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Driving Securely Through "The Cloud"

The Cloud"Cloud Computing" is not for everything and not for everyone, but it has made a permanent mark in the lexicon of technology services.

What is Cloud Computing?

In simplistic terms, the Cloud is any application, file host, or virtual computer that is accessed solely via the Internet. The hardware and software actually running those services could be anywhere and therefore is referred to as being in "the Cloud." The Cloud originally was the graphic reference for the Internet in a corporation's network diagram, but now it refers to the services available via the Internet.

Security Concerns in the Cloud

Security professionals have always had concerns over remote file hosting sites (FHSs) and the recent Tech News about services like RapidShare and Dropbox came to light this week confirmed some of those concerns. Data security in the cloud is like a verbal agreement - as good as the paper it's written on. Yet the general public and some individuals in large corporations flock to these services daily - completely unaware of the security risks or understanding how "The Cloud" works. Personally Identifiable Information and other sensitive data is floating around and often falls out of the cloud, landing in the wrong hands.

Regardless of the encryption or security practices professed by a Cloud provider, once the data leaves your network, you no longer own, control, or are able to audit that data. In the case of a subpoena at a data center, a cyber attack or when a device is stolen from a Cloud host, that data has been compromised.

There are great advantages and cost-savings to using Cloud based options to accomplish certain business goals. Renting processing time and applications can work out to a lower Total Cost of Ownership, but beaware of the strings attached. I have taken many applications for test-drives in the Cloud, but when I am responsible for transferring sensitive data on which my employer's integrity and liability are on the line, I prefer using a secure managed file transfer product to drive through the Cloud.

A Secure File Transfer Solution

Connections that are configured correctly will securely send and retrieve files that meet or exceed compliance requirements. The GoAnywhere managed file transfer solution easily encrypts, securely sends and processes data over your existing Internet connection. The GoAnywhere Director automated file transfer application also securely transforms data between platforms and provides native XML scripting.



Managed File Transfer Streamlines HIPAA/HITECH Complexity

Managed File Transfer (MFT) systems are great for policy enforcement, access authentication, risk reduction, and more. But for HIPAA and HITECH requirements, MFT shines as a work-flow automation tool.

MFT as the B2B Enabler

It shines because Managed File Transfer systems are actually automation platforms that can help companies streamline the secure transfer of data between business partners. How? It removes many of the configuration steps traditionally required for complex Business-to-Business (B2B) processes, keeping it straightforward and manageable.

Transferring patient information is a difficult challenge which many healthcare institutions are facing. Data standards were supposed to simplify this communication between healthcare institutions and their partners. But ask any technical professional about the underlying variability of data formats, and you'll hear a tale of potential confusion and complexity.

Nightmares of Compliance

The HITECH regulations within HIPAA require the security and privacy of healthcare records, strongly suggesting the use of data encryption. These records may travel between various healthcare-related partners including hospitals, clinics, payment processors and insurers. Each partner may require their own unique data format, and each may prefer a different encryption technique or transport protocol.

Considering these differing requirements, adding each new trading partner has traditionally needed the attention of in-house programming or manual processes, which has become hugely inefficient. Furthermore, if the new trading partner is not implemented properly, this can also create the potential for errors that may lead to data exposures. Any exposures could move the healthcare institution out of HIPAA/HITECH compliance and may cost them severely.

Simplifying and Integrating Information Transfer

A Managed File Transfer (MFT) solution can significantly reduce the potential for errors and automate those processes. With a good MFT solution, any authorized personnel should be able to quickly build transfer configurations for each healthcare business partner. This should allow for quick selection of strong encryption methods (e.g. Open PGP, SFTP, FTPS, HTTPS) based on the partner's requirements, so that HITECH requirements are maintained. At the same time, a MFT solution creates a visible audit trail to ensure that compliance is sustained.

But, perhaps just as important, a good Managed File Transfer solution is constructed as a modular tool that can be easily integrated into existing software suites and workflow processes. In fact, a good MFT is like a plug-able transfer platform that brings the variability of all kinds of B2B communications under real management.

Now extend the MFT concept beyond the healthcare business sector, into manufacturing, finance, distribution, etc. Suddenly MFT isn't a niche' utility, but a productivity and automation tool that has myriad uses in multiple B2B environments.

