Tag: privacy

03 Oct 2019

A Sensitive Issue: Secure Message Encryption for Large Healthcare Networks

Large regional health authorities can employ thousands of people and have a volunteer network in the thousands or tens of thousands. And, since health authorities send, receive and store so much personal and medical data, secure communications are essential.

Here’s why healthcare organizations are vulnerable to privacy breaches, the consequences of mishandling patient data and how encryption makes secure communications possible for health authorities with a large staff and volunteer base.

Why healthcare organizations are vulnerable to privacy and security breaches  

According to a recent report[i], 18 per cent of all cybersecurity breaches happen in healthcare. And internal actors—including employees, former employees, contractors and business associates—cause 59 per cent of the breaches in healthcare.[ii]

Here’s why healthcare organizations including health authorities are vulnerable:

 

  • Lack of training for staff and volunteers – The top two patterns in healthcare breaches relate to miscellaneous errors and privilege misuse. Privilege misuse is about employees peeking into patient records that they have access to but shouldn’t be looking at. Training can help build a culture of privacy and security at healthcare organizations and help staff understand the real consequences of snooping. In 2018, for example, The Ottawa Hospital fired an employee for peeking at 30 patient files and the year before, a student intern was fined $25,000 for accessing the personal health information of 139 people (also in Ontario).

 

  • Outdated communication tools – Some communication tools simply aren’t secure. This includes old pager systems used to send messages—including patient information, diagnoses and hospital room numbers—over unencrypted radio frequencies. When unencrypted communication methods are the path of least resistance, they’ll continued to be used, despite privacy issues.

 

  • Inconsistent mandatory reporting – While mandatory reporting of data breaches is standard across most states and Europe, that’s not the case in Canada. Reporting data breaches isn’t yet mandatory in Manitoba, Quebec or British Columbia. Mandatory reporting is positive because it brings breaches into the public eye—which can encourage organizations to act quickly to resolve security issues.

 

The consequences of mishandling patient data

In Canada, heath information is protected under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). When health authorities mishandle patient data, patients lose trust in them, they come under fire from local privacy watchdogs and they can incur significant costs and fines. For example, at Capital Health in Nova Scotia, one employee improperly accessed the private health records of 105 people over six years—which cost Capital Health a $400K settlement.[iii]

For healthcare organizations with a large employee and volunteer base, encryption reduces the likelihood of mishandled patient data while increasing cybersecurity.

What does encryption do?

Encryption converts data and information into a code to prevent unauthorized access to the data while it’s in transit and at rest. It simply means private information is kept private. When choosing an encryption solution, algorithms aren’t the primary differentiators because almost all contemporary security products feature 2048-bit RSA encryption, 256-bit AES encryption and SHA2 signatures.

Instead, the real encryption differentiator is customer experience—how easy is it for patients, employees and volunteers to use the encryption solution? Our OneWorld encryption platform is user-friendly and seamlessly integrates into existing workflows.

5 ways the OneWorld encryption platform makes secure communications possible for health authorities

 

  1. Automatic encryption – Policy-based encryption allows you to automatically secure communications based on their content. For example, with Echoworx’s OneWorld encryption platform, emails with sensitive information—including protected health information—are automatically identified, securely routed to the OneWorld web portal and encrypted. Encrypted delivery methods include TLS encryption, encrypted PDFs and attachments, certificate encryption and web portal encryption.

 

  1. Reporting and monitoring – In cybersecurity, it’s important to be able to identify and investigate irregular communications. For example, you should be able to see who sent any email you’re reviewing, when it was sent and whether it was opened or not. Reporting and monitoring helps you reduce the risk of internal cyber vulnerabilities.

 

  1. Communications control – With so many employees, volunteers and healthcare partners, it’s easier than ever for sensitive data to leave the safety of your corporate network, either intentionally or accidentally. You can prevent this with communications controls such as preventing email forwarding, setting automatic encryption based on the type of email, keywords, phrases and attachments and enabling a single sign-on solution—to keep sensitive information on your protected network.

 

  1. Path of least resistance – With a user-friendly encryption platform in place, regional health authorities maintain control over their communications and make security the path of least resistance for their end-users. If an encryption platform makes more work for employees, they won’t adopt it. But when it seamlessly integrates into existing daily tasks, they will. User-friendliness isn’t a nice to have; it’s what makes widespread implementation possible.

 

  1. Positive return on investment – While encryption is no longer optional, health authorities can save money by investing in the right platform. For example, the Forrester Total Economic Impact™ study revealed that organizations that adopt Echoworx’s OneWorld encryption platform can expect a return on investment of 155 per cent, a payback period of seven months and the unquantified benefits that come with enhanced customer experience and reduced downtime.

 

If your regional health authority has thousands of employees and volunteers communicating with patients and other healthcare organizations, choosing the right encryption platform is an essential part of your cybersecurity program. Why wait? Reduce the likelihood of mishandled patient data by enabling automaic encryption for thousands of employees. Contact us today.

