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Stored data is a top target by hackers, especially the type of data that can be used for fraud and medical identity theft – within the healthcare industry in particular, encrypting stored data to meet HIPAA compliance is one way to avoid the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule and keep data secure.
Data that is stored in archives as backups is subject to corporate compliance data laws and regulations. The following is an excerpt from our Disaster Recovery white paper now available for download, a great resource for compliance and security-conscious organizations that want to learn more about creating a compliant business continuity and disaster recovery plan:
What is encryption? Encryption takes plaintext (your data) and encodes it into unreadable, scrambled text using algorithms that render it unreadable unless a cryptographic key is used to convert it. Encryption ensures data security and integrity even if accessed by an unauthorized user.
According to NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology), encryption is most effective when applied to both the primary data storage device and on backup media going to an offsite location in the event that data is lost or stolen on its way or at the site, meaning data in transit and at rest. NIST also recommends keeping a solid cryptographic key management process in order to allow encrypted data to be read and available as needed (decryption).
According to data security expert Chris Heuman, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), performing a disaster recovery test of encrypted data should be an important part of your business continuity strategy. Forcing recovery from an encrypted backup source and forcing a recovery of the encryption key to the recovery device allows organizations to find out if encryption is effective before a real disaster or breach occurs.
Encryption for HIPAA and PCI Compliance
Encryption is considered a best practice for data security and is recommended for organizations with sensitive data, such as healthcare or credit card data. It is highly recommended for the healthcare industry that must report to the federal agency, Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), if unencrypted data is exposed, lost stolen or misused.
The federally mandated HIPAA Security Rule for healthcare organizations handling electronic protected health information (ePHI) dictates that organizations must:
In accordance with §164.306… Implement a mechanism to encrypt and decrypt electronic protected health information. (45 CFR § 164.312(a)(2)(iv))
HIPAA also mandates that organizations must:
§164.306(e)(2)(ii): Implement a mechanism to encrypt electronic protected health information whenever deemed appropriate. Protecting ePHI at rest and in transit means encrypting not only data collected or processed, but also data stored or archived as backups.
Keeping data stored in a HIPAA compliant data center with an audited HIPAA hosting provider monitoring and maintaining the facility can help prevent data breaches targeted at stored/archived data. Read our HIPAA Compliant Hosting white paper as it explores the impact of HITECH and HIPAA on data centers. It includes a description of a HIPAA compliant data center IT architecture, contractual requirements, benefits and risks of data center outsourcing, and vendor selection criteria.
For organizations that deal with credit cardholder data, they must adhere to PCI DSS standards that require encryption only if cardholder data is stored. PCI explicitly states:
3.4 Render PAN (Primary Account Number) unreadable anywhere it is stored (including on portable digital media, backup media, and in logs) by using any of the following approaches:
- One-way hashes based on strong cryptography (hash must be of the entire PAN)
- Truncation (hashing cannot be used to replace the truncated segment of PAN)
- Index tokens and pads (pads must be securely stored)
- Strong cryptography with associated key-management processes and procedures
3.4.1.c Verify that cardholder data on removable media is encrypted wherever stored.
Read our PCI Compliant Hosting white paper as it discusses the impact of the PCI DSS standard on data centers and server infrastructure, describes the architecture of a PCI compliant data center both technically and contractually, and outlines the benefits and risks of data center outsourcing, and vendor selection criteria.
While both addressable and required for compliance, encryption is also considered an industry best practice – no longer just an option but necessary to protect backup data in rest and in transit to your disaster recovery/offsite backup site.
For more on encryption from both a technical and compliance perspective, watch our recorded encryption webinar series with IT and data security professional guest speakers as well as experts from Online Tech in:
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