The Melissa virus earlier this year was a wake-up call for Capital Coast Health, says information security analyst Innes Fisher, showing just how vulnerable the hospital was.
"As soon as a hospital's systems go down, patient care suffers," he says. "Melissa highlighted how vulnerable we were because it happened so quickly our antivirus software didn't pick it up."
Fisher has installed WorldSecure/Mail email security system from Worldtalk, through local distributor Interconnect. However, this move hasn't made him the most popular person at Capital Coast, he says.
As well as screening for viruses, he has set up rules to block .exe, .jpg and multimedia attachments. Large attachments can take up a lot of storage space when you have 700 users and the volume of traffic can affect the speed of your Internet connection. "We did an analysis of the traffic and by and large most of the attachments weren't business related."
The filter also helps people to keep within the hospital's email policy, he says. "Obviously people can't be held responsible if someone sends them an 'adult' picture - this way it's picked up before it gets to them."
The ability to encrypt private health information was also vital. "That was one of the reasons for choosing WorldSecure/Mail. You can encrypt the data at the secure gateway rather than at each desk. That way the staff don't have to learn how to do it and you don't need individual digital certificates for them. We don't send any confidential information by email yet, but once we set up secure connections with other organisations, we'll encourage people to use it."
As for being unpopular, Fisher says most staff come to accept his reasons when he explains them. "They say they're allowed to use phones for personal use so why not email, but the risks of using the phone are a lot lower."