Archive for category Data Security

HITECH Compliance Offers Challenges for IT

Posted by on Tuesday, 19 June, 2012

Outside of the finance industry, healthcare is one of the most regulated industries in the U.S.  As the healthcare policy debates rage on, one issue on which most Americans can agree is the need to keep personal healthcare information confidential and secure.

Major regulations such as HIPAA and HITECH have been passed into law to increase the security of our personal health information.  For better or worse, a major portion of the burden to comply with the regulations and all of their revisions falls upon the IT professionals.

HIPAA and HITECH: a brief overviewHITECH, data security, compliance

While HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act), passed in 1996, has received the most attention (see our blog), the more recently implemented HITECH law is quickly having an impact.

HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) was passed into law in 2009. The goal for the  HITECH is to strengthen the civil and criminal enforcement of already existing HIPAA regulations that require health organizations and their business partners to report data breaches.  HITECH also increases the penalties for security violations, and implements new rules for tracking and disclosing patient information breaches.

Data breach notification

Under HITECH rules, all data breaches of PHI (protected health information) must be reported to the individuals whose data was compromised. This includes reporting files that may have been hacked, stolen, lost or even transmitted in an unencrypted fashion.  If such a breach — or potential breach — affects 500 people or more, the media must also be notified.   Breaches of all sizes must always be reported to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), but if fewer than 500 individuals’ records are affected, healthcare organizations can report the breach via the HHS website on an annual basis.  Larger breaches must be reported to HHS within 60 days.

Penalties for data breach

The HITECH Act implements a four tier system of financial penalties assessed based on the level of “willful neglect” a healthcare organization demonstrated resulting in the breach. Fines range from  $100 per breached record for unintended violations all the way up to $50,000 per record (with an annual cap of $1.5 million) when “willful neglect” is demonstrated.

Access to electronic health records (EHRs)

HITECH requires that the software that a health organization uses to manage its EHRs must make a person’s electronic PHI records available to the patient and yet remain protected from data breach by encrypting the data and securing the connection.  Not surprisingly, email is not considered a secure method of data transmission.

Business associates

Before HITECH,  business associates of healthcare organizations were not held directly liable for privacy and security under the HIPAA rules, even though they had access to PHI.  HITECH now requires that all business associates with access to PHI are subject to the HIPAA rules and must maintain Business Associate Agreements with the healthcare organization that provides the PHI.  Business associates are also required to report any data breaches and are subject to the same penalties as their healthcare business partners.

Daniel Cheney

Daniel has been the IT Director at a healthcare company for the last 12 years and a longtime beneficiary of GoAnywhere Director and the IBM i platform. He is also a technical analyst and writer for various technical and social media projects with Humanized Communications.

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FIPS 140-2 Validation Encryption Module Now Available for GoAnywhere

Posted by on Thursday, 24 May, 2012

Linoma Software has partnered with RSA Corporation to make it easier for organizations to do business with the government by adding the FIPS 140-2 Validation Encryption Module to its GoAnywhere™ suite of managed file transfer products.  Read the press release.

Most companies at one time or another find that they need to transfer or exchange sensitive data files with the government, whether it’s the IRS, the SEC, or other state or federal agencies.

Increasingly, more organizations are wanting to become vendors for the government, and for those companies, meeting the federal government’s strict data security compliance standards is required before any business relationship can ensue.

FIPS 140-2 Validation EncryptionThat’s where the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 comes in.  FIPS is a U.S. government computer security standard for the accreditation of cryptographic modules.

In order for a  module to receive FIPS 140-2 accreditation, it must undergo a time-consuming and rigorous testing process through a third-part laboratory that’s been certified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) through its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program.

Because the FIPS 140-2 accreditation process is so daunting and expensive, only a few vendors have successfully earned the esteemed designation. RSA Corporation is one of these elite vendors.

RSA is a leader in information security and sponsors the popular annual RSA Conference that attracts security professionals from all over the world.  As a premier security organization, they have chosen to partner with Linoma Software to embed their FIPS 140-2 validation encryption module into GoAnywhere Director and GoAnywhere Services.

Once a GoAnywhere customer activates the FIPS 140-2 Compliance Mode, only FIPS 140-2 compliant ciphers (e.g. AES, Triple DES) will be permitted for encryption processes. The RSA security module will be utilized for any SSH and SSL communications in GoAnywhere including SFTP, SCP, FTPS and HTTPS protocols.

