The method of encryption is defined in the law, adopts the standards set forth by the NIST, and there is a mechanism to update what is acceptable annually through published Guidances. This law is an improvement over what was previously in place. Read the HIPAA Security and Privacy rules as last updated in 2005, and then look at the major steps forward HITECH makes.
That future Guidances can update standards without having to send a law through Congress is also going to allow for future improvements in security, too. HITECH was part of the economic recovery act (ARRA), which shows how difficult it was for HIPAA to get updates - this had to be tacked onto an unrelated must-pass bill.
This article is from an encryption vendor who is stating that most encryption products are what he calls "point-to-point" encryption I bet he considers his own product to not be, thus it is superior, and thus HIPAA should require all companies to buy his products.
For those of you who think "encryption" is left up to the governed:
The HHS Guidance identifies four situations where paper or electronic data may be vulnerable to a breach, and suggests appropriate safeguards to secure the PHI:
- "Data at Rest". This is data that resides in databases, file systems, and other structured storage methods. The HHS Guidance points to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-111, Guide to Storage Encryption Technologies for End User Devices as the approved methodology.
- "Data in Motion". This is data that is moving through a network, including wireless transmission. The HHS Guidance points to specific requirements in Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2 which include, as appropriate, standards described in NIST Special Publications 800-52, Guidelines for the Selection and Use of Transport Layer Security (TLS) Implementations; 800-77, Guide to IPsec VPNs; or 800-113, Guide to SSL VPNs, and may include others which are FIPS 140-2 validated.
- "Data Disposed". This is discarded paper records or recycled electronic media. The electronic media must have been cleared, purged, or destroyed consistent with NIST Special Publication 800-88, Guidelines for Media Sanitization, such that the PHI cannot be retrieved. For discarded paper records, PHI would need to be shredded or destroyed in a manner that precludes reconstruction.
- "Data in Useâ. This is data in the process of being created, retrieved, updated or deleted. The encryption and destruction processes described above, along with the general HIPAA safeguards, will apply to all data in use.