A Day-to-day Technical Solution

Perhaps this is why the Gartner Group has identified Managed File Transfer as one of the key technologies that will propel businesses in the coming years. It's more than just a utility suite: It's a system that can be utilized over and over as an integral part of an organization's solutions to automate and secure B2B relationships. In other words, MFT isn't just for specialized compliance requirements, but a lynch-pin of efficient B2B communications technology that can bring real cost savings to every organization.

Healthcare Case Study Utilizing a MFT Solution: Bristol Hospital Takes No Risks with Sensitive Data


Data Breach: Are You Next (or Again)?

A data breach is closer than you think. As the percentage of data breaches increase, the risk of organizations losing your sensitive data also increases. No one wants to receive the news that some or all of their personally identifiable information (PII) was stolen. There are people who are victims of various phishing scams, but it is more likely that your information will be leaked or stolen from an organization.

The health care industry is currently in the spotlight, as they are moving to mandated Electronic Health Records (EHR) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is investigating the two main health care related data privacy concerns today: how to protect patient information and what is the financial harm or cost per record if it is stolen.

The numbers are staggering. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org), there have already been 47 reported leaks or breaches in the health care realm this year. That is about one every other day (102 additional reported breaches if counting business and government).

In the world of data security; breaches are no longer thought of in terms of "if," but "when." Fortunately, there are easy steps companies and health care organizations can take to protect the PII that they maintain from direct hacking attempts. The procedures data security companies recommend you acquire begin with the following:

  • Require strong passwords
  • Use encryption to protect files in motion and at rest
  • Reduce the number of computers that process sensitive information
  • Audit every transaction
  • Limit the number of accounts that can access the critical data

The organization you own or work for doesn't have to be the next headline, start researching different options to protect your customer's sensitive data and keep your organization from a possible breach. The fines and surcharges are exponentially higher than purchasing a secure managed file transfer solution or a database encryption tool. Not sure where to start? Read the Top 10 Managed File Transfer Considerations.


Encrypting Files with OpenPGP

When our users send a file over the Internet there are really just a few things that seem important to them at the time:

a)      Is the file complete?

b)      Is it being sent to the right place?

c)      Will it arrive intact? and -- if the data is sensitive --

d)     Will the intended recipient (and only that recipient) be able to use it?

That's where encryption comes in: By scrambling the data using one or more encryption algorithms, the sender of the file can feel confident that the data has been secured.

But what about the file's recipient? Will she/he be able to decode the scrambled file?

Encryption, Decryption, and PGP

For years, PGP has been one of the most widely used technologies for encrypting and decrypting files. PGP stands for "Pretty Good Privacy" and it was developed in the early 1990s by Phillip Zimmerman. Today it is considered to be one of the safest cryptographic technologies for signing, encrypting and decrypting texts, e-mails, files, directories and even whole partitions to increase the security.

How PGP Works

PGP encryption employs a serial combination of hashing, data compression, symmetric-key cryptography, and, finally, public-key cryptography. Each step uses one of several supported algorithms. A resulting public key is bound to a user name and/or an e-mail address. Current versions of PGP employ both the original "Web of Trust" authentication method, and the X.509 specification of a hierarchical "Certificate Authority" method to ensure that only the right people can decode the encrypted files.

Why are these details important for you to know?

Growing Pains for PGP

PGP has gone through some significant growing pains - including a widely publicized criminal investigation by the U.S. Government. (Don't worry! The Federal investigation was closed in 1996 after Zimmerman published the source code.)

One result of PGP's growing pains has been the fragmentation of PGP: Earlier versions of the technology sometimes can not decode the more recent versions deployed within various software applications. This PGP versioning problem was exacerbated as the ownership of the PGP technology was handed off from one company to another over the last 20 years.

And yet, because PGP is such a powerful tool for ensuring privacy in data transmission, its use continues to spread far more quickly than other commercially owned encryption technologies.

Fragmentation and the Future of PGP

So how is the industry managing the issue of PGP fragmentation? The answer is the OpenPGP Alliance.

In January 2001, Zimmermann started the OpenPGP Alliance, establishing a Working Group of developers that are seeking the qualification of OpenPGP as an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Internet Standard.

Why is this important to you? By establishing OpenPGP as an Internet Standard, fragmentation of the PGP technology can be charted and - to a large degree - controlled.