For companies exploring the myriad business opportunities available with government at all levels, being prepared by incorporating FIPS 140-2 validation encryption into your data transfer processes is a key step in winning those lucrative government contracts.

Susan Baird

Susan is the Marketing Manager at Linoma Software, helping promote our secure file transfer and encryption solutions. Her specialty is content creation and social media marketing.

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Are Insurance Companies Managing Their Risk of Data Breach?

Posted by on Wednesday, 9 May, 2012

An injury that doesn’t happen needs no treatment. An emergency that doesn’t occur requires no response. An illness that doesn’t develop demands no remedy. The best way to stay safe … is to avoid getting into trouble in the first place. That requires planning, training, leadership, good judgment, and accepting responsibility—in short, risk management.  

– Boy Scout Field Book

Insurance companies are the experts at analyzing and managing risk. They identify, quantify and set pricing based on the calculated costs of risk. Naturally, the higher the perceived risk, the higher the cost to mitigate the potential losses.

Yet here is the irony.  While those in the insurance industry excel at evaluating risk management for their clients, they often neglect risk mitigation within their own operation.

Exposed data is serious risk

The insurance industry collects and analyzes overwhelming amounts of data. This often sensitive and confidential information becomes the basis upon which many critical decisions are made, and which produces the competitive advantage to provide better policies, prices, and solutions to the market.

All of this data, both historical and cutting-edge, is truly the lifeblood of the insurance industry. Therefore, the astute management and protection of this data is the infrastructure of arteries and veins delivering this lifeblood to all of the appendages of the company that need the results of this data compilation.

In addition, this sensitive and private information is disseminated to various internal and external associates, customers, partners and collaborators usually via the Internet, which exposes this data to compromise.

And yet, despite their expertise in risk analysis, many in the insurance industry fail to ask these questions:

  • Given how much data we’re exchanging with clients, partners, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, etc., what is our risk of a data breach?
  • What is our liability if we suffer a data breach?
  • What can be done to mitigate potential losses?

When examined this way, any underwriter would agree that failure to adequately protect the sensitive data continually in transit in an insurance company’s daily workflow presents an extremely high risk.

Insurance industry, heal thyself

If data really is the lifeblood of the insurance business, and the data center is at the heart of the company, then the arteries and veins are the methods of moving that data to and from your departments, clients, business partners, and others.

While adding layers of physical security to the data center is a top priority for insurance IT professionals, securing the pathways in and out of that data center tends to be overlooked, despite media coverage of data breaches at companies worldwide.   This lack of action underestimates the extent of the public’s concern that their private data may be compromised, and state and federal efforts to more strictly regulate data storage and transfer policies.

Effectively managing FTP transactions is essential to mitigating the risks of data loss.  The costs of implementing managed file transfer solutions are minimal and provide tremendous flexibility when striving to meet the requirements of trading partners and compliance regulations.

As the insurance industry knows better than anyone, the best approach is to mitigate risk with a cost efficient solution.  In this case, taking direct action to protect data transfers is the obvious prescription for any organization — especially one based on risk management.

Daniel Cheney

Daniel has been the IT Director at a healthcare company for the last 12 years and a longtime beneficiary of GoAnywhere Director and the IBM i platform. He is also a technical analyst and writer for various technical and social media projects with Humanized Communications.

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Is Your Company Letting Data Slipping Through the Cracks?

Posted by on Monday, 16 April, 2012

Many Americans have spent the last few days frantically searching for receipts and other documentation to finish their taxes before Tuesday, April 17.  No doubt some of those people thought they knew exactly where to find what they needed, and were dismayed to discover that their confidence — as well as their data — had been misplaced.data breach, managed file transfer

How about your confidence regarding your organization’s sensitive data? As managers, are you aware of all of the transactions going in and out of the company network? Who is sending and pulling files, and why? What’s the best way to manage all of these data exchanges? Isn’t there a more user-friendly solution than prohibiting all FTP communications except from specified computers or user profiles?

Efficient workflow requires efficient data flow

No doubt data security is critical.  So is the ability to exchange information to accomplish daily business goals.  Almost every department needs to exchange files with trading partners, customers, vendors, remote employees, and more.

