May 17, 2020

From the NBA to Medtech: How One Player Changed the Game, and Lives

medical technology
Jonathan Bender
5 min
Pacers forward Jonathan Bender camps out on the court during a brief break April 8, 2002. (Photo: Robert Scheer / The Star)
He was a first-round draft pick; a teenage millionaire; Kevin Durant before there even was a Kevin Durant. A star on the basketball court at the precoci...

He was a first-round draft pick; a teenage millionaire; Kevin Durant before there even was a Kevin Durant. A star on the basketball court at the precocious age of 18, he was a player blessed with a center’s height (6’11”) and a guard’s game.

Drafted straight out of high school by the Indiana Pacers, Jonathan Bender was a prodigy in the making: he broke Michael Jordan’s McDonald’s All American Game scoring record, had a 39-inch vertical leap, and was foreseen to become the next Magic Johnson.

But his career was sadly short-lived due to one thing: chronic knee pain. Due to what Bender believes was an abnormal growth spurt during his teenage years, his knee pain winnowed down his seasons: from 46 games in the 2002-03 season to 21 the near, to seven, to two. By his sixth season, Bender could barely make it down a flight of stairs.

Jonathan Bender retired from the NBA in 2006, at the ripe age of 25.

A Million-Dollar Idea

Bender always knew that basketball would not be long-term. In fact, he admired business tycoons such as Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan and was enthralled by the success Mel Simon had found outside of the NBA.

[READ MORE] What Baseball Can Teach the Health Care Industry about Big Data

“I was on the beginning of my path, and basketball was a stepping-stone. Basketball was my endgame before when I was in high school,” Bender told Fansided in a recent interview. “When I got there and started looking at the businesspeople and the game that really mattered, it wasn’t my endgame anymore. I had a new one.”

After a few investments panned out, ultimately leading to losses, Bender struck a million-dollar idea while people-watching at a public park in Houston: a training and rehab device that would improve the way people walked.

As reported by The Star in June of this year:

Slumped on a park bench in Houston one afternoon shortly after leaving Indiana, Bender watched runners and walkers stroll by, and a light bulb went off in his head.

He raced to Walgreens, then to Home Depot, then to Sports Authority. ("Picture a 6-11 guy walking up and down every aisle for like an hour," he said.) He bought electrical tape, rubber bands, zip ties, ankle braces, metal rods and wire cutters. He went home, slapped together what he'd sketched out in his head, and asked his girlfriend, Bernice, to come into the room.

"Try this on," he told her.

She looked at it and laughed.

"It looked like garbage," Bender admits.

Bender didn’t know anything about medical devices, but after years of dealing with bad knees, he knew there had to be a better way to avoid injury.

His prototype, when completed, looked like a weightlifting belt with a pair of rear-facing resistance bands dangling from the bottom.

Naming it the JB Intensive Trainer, Bender worked on his invention extensively for a number of years.

He spent two years testing it by having his friends use it while they worked out then took it to undergo research studies at Purdue University. Researchers there determined that it did in fact offer lower-joint relief while easing pressure on the knees and building strength in the quads, hamstrings and calves.

After working out with his invention for a full year, Bender felt confident in the renewed strength in his knees and at age 28, decided to return to the NBA.

A Second Chance with the New York Knicks

Upon announcing his decision to give the NBA another shot, Bender spoke with ESPN to explain his comeback.

“I didn’t want the windows to close on me,” Bender told ESPN in 2009. “I wanted the opportunity to fight off the demons inside my head … I read these articles that say, ‘He’s the top bust’ or ‘He’s one of the guys who didn’t live up to their potential.’ I don’t want to be 38 or 40 looking back thinking, ‘I should’ve done this.’”

Bender had kept in close contact with Donnie Walsh after leaving the NBA the first time, and as the current GM of the New York Knicks, Walsh decided to give Bender a tryout.

Impressed by what he saw, Walsh signed Bender to a contract midway through the 2009-10 season. In 25 games, Bender averaged 4.7 points in 11.7 minutes.

Knicks’ doctors were equally as impressed with Bender’s renewed success and after putting him through a battery of strength tests, learned that Bender had the most lower-body power of any player on the team.

[READ MORE] 20 Technologies Expected to Revolutionize the World of Medicine

Bender was offered a chance to return to the game the following season, but Bender turned it down, telling Sports Illustrated, “Even though I knew the money would be good, it just felt like I’d be going backwards.”

Success with a New Company

With renewed focus on his invention, Bender invested in refining the design of his JBIT, finding an overseas manufacturer and researching distribution channels. In July 2013, the renamed JBIT Med Pro, hit the market.

Partnering with brick-and-mortar stores like Relax The Back and an affiliate network of people and online business helped propel Bender’s company’s, JB3 Innovations, revenue growth of 40 percent month over month since December.

But that was just the beginning.

In October of this year, Bender’s company announced that they have seen an exponential 5,000 percent growth over the past 18 months. Additionally, the device is winning over the opinions of those in the medical field.

