Archive for category General

Dealing with the HITECH Requirements of HIPAA

Posted by on Monday, 7 February, 2011

Last November, six hospitals and one nursing home were fined in California for data security breaches related to patient healthcare records. The total fines were $792,500 by the California Attorney General. The cause? The facilities failed to prevent unauthorized access to confidential patient medical information.

While these breaches made headline news in California, they were but the tip of the iceberg of the total healthcare record breaches in 2010. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, there were 592 reported healthcare data security breaches last year, which potentially exposed more than 11.5 million records. This was double the breaches of healthcare facilities in 2009, opening severe liabilities to the organizations that housed those patient records.

So what now? If your organization can be fined for failing to prevent unauthorized access, how can you safeguard your company’s healthcare records?

HITECH – What is it?

Subtitle D of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, extended the complete Privacy and Security Provisions of HIPAA to business associates of covered entities. This includes the extension of newly updated civil and criminal penalties to business associates.  On November 30, 2009, the regulations associated with the new enhancements to HIPAA enforcement took effect.

What’s it mean? If your company merely does business with an organization that is involved with healthcare records, HITECH says that you are liable for any security breaches on your watch that reveal patient vital healthcare information. This could include things like names, addresses, social security and Medicare/Medicaid numbers, or any info that could lead to misuse of healthcare information.

So how can your company protect itself from this liability?

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) interim Security Rule says that “a covered entity must consider implementing encryption as a method for safeguarding electronic protected health information.” The DHHS rule does permit something called “comparable methods” in lieu of encryption, but it does not specify what those methods might be.

Encryption vs. Comparable Methods: The Vague Alternatives

To determine if your company can provide security through some so-called “comparable method” it’s important to look at the types of breaches that occurred in the past. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse provides a good free search service to investigate at http://www.privacyrights.org.

By looking through the types of breaches that occurred in 2010, (stolen laptops, doctors emailing records to their home computers, lost or missing flash drives, unauthorized browsing by employees), the first question that you should be asking is “Can our organization really secure all those potential mechanisms for data theft without relying upon encryption?” It’s a difficult task, and the resources that your organization will expend (hardware solutions, policy solutions, etc.) can be significant.

Still, the monetary fines for failing to provide adequate protection are severe, and your management may decide that a thorough review of your security will be required.

By comparison, implementing encryption technology like Crypto Complete – is undoubtedly a faster and more cost-effective means. Crypto Complete encrypts sensitive data at the source using integrated key management, complete with auditing, field encryption and backup encryption, without interrupting the normal IT workflow. Data encryption permits the source of information itself to be put under a lock and key, and once encrypted, that data is protected from both unlawful use and the HITECH liability rule.

Now is the Time

Finally, consider the downside of ignoring the HITECH rules? Take a look at one attorney’s perspective “Responding to an Electronic Medical Records Security Breach: What Every Health Care Provider Needs to Knowto get a handle on the steps for determining the scope of the law. You’ll be surprised at how comprehensive the requirements have become, and why your management should be concerned.

Encrypting your data is the most recognized, safest and least expensive means of protecting your organization from liability from unauthorized access. If you’ve been to putting off addressing the potential pitfall of unauthorized access to your data, now is the time to investigate.

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is one of Linoma Software's subject matter experts and a top blogger in the industry. He is Principle Analyst at IT Incendiary, with more than 20 years of experience in IT as a Systems Analyst, Engineer, and IS Director.

More Posts - Website

FTP Lack of Security Exposed

Posted by on Monday, 24 January, 2011

Apollo Project CSM Simulator Computers and ConsolesFTP was designed as an easy mechanism for exchanging files between computers at a time when networks were new and information security was an immature science. In the 1970s, if you wanted to secure a server from unwanted access, you simply locked the computer room door. User access to data was controlled by the basic User ID and password scenario. (Right is a reminder of how much technology has advanced since the 1970s. The photograph,  taken December 11, 1975, is the Apollo Project CSM Simulator Computers and Consoles. Photo Courtesy of NASA.)

