|By Gilad Parann-Nissany||
|May 25, 2012 08:00 AM EDT||
Healthcare data security has been around for a long time, but as cloud computing gains more and more traction, healthcare providers as well as healthcare software vendors, would like to use the cloud advantages and migrate healthcare data, or run healthcare software from a cloud infrastructure. In this blog I’ll focus on specific cloud computing healthcare security concerns and how cloud encryption can help meeting regulatory requirements.
The first step to securing healthcare data is to identify the type of healthcare information and the appropriate cloud storage for it. Visual healthcare data is mainly comprised of large media files such as x-ray, radiology, CT scans, and other types of video and imaging. Such files are often stored in distributed storage, such as Amazon Web Services S3 (Simple Storage Service), or Microsoft Azure blobs. Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as patient records, is often stored in a relational database as structured data.
In many cases healthcare providers and healthcare software vendor are required to protect both data types, and their main challenge becomes the management of this diverse data environment in a cost effective and management friendly manner. As mentioned in one of my previous articles, cloud encryption should be considered a fundamental first step.
But data encryption is only one part of the equation. The most challenging issue healthcare ISVs’ and providers are facing is the issue of the encryption keys, and how to effectively and securely manage encryption keys in the cloud without sacrificing patients’ trust and meet regulatory compliance. Current key management solutions are often limited and do not provide an answer to the most important question: “who can access to patients’ data?” Or in other words – “who’s managing the encryption keys?” Existing key management solutions will either let you, the healthcare provider, manage encryption keys for your users in the cloud, or install (yet another) physical key management server back in your datacenter. Unfortunately, both of these approaches leave the encryption keys – and therefore patients’ data – in the hands of the ISV or the provider. The latter approach also reintroduces a physical data center into the equation, and so eliminates many of the cloud benefits. In our opinion, cloud key management is one of the biggest stumbling blocks standing between healthcare providers and taking advantage of the cloud.
Best practice for an effective and secure cloud key management is split-key encryption. Split key is a patent pending and innovative technology designed for key management in the cloud. It allows healthcare providers for the first time to manage encryption keys in the cloud, yet at the same time to split the encryption key, so customers (for example a hospital using medical applications hosted in the cloud) are the only ones who control their “half key”, and therefore patient data is never visible to the cloud provider, or healthcare software vendor. (For further reading about Porticor’s split-key technology click here).
Ariel Dan is co-founder at Porticor Cloud Security.