Here are just a few examples of data your company may be exchanging every day:

Finance/Accounting/HR

  • Tax documents
  • Annual, quarterly monthly reports to shareholders, investors, banks, financial partners
  • Personnel reporting

Marketing/Sales

  • Art files to/from artists, printers, marketing partners
  • Video and other content for web, publishers, printers
  • PDF brochures, proposals, whitepapers to prospects, partners, customers

Information Technologies

  • Data files to/from system integration partners
  • Database exchanges with business networks
  • System updates
  • EDI file transaction exchanges
  • Update to HA and offsite systems

Customer Service

  • Customer update documents
  • Client reporting documents
  • Receipt of supporting documents

Production/Warehousing

  • Supplier data exchange
  • Customer data exchange
  • Inventory reporting

Research & Development

  • Product specifications to/from manufacturing partners
  • Large CAD/engineering data to/from development partners

How do you control the data flow?

Educate your employees

Each organization has developed rules and codes of conduct to maintain productivity, positive morale, and customer confidence.  Ideally, these policies are documented and part of employee training. It’s imperative that the rules governing data management are also included in the documented policies, and all employees regardless of their roles need to demonstrate their understanding of the data management policies. Clear directives regarding management’s expectations is the first line of defense against data breach.

Implement the appropriate technology solution

The right technology tools can also be a valuable part of the data control approach.  Most data exchanges can be performed through secure email, FTP and network communications. A combined implementation of firewall and managed FTP solutions will help secure and distribute the resource requirements as appropriate for every department’s needs.

Firewalls not only protect the company network from outside intruders, but can also help manage internal traffic.  A managed file transfer (MFT) system allows specific types of transfers based on users’ permissions or specified events so the inbound/outbound flow of data can be better managed and monitored. With an MFT system, audit logs are automatically kept of each data exchange, and files and emails can be encrypted and secured to ease worries that they might be sent to the wrong people.

The bottom line

Given the multitude of data files that need to be moved in and out of your organization, and the need to create efficient workflows that allow employees to do their jobs while maintaining strict vigilance about data security, few facets of your business are more important than controlling your data flow.  Getting information in the right hands and keeping sensitive data shielded from non-authorized access is an ongoing challenge, but education and the right tools are the keys to success.

Daniel Cheney

Daniel has been the IT Director at a healthcare company for the last 12 years and a longtime beneficiary of GoAnywhere Director and the IBM i platform. He is also a technical analyst and writer for various technical and social media projects with Humanized Communications.

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Data Breach Remains a Hot Topic for Media

Posted by on Monday, 19 March, 2012

During the past few years, the media has highlighted a variety of examples of the loss of private information by large companies either by theft or misuse.

One of the reasons for the increased media attention is the renewed focus on establishing and enforcing data breach notification laws which apply to companies that own, lease or store private, personally identifiable information. If that data is exposed to unauthorized use either by accident, cyber attack, employee misconduct, or other causes, most states require companies responsible for protecting that data to announce the data breach and individually notify everyone affected. Some states require that credit agencies are also notified.

data breach, managed file transferFor clarification, private data means any information that can be used to identify an individual, including sensitive information such as a credit card number, social security number, or health related data.

There are a few exceptions to having to report the data breach. If the compromised files were encrypted while in transit across the Internet or stored on stolen backup tapes, for example, it is unlikely that the files could be unencrypted, so the individuals’ privacy isn’t as likely to be compromised.

A company that finds itself dealing with a data breach learns quickly that the process is not just embarrassing and costly (sending notifications, providing free credit reports, etc.), it can also damage the company’s hard-earned reputation resulting in the loss of customers. The point is that companies are responsible – and legally liable — for the information that is in their hands.

Securing File Transfers

Most companies use FTP (file transfer protocol) to send data files back and forth to their trading partners, vendors, remote employees, etc. Most often, FTP is used to send files that are too large to email.

However, file transfers like these are captured and compromised by data thieves on the Internet every day — unless security procedures have been put into place to safeguard the files’ data.

Companies need to implement procedures that secure both an in-motion process (files in transit over the Internet) and an at-rest process (files stored on servers or backup tapes). SFTP and FTPS protocols both secure the file while in motion by encrypting the communication link between two systems during the file transfer. PGP encrypts the file itself, protecting it while at rest on the server or backup tapes.

When addressing the challenge of sending ad-hoc files that are too big to email, finding a managed file transfer solution that includes a secure mail feature can mean the difference between an accidental data breach and a successfully delivered file.

Implementing these security procedures is a significant step organizations can take to greatly reduce their risk of data breach, and therefore their exposure to the financial liability and the loss of confidence of their customers and trading partners.

 

Daniel Cheney

Daniel has been the IT Director at a healthcare company for the last 12 years and a longtime beneficiary of GoAnywhere Director and the IBM i platform. He is also a technical analyst and writer for various technical and social media projects with Humanized Communications.

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