The Internet did not yet exist and the personal computer revolution was still a decade away.

Today, the security of business file transfers is of paramount importance. The exchange of business records between computing systems, between enterprises, and even across international borders has become critical to the global economy.

Yet, the original native FTP facility of TCP/IP wasn’t designed for the requirements of the modern, globally connected enterprise. FTP’s basic security mechanisms – the User ID and password — have long ago been outdated by advances in network sleuthing technologies, hackers, malware, and the proliferation of millions of network-attached users.

Risks associated with using native (standard) FTP include:

  • Native FTP does not encrypt data.
  • A user’s name and password are transferred in clear text when logging on and can therefore be easily recognized.
  • The use of FTP scripts or batch files leaves User IDs and passwords in the open, where they can easily be hacked.
  • FTP alone, does not meet compliance regulations. (For example: HIPAA, SOX, State Privacy Laws, etc.)
  • When using an FTP connection, the transferred data could “stray” to a remote computer and not arrive at their intended destination leaving your data exposed for third parties or hackers to intercept.
  • Conventional FTP does not natively maintain a record of file transfers.

The first step is to examine how FTP is being used in your organization. The next step is to identify how your organization needs to manage and secure everyone’s file transfers. The final step is to evaluate what type of Managed File Transfer Product your company needs.

For more information download our White Paper – Beyond FTP: Securing and Managing File Transfers.

Bob Luebbe

Bob Luebbe has worked in the IT field since 1985. During his career, he has worked in a wide variety of roles including software development, project management, consulting and architecting large-scale applications. Bob has been with Linoma Software since 1994 and is currently serving its Chief Architect. His main focus for the last several years has been developing technologies to help organizations to automate and secure their file transfers, as well as to protect data at rest through encryption and key management.

More Posts - Website

Compliance and Regulations for Sensitive Data Transfers

Posted by on Monday, 10 January, 2011

Secured ComputerHighly sensitive data is frequently exchanged between organizations. For instance, a business will routinely transmit financial information to their bank including payroll direct deposits and ACH payments. These transactions most likely contain sensitive elements like bank account numbers, routing numbers, social security numbers and payment information.

Industry-specific transactions may also contain highly sensitive data. For example, in the health care business, patient records are regularly exchanged between hospitals, doctors and payment providers. In the insurance business, policy information is often transmitted between carriers. This information may contain names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers and other private information.

Loss of sensitive data can result in great financial expense, lawsuits and public embarrassment for the affected organization. Therefore it is no surprise that industries are setting new regulations and standards to address the security of their data.  For instance:

  • PCI DSS requires that credit card numbers are encrypted while “at rest” and “in motion”.  Failure to do so can result in severe fines and potential loss of your merchant account.
  • HIPAA requires that healthcare records are secured to protect the privacy of patients.
  • State privacy laws require that customers are notified if their personal information may have been lost or stolen. Some states will also assess large fines against organizations if this data is not protected properly.

Organizations should consider compliance requirements and regulations when looking for a Managed File Transfer solution. An effective solution should have a number of encryption methods available to protect sensitive data including SSL, SSH, AES and Open PGP encryption. Audit trails should also be in place to track file transfer activity so you can easily determine what files are being sent, what time they are sent, who the sender and receiver is, and so on. If you are looking for a comprehensive solution be sure to check out our GoAnywhere Managed File Transfer Suite.

Related Blog: PCI DSS v2.0

Bob Luebbe

Bob Luebbe has worked in the IT field since 1985. During his career, he has worked in a wide variety of roles including software development, project management, consulting and architecting large-scale applications. Bob has been with Linoma Software since 1994 and is currently serving its Chief Architect. His main focus for the last several years has been developing technologies to help organizations to automate and secure their file transfers, as well as to protect data at rest through encryption and key management.

