State & Local, Tech Goes Wrong

Massachusetts “Romneycare” site killed after rejecting Obamacare transplant | Ars Technica

 

The Massachusetts Health Connector is getting its plug pulled.

Nevada, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Oregon are members of a club that no one wants to join—all of these states have largely failed at getting their electronic health insurance exchange sites to work properly (or, in some cases, at all). Given the legislatively mandated deadline, the delays in delivery of requirements by the federal government, and the scale of the task that faced states developing their own healthcare exchange sites under the Affordable Care Act, people familiar with government information technology projects might tell you that it’s surprising that any of the websites worked at all.

But if any state had a greater shot at success, it was Massachusetts—the state that served as the model upon which the Affordable Care Act was based. Now, Massachusetts’ health exchange has decided to shutter its own site at least temporarily, switching to the federal exchange to buy time for a better fix.

States running their own exchanges need to be ready by November 15 for the next round of open enrollment for health plans. That has put a number of states with floundering exchange sites in a pinch. Oregon was the first state with its own exchange to completely abandon its own website after spending more than $300 million in federal grants on the project.

Oregon officials have publicly blamed the database giant Oracle, the state’s primary contractor for the site, for its failure. In March, the Government Accountability Office announced that it would conduct an investigation of the Cover Oregon exchange project; last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI is now conducting its own investigation.

In an official statement in April, an Oracle spokesperson said that “Oracle looks forward to providing any assistance the state needs in moving parts of Oregon’s health care exchange to the Federal system if it ultimately decides to do so.” Last week, the board of the exchange voted to move to the federal exchange.

via Massachusetts “Romneycare” site killed after rejecting Obamacare transplant | Ars Technica.

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Higher Ed, security vulnerabilities, Tech Goes Wrong

In his words: How a whitehat hacked a university and became an FBI target | Ars Technica

David Helkowski stood waiting outside a restaurant in Towson, Maryland, fresh from a visit to the unemployment office. Recently let go from his computer consulting job after engaging in some “freelance hacking” of a client’s network, Helkowski was still insistent on one point: his hack, designed to draw attention to security flaws, had been a noble act.

The FBI had a slightly different take on what happened, raiding Helkowski’s home and seizing his gear. Helkowski described the event on reddit in a thread he titled, “IamA Hacker who was Raided by the FBI and Secret Service AMAA!” Recently Ars sat down with him, hoping to get a better understanding of how this whitehat entered a world of gray. Helkowski was willing to tell practically everything—even in the middle of an ongoing investigation.

Until recently, Helkowski worked for The Canton Group, a Baltimore-based computer consulting firm serving, among other clients, the University of Maryland. Helkowski’s job title at The Canton Group was “team lead of open source solutions,” but he began to shift his concerns toward security after identifying problems on a University of Maryland server.

Read more at Ars Technica: In his words: How a whitehat hacked a university and became an FBI target | Ars Technica.

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