By: Michael Roberts, VP of Technology, Echoworx

 

Source:

[i] Cyber Security and Healthcare: An Evolving Understanding of Risk (Symantec)

[ii] Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report

[iii] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/capital-health-privacy-breach-proposed-settlement-1.4858784

12 Jun 2018
privacy protection

One Hot Mess: Encryption, Dating and the Betterment of Privacy Protection

Would you feel comfortable sending personal information over email without encryption? Feel shy answering ‘Yes?’ You’re not alone. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of people choose to share sensitive personal information online. And our trust on the people and companies we send them to is often taken for granted.

You might be surprised to learn just how exposed your customers really are.

In a recent survey of IT professionals and IT decision-makers, conducted by Echoworx, a clear vein of importance attributed to encryption emerged, with 75 per cent of respondents answering ‘yes’ to whether their organization has an encryption strategy. But, as less than half these same respondents answered in the affirmative that their organizations are indeed using encryption extensively, the actual application of it is questionable.

In other words: That personal information your customers are providing to a whole motley crew of banks, healthcare professionals and government bodies? There’s a chance their recipients, who might even be your own staff, are storing it unfiltered, accessible, and unprotected on their servers.

Barriers that are Preventing More Extensive Use of EncryptionShocking, right?

To help understand the other side of the coin, we posed questions to consumers on their willingness to provide personal information both digitally and on first dates. The results were startling – with respondents more than willing to provide personal info, from their full name to their SIN card in both situations.

Encryption is hot infograph
What the findings from our Encryption Survey reveal
about our perspective on data privacy. Learn more.

So what?

When blended together, we are left with two narratives telling a tale of two cities. And it’s messy, but not as cryptic as it seems. Rather there appears to be more a disconnect between our willingness to adopt encryption and our actual application of it in our working lives.

Over half the IT professionals surveyed, for example, responded favourably to adopting encryption – outlining the privacy technology as very important or crucial to their organizations. And nearly three quarters of this group indicated that are actively building encryption strategies. Seems progressive?

And then the reality hits: only half of them are in it for the betterment of information privacy. The other half, almost a clear-cut 50 per cent, admit they advocate for encryption to satisfy privacy regulations and avoid expensive breaches – not because they are actually concerned about protecting sensitive customer data.

The lack of enthusiasm for encryption application permeates through their entire organizations – with only 40 per cent of organizations using their existing encryption technology extensively. And the area they do emphasize encryption, in external communications, is seemingly not enough given that many organizations are now moving their email servers to the cloud – which makes even internal communications external in nature.

And yet customers continue to trust you without encryption

While three quarters of customers know what encryption means and why it exists, 45 per cent of them continue to send personal details via open email – and they put a lot of trust into the people they send them to. Take the safety of an email, for example. Despite the rise in spear phishing, and other email-related attacks mining for personal data, the average person evaluates the safety of an email in under thirty seconds.

Would you give up your personal data to someone in the street in under 30 seconds? Sounds crazy, but according to survey data, the average person might. Did you know, for example, that nearly a quarter of people are likely to share their real birth date, email address, full name and phone number on the first date? And these concerning figures are even more pronounced with men – 12 per cent of whom are just as likely to disclose their SIN card number on a first date as they are to brag about their salary.

And it doesn’t stop there.

When it comes to online forms, over three quarters of your customers admit to providing sensitive personal information. And, considering they take half a minute to inspect the safety of an online form, the amount of details they provide is startling.

Did you know, for example, that over 10 per cent of your customers are comfortable providing their bank PIN number through an online form? Or that a further 34 per cent of them have given their SIN card number? And that a small, but more trusting, 5 per cent willingly disclose their passport number when prompted by faceless forms?

But, at the end of the day, why does this matter to your business?

Data breaches are expensive messes to clean up and they happen more often than you think – with nearly a quarter of people admitting to having had their personal information stolen. In addition to massive fines pushing into the tens of millions of dollars, and drawn out class action lawsuits, a high-profile breach can cause irreparable damage to your brand trust.

Providing your customers and employees with a concise yet complex high-performing encryption solution can help alleviate some privacy woes in your organization – especially for mobile. Newer encryption platforms integrate easily with existing IT systems and offer multiple flexible methods of protecting information in transit.

In summary, encryption matters, and IT professionals get this – even if their reasons lie primarily in the bottom line of compliancy. But actually applying encryption throughout your organization is a different issue altogether and relies on making your privacy process more streamlined and less of a hassle for users. But the payoffs of preparing for privacy are huge – and your efforts will be noticed.

Check out some of the creative ways organizations are using our Echoworx OneWorld encryption platform to help ensure the safe transit of everything from bulk delivery of millions of e-statements to sensitive onboarding documents for new clients. The proactive applications of encryption are endless, and can be automated, for when your employees’ behaviour can’t be.

By Nicholas Sawarna, ‎Sr. Content Marketing Specialist, Echoworx