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5/25/2011
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GlobalSign Markets Encryption Service To Healthcare

Healthcare organizations spend too much time on compliance, not enough on data security, according to a GlobalSign survey.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
Sensing that healthcare organizations are spending too much time on regulatory compliance and not enough time addressing actual security threats, digital certificate authority GlobalSign on Thursday will begin marketing its Biowrap file encryption service to the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

The decision comes as the company, a subsidiary of Japan-based GMO Internet Group, released data highlighting an inconsistency in healthcare. According to GlobalSign's survey of 107 healthcare executives, IT administrators, and managers, 56% said that they devote at least a quarter of their work week to compliance with HIPAA and other state and federal regulations. But 33% said it's likely that a breach of healthcare data costing $100,000 or more occurs at least once a week and 34% reported that their own organization had had patient records breached in the last two years.

"They’re obsessed with compliance," Lila Kee, GlobalSign chief product officer and board member, said in an interview. "However, they're not doing a lot in terms of improvements in their workflow and their security systems."

GlobalSign's survey also revealed that 54% of respondents dedicate most of their compliance effort to HIPAA and 37% spend less than a quarter of their time on improving security and protecting patient privacy.

HIPAA privacy rules, which apply to any data breach, electronic or otherwise, have been in effect since 2002 and stem from a 15-year-old law. Yet, Kee said, breaches today tend to be of the electronic variety. She noted that the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act--the health IT section of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act--"brings more clarity to the electronic side," but many healthcare organizations haven't brought their security practices up to date.

"The reality is, I think there are a lot of people with their heads in the sand," Kee said. "They're familiar with what they need to do to comply with, but they may not be doing enough to prevent a data breach."

GlobalSign thus sees healthcare as a market ripe for Biowrap, an identity-based service that allows the sender to choose which pieces of information to encrypt, as long as the user's authentication checks out. According to Kee, Biowrap frees recipients from having to obtain public key infrastructure certificates. "It's very cumbersome, it requires a lot of pre-arrangements, and it isn't very scaleable," Kee said of PKI technology.

The year-old GlobalSign product also helps automate compliance efforts by keeping a log of data access and transfers. "It provides assurances auditors are looking for," Kee said.

Kee said GlobalSign decided to market to the healthcare industry after fielding numerous inquiries about whether Biowrap might be able to help with HIPAA and HITECH compliance. "We weren't that versed in those regulations," Kee admitted. Now, she said the company is confident enough in Biowrap to sell the product directly to the healthcare industry.

In the new, all-digital InformationWeek supplement: Our 2011 Strategic Security Survey confronts the five biggest problems faced by midsize companies. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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