Compliance is always a tricky and complex subject, and HIPAA compliance takes this complexity to an even higher level. Fear of compliance woes tends to make many businesses wary of cloud computing solutions, but it is possible for companies to ensure that they safely employ HIPAA compliant hosting.
By addressing five key components, cloud computing and HIPAA compliance can peacefully coexist.
# 1. Always protect the data
The biggest factor for ensuring HIPAA compliance is the protection of data. HIPAA compliance revolves around the concept that sensitive data needs to be protected at all points on a network. This goes for cloud computing as well as old-fashion in-house networks. For in-house networks, physical security and a tough perimeter are vital for adhering to compliance.
With cloud computing, it is also vital to utilize secure transmissions while the data is in transit. Strong encryption should be always used, and sensitive data should be segregated from non-sensitive data. Sensitive data requires more stringent security while in motion or at rest, and this means that stronger security has to follow this data as well. There are many compliance tools that can aid in the secure storage of sensitive data, and this level of security may not be necessary for non-sensitive data on the network. By segregating data on the network, it is possible to reduce costs by highly securing only the data that needs this level of security.
# 2. Practice restriction
Restriction is one of the greatest assets available when it comes to protecting data. By employing access control lists and granting the least amount of privilege necessary, it is possible to lock down sensitive data and keep it safe. Access control lists can limit the users and devices that are allowed access to sensitive data keeping those who have no legitimate reason for access away from items they should not be accessing.
# 3. Utilize auditing and reporting
Auditing and reporting are often looked at only after an incident occurs. However, with strong HIPAA audit and reporting practices, it is possible to stop breaches and other incidents before they occur. User roles and access attempts should be logged and reviewed. By sniffing out suspicious activity, it is possible to remove access before it is abused. Additionally, security audits should be performed at least annually. A thorough security audit can spot weaknesses before they are exploited by hackers, and this can prevent breaches before they happen.
# 4. Adopt proactive disaster recovery and backup solutions
Proactive disaster recovery and backup solutions are another vital key to HIPAA compliance. If a disaster or breach occurs, it is vital to have a contingency plan that ensures employees to know what steps they need to take. Backup solutions provide redundancy of data, and in the event of a disaster or breach, there are backup solutions that can seamlessly take over operations to get the business running again with minimal disruption.
However, it is also important to ensure that sensitive backup data is protected and safeguarded to adequate compliance levels. It’s not enough to just have backups; they need to be protected as well.
# 5. Ensure breaches and security incidents are addressed swiftly
Nobody wants to be the victim of a breach or a security incident. Breaches and security incidents can be expensive and cause reputational damage. There are confusing regulations regarding what needs to be reported and what constitutes an actual breach. As a natural result of these harsh consequences, the question of whether to address a breach or let it slide often pops up. Ethically, and legally, breaches need to be reported and addressed.
While it may be inconvenient or costly, the cost of ignoring a breach that later comes to the surface is much higher than addressing the initial incident. With stakes this high, it is vital that even potential breaches and incidents are addressed swiftly and comprehensively. To ensure compliance during the panic that follows in the wake of a breach or incident, have a well- written incident response plan in place.
Also, educate employees on how to report a breach and encourage open communication. Often, employees are reluctant to report serious breaches due to fear of discipline. It is important for employees to know that an unreported incident or breach is much more damaging than one that was reported right away.
Cloud computing has numerous advantages, and HIPAA compliance fears should not stand in the way of a business reaping these benefits. By paying attention to these five key components, it is possible to have a secure and HIPAA compliant hosting solution.
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Images: ”3D Illustration of a Cloud Secured with a Lock / Shutterstock.com“