HIPAA COMPLIANCE: HOW TO ERASE YOUR HARD DRIVE
The hard drive of a computer is designed to allow recovery of data even after it’s erased using conventional means. This poses a challenge for companies who possess private client information, especially those handling the public’s health information. These companies need HIPAA Compliance.
If confidential information about your clients leaks out, the repercussions can escalate quite quickly:
- Embarrassment for your company.
- Legal action if found to be negligent.
- Ruined reputation.
This can happen due to a lack of knowledge.
So let’s get educated.
What is HIPAA Compliance?
HIPAA compliance refers to regulations stipulated in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regarding the security of medical information. Title II of this act specifically mentions standards for the following:
- How to process electronic transactions in terms of healthcare.
- Guidelines for access to data.
- What’s needed to comply with the Health and Human Services (HSS) privacy regulations.
The focus of the Act is to ensure reasonable safeguards for data protection. The Act requires the following for compliance:
- All paper and hardware need to be properly documented.
- Destruction of hard drives when necessary, according to regulations via magnetic hard drive degaussing or hard drive shredding.
- Data destruction (on hard drives) through required processes.
- Certification of this process.
- A witness must be present during the process.
- Third-party testing to confirm the action.
You can see the high value placed on correct procedures for the destruction of data.
Types of Companies That MUST Perform Secure Data Destruction
HIPAA adherence must be maintained by companies that possess confidential information on clients in electronic form. This data can include health information, financial records, banking details, psychiatric information, and more. Companies who especially cannot afford to neglect HIPAA compliance are:
- Medical insurance companies.
- Doctors’ rooms and hospitals.
- Company health plans.
If you’re not familiar with how to securely erase hard drive device, you run the risks mentioned above.
Here’s how to wipe external hard drive devices and protect you & your clients from an embarrassing situation.
Conventional Methods of Wiping Your Hard Drive Don’t Cut It
If your company computers are being discarded or sold as used items, you may be tempted to simply erase hard drive components through your operating system. Deleting files or recycle bins won’t actually delete the information. Those sectors are marked as empty, but the information is in fact still there.
What you need is secure data destruction that permanently eliminates that data from each device. This will prevent that data from getting into destructive hands, like those of fraudsters, phishing experts and IT criminals.
Companies who specialize in hard drive wiping adhere to HIPAA compliance laws and make use of hard drive wipe software that writes over the hard drive with code that renders it ‘empty’. This involves complex coding that cannot be done by your operating system.
These companies offer a certificate of destruction as proof that data has been correctly destroyed. You can bear witness to the process and a third party should confirm destruction did take place.
This certificate can be filed in your records to show your destruction processes are HIPAA compliant.
How Does Hard Drive Wipe Software Work?
The difference between conventional deleting of data and permanent data deletion is in the coding of hard drive sectors. Deleting documents leave hard drive sectors marked as empty, but they’re actually just available to be replaced by new data. The data is still recoverable, which leaves your clients’ information vulnerable. Hard drive data wiping software overwrites these sectors with zeros, forcing them blank.
That’s why corporations use companies like Data Destruction to obtain & maintain their HIPAA compliance status when it comes to secure data destruction.
It gives company managers much peace of mind knowing that the responsibility of secure data destruction is no longer on their shoulders.
HIPAA Compliance is an important aspect of any large health corporation, so if your company needs to erase hard drive devices in large quantities, contact a company like Data Destruction Corporation that does it according to HIPPA regulations.
HARD DRIVE DESTRUCTION FAQs
HIPAA mandates that protected health information (PHI) is rendered “unreadable, indecipherable, and otherwise cannot be reconstructed” when being discarded. This entails both physical and digital data, ensuring patient privacy and preventing unauthorized access.
HIPAA’s Security Rule necessitates safeguards to protect electronic PHI (ePHI). By physically destroying data storage devices like hard drives, organizations ensure that ePHI is irretrievable, thus meeting the requirement of making data “unreadable and indecipherable”.
While HIPAA doesn’t specify methods, it mandates the result: data must be irrecoverable. Methods like mechanical shredding, degaussing, and crushing are effective in achieving this, ensuring the data can’t be reconstructed or accessed.
Organizations should maintain a documented data destruction protocol, employ certified destruction services, and obtain a Certificate of Destruction post-process. Additionally, working with services that offer real-time tracking and witnessed destruction can enhance compliance assurance.
How does on-site hard drive shredding enhance the security of data destruction for healthcare organizations?
On-site shredding allows organizations to witness the destruction process, ensuring immediate and transparent elimination of PHI. This eliminates the risks associated with transporting sensitive data and offers heightened security assurance.
Are there additional standards or regulations that healthcare organizations should be aware of alongside HIPAA when it comes to data destruction?
Yes, regulations such as NIST 800-88 and DoD 5220.22-M offer guidelines on media sanitization and data destruction. Adhering to these can further fortify the data destruction process, ensuring comprehensive compliance.
What risks do healthcare organizations face if they fail to properly destroy data in line with HIPAA requirements?
Non-compliance can lead to severe penalties, ranging from hefty fines to criminal charges. Additionally, breaches can damage an organization’s reputation, result in lawsuits, and compromise patient trust.
Hard drive wiping involves using software to erase data, rendering it irrecoverable, but the drive remains intact. Shredding physically destroys the drive, making data retrieval impossible. Both methods, when executed properly, can be HIPAA-compliant, but shredding offers an added layer of physical assurance.
How can healthcare organizations stay updated on best practices for HIPAA-compliant data destruction?
Organizations should regularly consult official resources such as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ website, attend industry seminars, and collaborate with certified data destruction experts to stay abreast of evolving best practices.
Beyond hard drives, what other storage mediums should healthcare organizations be concerned about for HIPAA-compliant data destruction?
Healthcare organizations use a range of devices to store PHI, including SSDs, USB drives, CDs, DVDs, magnetic tapes, and mobile devices. All these storage mediums must be treated with the same rigor as hard drives when it comes to data destruction to maintain HIPAA compliance.
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