 2020.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Canada is on track to log 5,000 coronavirus cases a day by late October if the country’s epidemic continues on its current course, the Public Health Agency of Canada is warning.

In its first formal projection since mid-August, the agency predicted that if Canadians keep coming into close contact with as many people as they do now, the epidemic curve will rise sharply from the current average of about 1,000 new cases a day to five times that number within a month. That is more than twice the number reported at the height of the spring wave.

individual action: canada Long-range

covid-19 forecast

Reported daily cases

Epidemic trend, if we…

Increase current rate of contacts

Maintain current rate of contacts

Decrease current rate of contacts

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: public health agency of canada

individual action: canada Long-range

covid-19 forecast

Reported daily cases

Epidemic trend, if we…

Increase current rate of contacts

Maintain current rate of contacts

Decrease current rate of contacts

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: public health agency of canada

individual action: canada Long-range covid-19 forecast

Reported daily cases

Epidemic trend, if we…

Increase current rate of contacts

Maintain current rate of contacts

Decrease current rate of contacts

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: public health agency of canada

“My message today is the time is now. We’re at a bit of a crossroads,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said. If Canadians retreat to small social circles and avoid large get-togethers, she said, the country “can manage this without a lockdown.”

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Dr. Tam said that although the number of COVID-19 deaths and hospital admissions in Canada remain low relative to the first wave, both figures are beginning to creep up – a signal that the virus is spreading beyond the young people driving the surge.

Still, the situation in Canada remained far less dire than in the United States, where deaths surpassed 200,000 on Tuesday, and Britain, which has imposed new COVID-19 restrictions after a quadrupling of cases over the past month.

How many coronavirus cases are there in Canada, by province, and worldwide? The latest maps and charts

COVID-19 news: Updates and essential resources about the pandemic

Is my city going back into lockdown? A guide to COVID-19 rules across Canada

When it comes to what’s in store for Canada this fall, the public-health agency’s predicative modelling is not a crystal ball, said Caroline Colijn, a professor at Simon Fraser University and Canada 150 Research Chair in mathematics for evolution, infection and public health. She and her colleagues designed the model on which the agency’s latest forecast is based.

“[The models] are tools we use to help us understand the trajectory we’re on. Then we get to choose,” she said. “It’s like having a flashlight. If you see a cliff, you don’t just necessarily walk over it because the flashlight showed you it was there. You do something. You don’t walk over the cliff.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to re-emphasize the urgency of fighting COVID-19 in a television address that follows the Throne Speech on Wednesday.

The public-health agency made its latest forecast as Ontario and Quebec continued to account for the majority of new cases nationwide, and as Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, Vera Etches, announced she would charge fines as high as $5,000 a day to anyone who breaks an order to self-isolate.

Ottawa Public Health reported a record 93 cases on Tuesday while Ontario announced 478 cases, the most since May.

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“The goals in responding to the pandemic are to keep the level of COVID-19 transmission in the community from disrupting society in a detrimental way and to limit hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Etches told reporters. “This level we’re seeing is too high for these purposes. We need to bend the curve down right now.”

Dr. Etches said people who are testing positive are linked to schools – 34 in Ottawa have had at least one person test positive – and long-term care homes. Eleven of the 29 long-term care homes in Ontario where a COVID-19 outbreak has been declared are in Ottawa and its surrounding suburbs, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

Dr. Etches has asked the Ottawa Hospital to temporarily take over management of two homes owned by Extendicare to get major outbreaks under control. At the for-profit chain operator’s Laurier Manor, a 242-bed home in the suburb of Gloucester, 25 residents have died of the virus. At West End Villa, another 242-bed home in Ottawa, 11 residents have died since an outbreak of COVID-19 was declared on Aug. 30.

Normally, the Ministry of Long-Term Care orders hospitals to assume management of troubled homes. But Dr. Etches said her office could move more quickly than the ministry. “We all agreed using an order like this is more expedient to get the support in right away,” she said.

Quebec, meanwhile, announced 489 new cases on Tuesday, a decline from the 586 it registered on Monday, but Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé said it was too soon to celebrate. On Tuesday, two new regions, Outaouais and Laval, were elevated to orange status, the second-highest tier in the province’s COVID-19 alert system, after a spike in cases and outbreaks.

The current wave of the pandemic is markedly different from the first, Mr. Dubé said. This time outbreaks are spread more widely among the province’s regions, rather than concentrated in Montreal, and more likely to involve young people. Cases are also being spread in the community at large, rather than being clustered in the long-term care homes that accounted for more than 80 per cent of Quebec’s COVID-19 deaths.

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In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced the first pillar of a broad six-point plan to prepare for a second wave of COVID-19: a flu immunization campaign. Mr. Ford said the province has ordered 5.1 million doses and is working to order more. “Anyone who wants a flu shot can get one,” Mr. Ford said. “Please, please make sure you get yours.”

He said the other elements of the fall plan, which are set to include expanding testing and contact tracing as well as reducing surgery backlogs, will be released over the next several days – a timeline that had the opposition accusing the government of being wildly unprepared.

Mr. Ford said given “the size and scope” of the plan, his government needed more time to roll it out.

As governments in Central Canada grappled with surging case counts, the federal government announced Tuesday that it had secured an agreement in principle for a fifth experimental coronavirus vaccine, a protein-based candidate developed by the pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline.

Anita Anand, the federal Minister of Public Services and Procurement, revealed for the first time that the government has committed about $1-billion in total to its five vaccine deals, some of it up-front. The remaining payouts will depend on whether any of the vaccines succeed in late-stage trials and win Health Canada approval.

Ms. Anand declined to provide specifics about deals with individual vaccine makers, citing confidentiality agreements and continuing negotiations with other companies.

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She also unveiled a deal with the maker of the antiviral drug remdesivir, the only medication officially approved to treat COVID-19, to bring 150,000 vials of the drug to Canada beginning next month.

With reports from Laura Stone and Eric Andrew-Gee

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says there will be a dramatic resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Canada unless people limit contact with others in coming days. The Canadian Press

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

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