Physicians, Stay Alert for Payloads!


I’m off service for a few days and I’ve had more time than usual to catch up on some of the news, like the American Medical Association (AMA) endorsement of President Elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, Rep. from Georgia. I think this is one of the many issues important for doctors-in-training to be aware of. It’s pertinent to one of the core competencies, systems-based practice; the others are noted below:


Core Competency Pizza
Core Competency Pizza


Many doctors disagree with the AMA endorsement, a few even writing an article making it clear the AMA doesn’t speak for them. It has been supported by more than 5,500 health physicians so far. They’ve even formed an organization opposed to the AMA called the Clinician Action Network (CAN). Dr. Price has supported the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and other health care measures which has raised concerns in the medical community, the AMA support notwithstanding.

You’ll probably notice I’ve been trying to keep hyperlinks to a minimum lately after Webroot branded my site and many of my links with the warning, “These are suspicious sites. There is a higher than average probability that the user will be exposed to malicious links or payloads.”

The reason I’m pointing that out is that CAN has also been branded that way by Webroot, which claims:

“Webroot’s Web Shield Filtering Extension examines and classifies search results, clearly marking sites as safe, questionable or dangerous before you visit. Our anti-phishing shield blocks fake websites that try and trick you into entering your personal information. Webroot scans the internet three times a day classifying millions of URLs, apps and files as trustworthy or suspicious to protect your online world.

Ensure your safety while browsing the web with the Webroot Filtering Extension.

If you are experiencing problems with this extension or have questions/suggestions for the developer, please visit our support site.”

I stuck that link in there because contacting them was the only way I could request that my own blog site’s “reputation” could be reviewed and changed, which it promptly was via the Webroot BrightCloud Threat URL Intelligence Reputation Change Request web page. What an intimidating name. If you visit the page, you’ll find a chart graphic showing the colored icons badges along with their interpretations of the Webroot BrightCloud system. If you get the green checkmark, you’ll get a pass, indicating, “These are well known sites with strong security practices, and rarely exhibit characteristics that expose the user to security risks. There is a very low probability that the user will be exposed to malicious links or payloads.”

Nifty. But is it reliable and how would you even know that CAN is under suspicion by Webroot? And the bigger question is why? The only way you’d find out, that I know of, is if you have the Google Chrome Webroot Filtering Extension enabled. You can disable it or toss it in the trash icon and your worries might be over. Ironically, if you’re on the web using Microsoft Edge, you probably won’t get a warning, despite Microsoft’s occasional message alert system letting you know, just for your own good, that Microsoft Edge is “safer” for the surfer than either Google Chrome or Firefox.

I thought about contacting CAN just to notify them that they’re being branded by Webroot, but it looked like I couldn’t do that without subscribing first–which raised my suspicion just a tad.

Which returns us to the question of why CAN should be under a cloud in the first place, even if it’s a BrightCloud?

I’m sure there’s no conspiracy by CAN members. I believe they’re exercising their right to engage in civil action, just as I have by taking direct action to support the principle of lifelong learning by opposing Maintenance of Certification (MOC) and Maintenance of Licensure (MOL) in Iowa. Incidentally, CAN is targeting bloggers and op-ed writers specifically in certain Iowa districts to support their cause of supporting the ACA.

I never got an explanation that was clear to me why Webroot branded me in the first place. I just assumed it was because of the many hyperlinks I used which might have led readers to “payloads” of iniquity. I can understand that and I’ve changed my writing to reflect my concern for readers. However, don’t expect me to clarify for you how Webroot determines whether a URL is safe or not. I’m a blogger, not a website security expert. I can tell you that I believe Webroot’s URL reputation branding system can probably drive away customers, readers, voters, and so on. I hope CAN members are reading this.

Moving right along, do we need to be concerned about Dr. Tom Price?  Here comes the “guilt by association” zinger, which you need not accept at face value. It turns out he’s a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a physician group which, according to some, has espoused some pretty extreme and even unscientific views. One article I found was entitled “Tom Price Belongs to a Really Scary Medical Organization That Promotes Anti-Vaccine Hysteria.” Look it up yourself; I’m not risking any payloads.

Here’s a little complexity, though. Dr. Price may not agree with everything on the AAPS website. Further, if you’re willing to pay the potential price in payloads, you can visit the site and find out that the AAPS opposes MOC and MOL and even filed a lawsuit in federal court in April of 2013 against the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) “…for restricting trade and causing a reduction in access by patients to their physicians.” The suit is apparently still active.

The point is physicians need to think for themselves and decide if they want to take sides on any issue that affects their practice. But we need to have time to browse through all the fake news (OK, “slanted” news), hyperbolic blog posts, and pernicious payloads in order to feel better informed.

What’s your payload, I mean, your position?