Working in a New Normal: Defender of Duke Health Online Security

Muhammad Butt helps Duke University Health System overcome cyber vulnerabilities

Part of the Profiles of Staff and Faculty During COVID-19 Series
Muhammad Butt analysis whether Duke computer programs and software are at-risk for cyberattacks. Photo courtesy of Muhammad Butt.
Muhammad Butt analysis whether Duke computer programs and software are at-risk for cyberattacks. Photo courtesy of Muhammad Butt.

Name: Muhammad Butt

Position: Information Security Analyst, Duke Health Technology Solutions (DHTS)

Years at Duke: 2

What he does at Duke: Every morning, Muhammad Butt receives a report from the security application “ServiceNow,” which identifies enterprise computer programs and software that have a potential weakness to cyberattacks.

Muhammad Butt enjoys a view of downtown Kuwait City in 2017. Photo courtesy of Muhammad Butt.The report allows him to quickly sort through hundreds of notices that rate whether Duke Health platforms are at low, medium or high-security risk for a cyberattack. For software with a high-security risk, he contacts Duke colleagues who manage the platform so they can work together to implement security patches on Duke devices to keep data and information secure. 

“There’s a feeling of joy and excitement in knowing I’m keeping people safe,” Butt said. 

How his job has changed since the pandemic: The switch to remote work has reinforced his role to swiftly respond to possible cyber-attacks. 

He remains ever vigilant given that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Health and Human Services released a joint statement in October 2020 warning of increased cybersecurity threats to health care providers. 

“Criminals saw an opportunity to digitally attack health care providers who were new to telehealth and may not securely protect their systems,” Butt said. “We do a good job of remaining vigilant at Duke.” 

What aspect of work he is most proud of during these challenging times: He and two colleagues created a training video last fall to help IT staff understand the “ServiceNow” security operations platform to quickly identify cyber threats.  

“We’re working together to find and fix weak spots before someone can take advantage of them,” Butt said. “We are proactively keeping ourselves secure.”

Muhammad Butt flies a drone over his yard. Butt said he loves the green landscape in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Muhammad Butt.What he likes most about working from home: Butt, who moved to North Carolina from Kuwait City, Kuwait, in 2018, loves taking quick breaks outside. He brings a cup of coffee and enjoys the sunshine. 

“Everything is so green in North Carolina,” Butt said. “I’ve spent most of my life in a desert climate. It’s amazing to step outside and see flowers blooming and leaves changing colors.” 

TV show or series that his gotten him through: He and his two children, wife and mother all watch “The Terminal” together. The Middle Eastern show, which is on Netflix, is about a Kuwaiti businessman and his family dealing with daily struggles related to social issues and tradition. 

“I don’t want to lose touch with our Arabic roots,” Butt said. “Watching Arabic shows help me polish up on the language since I’m not using it frequently.”

How he maintains well-being: After dinner, the family spends time together in the living room talking about their day. 

“We talk about problems and successes,” he said. “It’s a nice moment to have since we’re all on the computer most of the day.”  

Muhammad Butt, center, plays soccer with friends in Cary in 2019. Photo courtesy of Muhammad Butt.Something most people don’t know about him: He plays soccer, usually as a defender, frequently with friends before the pandemic in parks around Cary. His favorite team is Liverpool F.C., a team in the English Premier League. 

“There’s been many Saturdays during the pandemic where my kids and I are glued to the T.V. watching soccer,” he said. “We can’t get enough of it.”

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