Bender’s company recently finalized a partnership with University General Hospital Systems, Inc., in Houston and Dallas, and netted a spokesman in the company’s CEO, Dr. Hassan Chahadeh, according to IndyStar.

Bender, who married over the summer, runs the entire operations from his laptop, with order fulfillment and customer service handled by third parties. Most of Bender’s customers are baby boomers, with some NBA and NFL players also using the device. But Bender expects the sports industry customer end of his business to pick up with the release of a second device he is working on, one that will be targeted for serious athletes.

Bender, now 33, isn’t surprised by the company’s success, as he told Forbes earlier this year, “My vision was always way ahead of the curve.”

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Jun 15, 2021

Why are healthcare networks so vulnerable to attacks? 

5 min
Elisa Costante from Forescout Technologies gives us the lowdown on how vulnerabilities in the healthcare sector happen, and how to secure them

Forescout Research Labs has published a study on the vulnerabilities impacting the healthcare industry’s connected devices. The research division of Forescout Technologies has published the report as part of its Project Memoria, and it reveals that healthcare organisations are affected five times more by TCP/IP vulnerabilities than any other sector. 

Elisa Costante, a software engineer and Forescout's Vice President of Research, explains why this is and how to prevent it. 

What is Project Memoria? 
Project Memoria aims to improve the security of TCP/IP stacks and understand what  the main security issues are. TCP/IP stacks are a very core component of every network device, whether it's an iPhone connected to the internet, or a robot controlling  the process of manufacturing. If they're connected to the internet they need to have a piece of software controlling communication. 

There are several variants of this software and we're analysing them to understand if they have security bugs or vulnerabilities that if misused by attackers, could lead to disruption of the device itself, and to the network at large. Our goal is to make the industry aware of the problem, and engage with stakeholders as well as the customers. 

Why is healthcare particularly vulnerable? 
This is what the data is telling us. We have a device cloud, which is like a data lake of device information. This device cloud has a lot of information about the devices, like who the vendor is, what the role of the network is, and which vertical this is. We are able to leverage this information, and join it with the intelligence we have from Project Memoria to understand which devices are vulnerable. 

We found that in healthcare there was a huge spike in the number of devices that are vulnerable - as much as  five times more than in other verticals. The reason seems to be because of the number of devices, and because of the intrinsic difficulty of addressing the problem. 

The problem surrounding TCP/IP stacks is that there is not one single vendor that is vulnerable; on average, a healthcare organisation has 12 vendors that are vulnerable. 
Let's say that on average we have 500 devices per healthcare organisation.  Then you need to contact 12 vendors for each of these. These vendors then need to issue a patch to secure the device, and this patch cannot just be automatically delivered and installed in 500 devices. You have to be realistic and think about whether each of the devices  is critical, for example if it goes down will it turn the lighting system off, or stop the MRI machine from working. 

Patches are very complex to deploy. On top of that, the patch needed might not even be available.  That's why we want to understand this problem better  so we can provide solutions. 

How much of the responsibility of keeping a device secure lies with the vendor? 
There are responsibilities that lie with all the different stakeholders, and one of these is  the vendor. There might be multiple vendors involved, which makes it very complex  from a management perspective. 

For instance the device at the end of the chain, which might be an MRI, contains a board that has a connectivity module, and this has one of the stacks that is vulnerable, which could have four different vendors. 

If the vendor responsible for the TCP/IP stack releases a patch, this patch has to go down the chain. We identified chains with a length of six vendors, so you can imagine how complex this is. Some vendors have good hygiene security and some don't because they don't know how to deal with it - they need training. 

This is a new issue related to the software bill of materials, which is being tabled for legislation at the moment to create policies regarding the complexity of the supply chain. We need to shed light on this issue so that legislators can put these policies in place to help with security.  

What can healthcare providers do themselves to stay secure? 
Visibility is important; they need to know what they have in their network. In the case of vulnerable devices they should find out if there's a patch available. If there isn't, because it's an old device for example, but it's still critical to the system, they may want to isolate it so it only communicates with the devices it really needs to. 

Interestingly enough, our research found that most of the healthcare organisations we analysed had a flat network, which means they don't have isolated devices. For instance, a drugs dispensing machine, which you typically find in pharmacies,  is connected to a building automation light system, which is connected to a switch. This is also connected to an IoT sensor device. Why would you have all of them together in the same place? 
The first step is having this information, which often comes as a surprise. Then you can take action; you can segment a network, and if you can't do that you can control the network's access by isolating devices that are risky.

How can Forescout help healthcare organisations? 
Forescout is uniquely positioned to help. We provide visibility end-to-end, which means having a full inventory of devices that includes quite granular detail, so they can know what the operating system is, who the vendor is and so on. Then we enable them to do network segmentation. 

This enables organisations to write policies around how to secure their networks, for example if a device is vulnerable specify which connected devices must be isolated, or which device it must communicate with exclusively. 

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