This means that the encrypted file destined for your system will be using a documented, standardized encryption technology that OpenPGP can be appropriately decrypted. The standardization helps ensure privacy, interoperability between different computing systems, and the charting of a clear path for securely interchanging data.

The OpenPGP Standard and Linoma Software

OpenPGP has now reached the second stage in the IETF's four-step standards process, and is currently seeking draft standard status. (The standards document for OpenPGP is RFC4880.)

Linoma Software uses OpenPGP in its GoAnywhere Director Managed File Transfer solution. Just as importantly, Linoma Software is an active member of the OpenPGP Alliance, contributing to the processes that will ensure that OpenPGP becomes a documented IETF Internet Standard. This will ensure that your investment in Linoma's GoAnywhere managed file transfer software remains current, relevant, and productive.

For more information about OpenPGP and the OpenPGP Alliance, go to http://www.openpgp.org. To better understand how OpenPGP can help your company secure its data transfers, check out Linoma Software's GoAnywhere Director managed file transfer (MFT) solution.


The Culture of Data Security

Data SecurityWe hear a lot of buzz about protecting both customer and company data, but it is alarming how few IT departments and enterprise users are protecting their data correctly. A recent survey conducted for Oracle reveals that fewer than 30 percent of their respondents are encrypting personally identifiable information.

Data and network security should be the basis for every IT decision, but it is typically an afterthought. The Oracle report also concludes that half of companies surveyed profess a strong commitment to data security, but only 17 percent of them have begun to scratch the surface.

Lack of data security is often due to corporate culture and the fear of change. Most companies at the corporate level agree they are committed to data security and protecting customer records. If a company's official stance is to protect their data, where are the security holes?

In my experience, the largest security holes exist in the departments outside the core IT organization. They don't place the same value on the data as the IT Security team. Many companies still allow their employees to perform file transfers directly from their desktops and laptops using FTP or other unsecure tools. Not only are these ad-hoc methods unsecure and capable of exposing passwords or entire databases, they do not all function alike and do not provide centralized logs.

Educating employees about the dangers of unsecured and/or unnecessary data transfer is more business-friendly than preventing it altogether. Part of this process should be moving everyone to a managed file transfer methodology, like Linoma Software's GoAnywhere Director. This not only secures your data transfers, but it creates a digital paper trail showing where assets are going - something which is of particular importance when you consider all the data security compliance regulations in effect today.

Data security for the millions of files sent over the Internet or within "the cloud" is of great importance to all industries, including health care, retail, banking and finance. Internet transfers include the critical data needed to conduct business, such as customer and order information, EDI documents, financial data, payment information, and employee- and health-related information. Many of these information transfers relate to compliance regulations such as PCI DSS, SOX, HIPAA and HITECH, state privacy laws, or other mandates.

We need to grow a data security culture that includes securing file transfers.


Who is Protecting Your Health Care Records?

Patient Privacy in JeopardyHealth Care Records

How important is a patient's privacy? If your organization is a health care facility, the instinctive answer that comes to mind is "Very important!" After all, a patient's privacy is the basis upon which the doctor/patient relationship is based. Right?

But the real answer, when it comes to patient data, may surprise you. According to a study released by the Ponemon Institute, "patient data is being unknowingly exposed until the patients themselves detect the breach."

The independent study, entitled "Benchmark Study on Patient Privacy and Data Security" published in November of 2010examined  the privacy and data protection policies of 65 health care organizations, in accordance with the mandated Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. HITECH requires health care providers to provide stronger safeguards for patient data and to notify patients when their information has been breached.

Patient Data Protection Not a Priority?

According to the study, seventy percent of hospitals say that protecting patient data is not a top priority. Most at risk is billing information and medical records which are not being protected. More significantly, there is little or no oversight of the data itself, as patients are the first to detect breaches and end up notifying the health care facility themselves.

The study reports that most health care organizations do not have the staff or the technology to adequately protect their patients' information. The majority (67 percent) say that they have fewer than two staff members dedicated to data protection management.

And perhaps because of this lack of resources, sixty percent of organizations in the study had more than two data breaches in the past two years, at a cost of almost $2M per organization. The estimated cost per year to our health care systems is over $6B.

This begs the question: Why?

