News and Insights


By Jason Orgill, Director of Product Management and Business Development at NetClarity

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) takes on new meaning in the healthcare world.  Patient records include data beyond just a name and an address, but also sensitive medical record data – termed ePHI (Electronic Protected Health Information). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes regulations designed to create a safe environment for this information, whether it be transmitted from one person to another, or from one form of technology to another. In 2008, The National Institute of Standards and Technology released “An Introductory Resource Guide for Implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule”, which provides a broad view to how you should ensure data security.

While no single technical solution has been devised to make you instantly HIPAA compliant, the NetClarity internal security appliance helps IT administrators quickly address the following HIPAA standards. I’d like to highlight two in particular:

  1. (§ 164.312(a)(1)): Implement technical policies and procedures for electronic information systems that maintain electronic protected health information to allow access only to those persons or software programs that have been granted access rights as specified in § 164.308(a)(4).
  2. (§ 164.312(b)): Implement hardware, software, and/or procedural mechanisms that record and examine activity in information systems that contain or use electronic protected health information.

The first requirement listed here is no small task, but NetClarity can simplify it immensely with its plug-’n-play architecture. The scenario we’d like to avoid is depicted below, where both trusted and untrusted users attempt to access ePHI via mobile (or any device for that matter).

These users may have found a way to connect via your wireless network or even wired network. These networks are assumed trusted, but without the ability to identify every IP device actually using your network, you are flying blind and relying only upon whatever wireless security mechanisms or physical security mechanisms are in place in your organization. Ultimately, you need to make an access decision at the device level, and that requires that you have visibility into your network real time. NetClarity provides you that, as shown below. Our customers are ALWAYS surprised to see more devices than they anticipated!

What good is information if you do not have the ability to act on it? You can enforce access policies against devices that are not on your trusted devices lists using the EasyNAC blocking technology on the appliance. This is the first layer of defense shown in the figure below. That is, you can simply plug the device into a port on the network you’d like to protect, and immediately, without any switch integration or agent/endpoint installation, or having any network downtime, you can block untrusted devices. Our EasyNAC technology relies on a low-bandwidth, proprietary denial of service stream sent toward the untrusted device. This is 100% plug-‘n-play and non-intrusive to your network – except for devices that are untrusted!

The next entity you should deny access to is malware. Malware-infected devices often serve as the drones that can be commanded remotely to gather and transmit information back to a remote site on the internet. NetClarity provides protection against these types of attacks. When traffic coming from a device appears to be destined toward one of these remote sites, the appliance can make an on-the-fly policy decision about the offending device and change its status from trusted to untrusted. At that point its fate is determined by what policy you have associated with your untrusted devices. You may wish to block them from any access to the network, or perhaps grant limited access to some devices on your network.

The second layer of defense speaks to the Auditing capability on the appliance. Granted, the intention of the auditing regulation is likely to monitor the actions deliberately taken by the device users. These logging capabilities are certainly important. However, the health of a device, in terms of its security vulnerabilities, and how this changes over time, is invaluable information for a systems administrator in a healthcare world. The NetClarity appliance can be configured to perform regular audits against all of your network devices, and can generate differential reports to help you understand the changes that have taken place since prior audits. This is particularly because the reports serve as useful documentation for those who would audit the compliance level of the network. It can be shown that you have been performing your due diligence in taking the appropriate steps to maintain your network security posture, by simply printing a series of differential reports produced from regularly scheduled scans.

Reports are one thing – but actually managing vulnerabilities and remediating them can seem daunting. The appliance comes with a workflow manager to help administrators assign vulnerability remediation tasks to resources in their organization, as well as the ability to escalate various tickets.

The low TCO and plug-n’-play install of a NetClarity appliance make it a great match for any administrator striving to protect ePHI.

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