Identifying Effective Data Encryption Techniques for Healthcare Organizations by@michael-usiagwu

Identifying Effective Data Encryption Techniques for Healthcare Organizations

Most industries and companies deal with sensitive personnel or customer data which requires encryption to secure the data. Service providers without sound data encryption systems run the risk of fines,  torts, and government penalties. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) set up in 1996 is a federal law that demanded the necessary creation of national standards to protect the health information of patients from disclosure without the patient’s knowledge or permission. Most cyberattacks include phishing, man-in-the-middle-attacks, ransomware, and attacks on network vulnerabilities.
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Michael Usiagwu

Michael is an Entrepreneur, a Pr Expert, He share actionable content on top publications.


Encryption is a core part of the professional world. This is because most industries and companies deal with sensitive personnel or customer data which requires encryption to secure the data. Service providers without sound data encryption systems run the risk of fines,  torts, and government penalties.


The healthcare industry has been a target of constant data attacks due to the fragile yet invaluable nature of the data they process.  Most cyber-attacks include phishing, man-in-the-middle-attacks, ransomware, and attacks on network vulnerabilities.


There was a total of 642 cyber-attacks on the healthcare sector in 2020. Insurance carriers, healthcare providers, and other healthcare-related service producers are targets of these malicious attacks whose breach can facilitate several criminal activities including open lines of credit, filing fraudulent medical claims, and sometimes, the preemptive claim of a tax refund. This information could be misused by cybercriminals to make a profit while inflicting lasting damage on the health of persons and the general welfare of the public.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) set up in 1996 is a federal law that demanded the necessary creation of national standards to protect the health information of patients from disclosure without the patient’s knowledge or permission. The Privacy Rule laid down by this Act is designed to strike a balance between the protection of health information and the use of such information to provide optimum health care services.


Here are the most effective data encryption techniques that any healthcare organization can adopt to protect health information:


  1. Risk Assessment

At the core of any data-encryption structure is Risk Assessment. The HIPAA strictly stipulates the need for risk assessment for health organizations to identify, computerize, and resolve vulnerabilities of their data encryption systems.


Since the slightest breach of PHI comes with a penalty of up to $1.5 million at the time of the breach, running a risk assessment would help you reduce the impact of such a fine on the finance of the organization.


Risk assessment is a three-way overview of your business’ administrative, physical, and technical capacity to protect encrypted data

  • Administrative Safeguards: This includes your staff’s awareness of the data encryption techniques and the security procedures installed to protect and recover encrypted data when lost.
  • Physical Safeguards: This reviews the physical structure available to determine the vulnerabilities of your encrypted data such as an effective lock-and-alarm system.
  • Technical Safeguards: This evaluates the technical capacity of your business to maintain the integrity of Patient Health Information (PHI) such as the electronic privacy of the data.


  1. Compulsory Encryption on User and Operator Devices

The HIPAA understanding of the fragile nature of PHI mandated health organizations to


implement a method that will encrypt and decrypt electronically protected health information”.


However, this rule is not restricted to electronic input into the system, i.e email and other information receipt systems and data disposal conduits including electronic trash bins, it also extends to the use of external devices with the mainframe of your database.


Therefore, whenever any external device such as a phone, USB drive, hard drive, desktop, or laptop is plugged into the system, there should be automatic encryption of the information within the system to be inaccessible to external parties.


Also, the medium of storage of the encrypted ePHIs should be completely encrypted. This would create a firewall against any possible external infiltration and equally allow for the decryption of information as required from the database per time.


  1. Current and Applicable Encryption Technology

Data encryption technology is as important as data encryption in the healthcare sector. The technology employed in encrypting data must be at par with the capacity of the data encryption software. A health organization using the Advanced Encryption System (AES) 256-bit encryption must be designed to handle the huge network capacity that the encryption software requires.


Users of the AES 180-bit encryption and the AES 256-bit encryption have noted the heavy processing capacity that the systems consume. While these systems are installed into all Intel and AMD processors, the data processing capacity of these CPUs will be subject to the grades of the CPU. This is why the best technology on the ground is recommended for high-tech performances of the encryption process.


  1. Encryption Key Management

The implication of using a data encryption system is that there are encryption keys. These keys are passwords that unlock the database of the health organization and they are only kept in the hands of the most principal members of the organization or a security company in proxy for the health organization.


Determining the holder of the key does not pose any problem to most organizations as they mostly put it in the hands of the trustworthy members of the organization. However, the unusual spike in the sophistication of the hacking community demands the upgrade of health organization technology to counteract the actions and processes which may crash the firewall around customer-centric keys.


The Key Lifecycle process is a vital instrument that will ensure the integrity of a key while it is in the hands of a trustee:

  • Key Storage: This should be top-notch to ensure that no other person has access to the keys besides their holder
  • Rotation & Destruction of Keys: Newer keys should be applied to newer data sets while old ones should be kept for older sets. Also, keys can be changed for the same data set.
  • Key Generation Hierarchy: When issuing keys to the lowest tier of authorized users, health organizations should apply a zero-trust policy.
  • Ease of Use: A good user interface should be installed to facilitate the process of unlocking the data set for the authorized holder while still keeping the data secure.


The Benefits of Data Encryption Techniques for Healthcare Organizations are:

  1. It aids compliance with HIPAA security guidelines for health data.
  2. Secures the integrity of data, while it is at rest or in transit.
  3. It protects data when clients have to use multiple devices to access their health information. This is facilitated by infusing an advanced authentication system into the process
  4. Data encryption removes the financial risk that comes from costly data breaches
  5. It increases patients’ trust in the healthcare system as their private health information is kept secret


Conclusion

The significant growth of the cybercrime community has led to increased awareness about the need to protect the private information of clients in the healthcare sector. This has resulted in the adoption of leading technologies that curb the infiltration of vulnerable areas of a data encryption system.


All of these have created a robust and secure data encryption system for all healthcare organizations.

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