HITECH Rules Fail to Ensure Protection

HITECH encourages health care organizations to move to Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems to help better secure patient data. And, indeed, the majority of those organizations in the studies (89 percent) said they have either fully implemented or planned soon to fully implement EHR. Yet the HITECH regulations to date do not seem to have diminished security breaches at all, and the Ponemon Institute's study provides a sobering evaluation:

Despite the intent of these rules (HITECH), the majority (71 percent) of respondents do not believe these new federal regulations have significantly changed the management practices of patient records.

Unintentional Actions - The Primary Cause of Breaches

According to the report, the primary causes of data loss or theft were unintentional employee action (52 percent), lost or stolen computing device (41 percent) and third-party mistakes (34 percent).

Indeed, it would seem that - with the use of EHR systems - technologies should be deployed to assist in these unintentional breaches. And while 85 percent believe they do comply with the loose legal privacy requirements of HIPAA, only 10 percent are confident that they are able to protect patient information when used by outsourcers and cloud computing providers. More significantly, only 23 percent of respondents believed they were capable of curtailing physical access to data storage devices and severs.

The study lists 20 commonly used technology methodologies encouraged by HITECH and deployed by these institutions, including firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, monitoring systems, and encryption. The confidence these institutions feel in these technologies are also listed. Firewalls are the top choice for both data breach prevention and compliance with HIPAA. Also popular for accomplishing both are access governance systems and privileged user management. Respondents favor anti-virus and anti-malware for data breach prevention and for compliance with HIPAA they favor encryption for data at rest.

The Value of Encryption

The study points to the value of encryption technologies - for both compliance purposes and for the prevention of unintended disclosure - and this value is perceived as particularly high by those who participated in the study: 72 percent see it as a necessary technology for compliance, even though only 60 percent are currently deploying it for data breach prevention. These identified needs for encryption falls just behind the use of firewalls (78 percent), and the requirements of access governance (73 percent).

Encryption for data-at-rest is one of the key technologies that HITECH specifically identifies: An encrypted file can not be accidentally examined without the appropriate credentials. In addition, some encryption packages, such as Linoma's Crypto Complete, monitor and record when and by whom data has been examined. These safeguards permit IT security to audit the use of data to ensure that - should a intrusion breach occur - the scope and seriousness of the breach can be assessed quickly and confidently.

So how important is a patient's privacy? We believe it's vitally important. And this report from the Ponemon Institute should make good reading to help your organization come to terms with the growing epidemic of security breaches.

Read how Bristol Hospital utilizes GoAnywhere Director to secure sensitive data.


Message Queues and Network Shares Added to Managed File Transfer Solution

The new 3.5 release of GoAnywhere Director is now available with more features to help organizations automate, secure and manage file transfers.

In this new release, GoAnywhere Director provides simpler access to files and folders on Network Shares. It can also connect to enterprise Message Queues (e.g. WebSphere MQ) for better integration with customer applications. The new version also includes "File Monitors" which can be used to easily scan for new, modified and/or deleted files in targeted folders. Additionally, this release includes the ability to auto-resume file transfers if FTP and secure FTP connections are broken.

In addition, better High Availability (HA) capabilities allow GoAnywhere Director to store configurations in customer database systems including SQL Server, MySQL and DB2 for IBM I (iSeries). This allows customers to manage and replicate this data using in-house database and HA tools.

I'll say it again, that of all the tools I have purchased over 28 years in I.T. GoAnywhere Director is my favorite!

Don McIntyre, Kansas City, Missouri School District

Read the press release  > >


Dealing with the HITECH Requirements of HIPAA

Last November, six hospitals and one nursing home were fined in California for data security breaches related to patient healthcare records. The total fines were $792,500 by the California Attorney General. The cause? The facilities failed to prevent unauthorized access to confidential patient medical information.

While these breaches made headline news in California, they were but the tip of the iceberg of the total healthcare record breaches in 2010. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, there were 592 reported healthcare data security breaches last year, which potentially exposed more than 11.5 million records. This was double the breaches of healthcare facilities in 2009, opening severe liabilities to the organizations that housed those patient records.

So what now? If your organization can be fined for failing to prevent unauthorized access, how can you safeguard your company's healthcare records?

HITECH - What is it?