More Posts - Website

Was FTP Behind the Wikileaks Breach?

Posted by on Monday, 3 January, 2011

November and December were difficult months for IT security.

Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. How do security officials believe these documents were originally retrieved by the alleged source, Pfc. Bradley Manning? Many security professionals are wondering if FTP was the software mechanism used.

Also in the news was the security breach at the popular publication Gawker.com. Over the weekend of December 11, Gawker discovered that 1.2 million accounts were compromised, the infrastructure breached, and access to MySQL databases raided. Gawker internal FTP credentials were listed as a part of the breach.

Gawker’s problems prompted Social Networking giant LinkedIn to reset the passwords of all users that had Gawker.com accounts, for fear of contamination by hackers who had gained Gawker profile information.

Smaller national headlines of other breaches included the theft of an undisclosed number of email addresses, birth-dates, and other information by a contractor working for McDonalds.

Also, it was reported that a mailing list was pilfered from the drugstore giant Walgreens. In addition, a leak of law enforcement data was reported by a Mesa County, Colorado.

Finally, a popular Open Source FTP server software application, ProFTPD version 1.3.3c, was distributed containing a malicious backdoor that permits hackers to access FTP credentials. It is thought the attackers took advantage of an un-patched security flaw in the FTP daemon to gain access to the server and exchange distribution files.

What do these various breaches have in common? The threats may be too diverse to slip into a single category, but the likely culprit is the use of powerful native FTP, without proper, secure management. Once a doorway is left open, native unmanaged FTP access can wreak havoc in any organization.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Using a managed secure file server like Linoma Software’s GoAnywhere Services – which has granular permissions and security controls, along with detailed audit logs and alerts – IT can monitor and better secure and control its data resources.

Regardless of how your organization or your trusted business partners are configured to exchange data, isn’t it time to consider a better way to manage your company’s file transfer security?

Related Blog Post: Are You Confident Your FTP Credentials are Secure?

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is one of Linoma Software's subject matter experts and a top blogger in the industry. He is Principle Analyst at IT Incendiary, with more than 20 years of experience in IT as a Systems Analyst, Engineer, and IS Director.

More Posts - Website

Linoma Renews IBM Advanced Business Partner Level

Posted by on Monday, 20 December, 2010

IBM Advanced Business PartnerAchieving and maintaining the IBM Advanced Business Partner level is completely based on product quality and customer satisfaction. IBM assigns their partner levels for ISV’s (independent software vendors), like Linoma Software, on customer feedback.

Linoma Software actively produces five products that run natively on the IBM i (iSeries).

What is the benefit of Advanced Partnership? Quite simply, Advanced Partners have direct access to resources within IBM. Linoma Software has a direct connection to IBM support, labs and knowledge-base. The Advanced Partnership also provides Linoma Software the ability to test against upcoming software, like the recent i7.1 operating system for IBM i and p systems, before it is released to the public.

Linoma Software is a long-time IBM Advanced Business Partner and is well known for its dedication to high quality software, user-friendly applications, and outstanding technical support. With over 3000 satisfied business customers ranging from small business to Fortune 100, government entities and not-for-profit organizations – Linoma Software provides the same level of expertise to all.

“We work with thirty-plus vendors for all our ‘Power System’ related software, and no one has better technical support staff than Linoma Software. When I call other vendors, I anticipate multiple levels of call routing, and if I’m lucky the person may be able to research a solution. With Linoma’s support team, it’s always been the first person, and they’ve handled the issue with the feel of a practiced hand who recognized my problem and had a solution ready immediately.” Shaun Skelton – Berry Plastics

Dirk Zwart

Dirk Zwart writes Linoma Software’s User Guides for the GoAnywhere secure file transfer applications. Dirk’s writing topics have covered everything from hardware manuals, software guides, security policies for compliance projects and reviews of consumer electronics. Follow Dirk and Linoma Software on Linkedin or Facebook/Twitter.

More Posts - Website - Facebook