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Toggle: Tarunjeet “T.J.” Mann – Children’s Mercy Kansas City

By Neil Cote

Anybody still doubt the need for a hospital’s defenses against data theft? Then access the dark web via an anonymizing browser and see what’s for sale.

Among the items most in demand: electronic medical records of babies and small children, some of whom have died. As a bonus to the buyer, chances are at least one parent’s sensitive information will be included.

And it might be a bigger wonder why the healthcare industry has traditionally been behind the curve when it comes to information security. Some hospitals still put cybersecurity under the responsibility of infotech leadership, which—according to Mann—may create a conflict of interest. A segregation of duties must be maintained.

“Information security is not a CIO’s job,” says Mann, who recently celebrated his third anniversary as the first chief information security officer at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “Infotech’s primary goal is to keep systems running for all users. Infosecurity’s goal is to reduce risk to the business and its customers. There’s a conflict if one person wears both hats.”

“The threat landscape changes every day,” he says, reminding that the cybercriminals inevitably find access to the same next-generation technology harnessed by the good guys. “But we are continuing to make progress every day.”

For breach detection and protective capacity, Mann is leveraging artificial intelligence and behavioral analytics, a fairly new process for revealing insights into the habits of users on e-commerce platforms, web and mobile applications, and the Internet of Things. Thus Children’s Mercy can stay ahead of any vulnerabilities its patients and their families may be exposing themselves to while interacting online. Any suspicious behavior on a user’s computer triggers an automated response—in Mann’s words, “one of our saving graces.”

Some hospitals just beginning to digitize their data, breaches have been alarmingly common in the healthcare industry, with Mann lamenting how sometimes that’s what it takes to open an administrator’s eyes.

As to how Mann’s eyes opened to the wonders of a digital world, he tells an amusing story of how as a boy growing up in India, he saw “The Terminator.” In one scene, a precocious boy tricks an ATM into spitting out money, causing Mann to think, “I’ve got to learn how to do this!”

So he downloaded some ATM manuals, got a basic understanding of how the machines worked and might have even made failed attempts to tap into some. His better angels eventually prevailing, he turned to computer science for legitimate purposes, earning a degree in infotech from Guru Nanak Dev University in 2004, prior to moving to Michigan after an immigrant uncle there sponsored Mann and his parents.

“A true immigrant success story,” the now 37-year-old Mann says with pride.


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