Subtitle D of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, extended the complete Privacy and Security Provisions of HIPAA to business associates of covered entities. This includes the extension of newly updated civil and criminal penalties to business associates.  On November 30, 2009, the regulations associated with the new enhancements to HIPAA enforcement took effect.

What's it mean? If your company merely does business with an organization that is involved with healthcare records, HITECH says that you are liable for any security breaches on your watch that reveal patient vital healthcare information. This could include things like names, addresses, social security and Medicare/Medicaid numbers, or any info that could lead to misuse of healthcare information.

So how can your company protect itself from this liability?

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) interim Security Rule says that "a covered entity must consider implementing encryption as a method for safeguarding electronic protected health information." The DHHS rule does permit something called "comparable methods" in lieu of encryption, but it does not specify what those methods might be.

Encryption vs. Comparable Methods: The Vague Alternatives

To determine if your company can provide security through some so-called "comparable method" it's important to look at the types of breaches that occurred in the past. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse provides a good free search service to investigate at http://www.privacyrights.org.

By looking through the types of breaches that occurred in 2010, (stolen laptops, doctors emailing records to their home computers, lost or missing flash drives, unauthorized browsing by employees), the first question that you should be asking is "Can our organization really secure all those potential mechanisms for data theft without relying upon encryption?" It's a difficult task, and the resources that your organization will expend (hardware solutions, policy solutions, etc.) can be significant.

Still, the monetary fines for failing to provide adequate protection are severe, and your management may decide that a thorough review of your security will be required.

By comparison, implementing encryption technology like Crypto Complete - is undoubtedly a faster and more cost-effective means. Crypto Complete encrypts sensitive data at the source using integrated key management, complete with auditing, field encryption and backup encryption, without interrupting the normal IT workflow. Data encryption permits the source of information itself to be put under a lock and key, and once encrypted, that data is protected from both unlawful use and the HITECH liability rule.

Now is the Time

Finally, consider the downside of ignoring the HITECH rules? Take a look at one attorney's perspective "Responding to an Electronic Medical Records Security Breach: What Every Health Care Provider Needs to Know" to get a handle on the steps for determining the scope of the law. You'll be surprised at how comprehensive the requirements have become, and why your management should be concerned.

Encrypting your data is the most recognized, safest and least expensive means of protecting your organization from liability from unauthorized access. If you've been to putting off addressing the potential pitfall of unauthorized access to your data, now is the time to investigate.


FTP Lack of Security Exposed

Apollo Project CSM Simulator Computers and ConsolesFTP was designed as an easy mechanism for exchanging files between computers at a time when networks were new and information security was an immature science. In the 1970s, if you wanted to secure a server from unwanted access, you simply locked the computer room door. User access to data was controlled by the basic User ID and password scenario. (Right is a reminder of how much technology has advanced since the 1970s. The photograph,  taken December 11, 1975, is the Apollo Project CSM Simulator Computers and Consoles. Photo Courtesy of NASA.)

The Internet did not yet exist and the personal computer revolution was still a decade away.

Today, the security of business file transfers is of paramount importance. The exchange of business records between computing systems, between enterprises, and even across international borders has become critical to the global economy.

Yet, the original native FTP facility of TCP/IP wasn't designed for the requirements of the modern, globally connected enterprise. FTP's basic security mechanisms - the User ID and password -- have long ago been outdated by advances in network sleuthing technologies, hackers, malware, and the proliferation of millions of network-attached users.

Risks associated with using native (standard) FTP include:

  • Native FTP does not encrypt data.
  • A user's name and password are transferred in clear text when logging on and can therefore be easily recognized.
  • The use of FTP scripts or batch files leaves User IDs and passwords in the open, where they can easily be hacked.
  • FTP alone, does not meet compliance regulations. (For example: HIPAA, SOX, State Privacy Laws, etc.)
  • When using an FTP connection, the transferred data could "stray" to a remote computer and not arrive at their intended destination leaving your data exposed for third parties or hackers to intercept.
  • Conventional FTP does not natively maintain a record of file transfers.

The first step is to examine how FTP is being used in your organization. The next step is to identify how your organization needs to manage and secure everyone's file transfers. The final step is to evaluate what type of Managed File Transfer Product your company needs.

For more information download our White Paper - Beyond FTP: Securing and Managing File Transfers.