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US healthcare data plan slammed for encryption get-out clause

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New data breach rules for US healthcare providers have come under criticism from a security firm that specialises in encryption.

As part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which comes into effect from 23 September, health organisations in the US that use encryption will no longer be obliged to notify clients of breaches.

More specifically (as explained here - PDF) only HIPAA-covered healthcare providers and health plans that omit the use of encryption or information destruction will be obliged to notify individuals about a breach of their personal health information.

Even then it will be up to affected organisations to decide whether a breach poses a significant risk of harm to individuals before deciding to issue data breach notices.

Voltage Security argues that the changes in the law threatens encryption protection as a get-out clause for data loss woes, irrespective of how secure from extraction sensitive partially-protected material might be.

"The protection law should address everyone – including those who have already implemented encryption, since most encryption systems are point-to-point even when they say otherwise," said Mark Bower, director of information protection solutions at Voltage Security. ®

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