HIPAA Security regulations require organizations with Protected Health Information (PHI) on their network to protect this information from unauthorized access via the Internet. Firewalls assist in fulfilling this requirement by acting as a network's security fence against hacker attacks and unnecessary Internet traffic. Firewalls can be actual hardware appliances, software or a combination of both, that are configured to block data from certain locations while allowing relevant and necessary data through. Your IT provider should be periodically checking your network's firewall to ensure that it is active and providing the level of security needed for your organization. You also have the option of activating the Windows Firewall on your PC (found in the Control Panel option of Windows). This may give you an additional layer of protection for your home PC as well.
IPC's firewall is only one piece of our security arsenal. Firewalls offer little protection against email-borne viruses and spyware. In the next issue, we will discuss free software available to assist with blocking spyware and malware.
HI-TECH Act continued
Why the increased security you ask? The new HITECH Act, part of The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), includes significant changes to HIPAA. One of these changes requires that in the case of a breach of "unsecured" Protected Health Information (PHI) the individual patients and the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services must be notified. If more than 500 patients' information is leaked - which would be the case if your backup CD got into the wrong hands - the local media must be notified. By encrypting these files they are considered "secured" and these notification requirements do not apply.
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