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What are HIPAA-compliant SSL Certificates?

Saturday, January 30th, 2021

SSL certificates have become an integral part of the web. Now, it is more important than ever to secure sensitive communications and protect users’ privacy online. In a world that is rapidly shifting to an even more accentuated digital landscape, adhering to the best security practices is a must for every industry.

The medical field, in particular, is prone to security threats with damaging consequences. As a result, health care organizations must comply with a multitude of regulations. Among them is the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Initially passed in 1996, this federal law protects sensitive patient health data, including the Electronic Protected Health Information (also known as PHI or epHI), from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

Under HIPAA, health care providers must ensure that patients’ details are protected while in transit or at rest. Failure to do so will lead to massive fines up to $50,000 per violation and a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year. With PHI breaches affecting over 34 million Americans in 2019, and 39% of these involving emails, there is no room for negligence. So how can health care providers secure patients’ PHI most efficiently and cost-effectively? Enter digital certificates for information protection and authentication.

What are digital certificates for protection and authentication?

Digital certificates, commonly known as SSL/TLS certificates, are small digital files that secure the communications between two computer applications over a network. Regular SSL certificates encrypt sensitive data in transit between users’ browsers and website servers. Email SSL certificates add end-to-end encryption to all outgoing emails. On top of that, they validate the sender’s identity and digitally sign Microsoft® Office and OpenOffice business documents.

HIPPA’s section on technical safeguards defines how patients’ PHI must be protected by health care providers when sent over a computer network and at rest. SSL certificates help healthcare companies comply with these regulations and ensure that clients’ data is always safe. The key pillars of online security are bulletproof encryption, authentication, and integrity of digital communications. Here, at SSL Dragon, we offer affordable solutions to meet HIPAA’s requirements.

Email SSL certificates for HIPAA compliance

Email continues to be the most common type of written communication in most businesses. Consequently, it’s also the most targeted segment. With millions of accounts hacked every day, it’s estimated that cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion by 2021. While the cost of email breaches may be astronomical, the price companies have to pay for protection is modest in comparison. 

Two renowned Certificate Authorities, Sectigo and Digicert, offer state of the art products to secure email exchanges. CPAC and S/MIME certificates digitally sign and encrypt emails, ensuring that communications are never intercepted and decrypted by cyber-attackers. Besides email encryption, these special certificates also digitally sign electronic documents and provide user two-factor authentication as an additional security layer. 

Email certificates can also verify and validate the senders’ identity, binding it to a unique private key. This way, the recipients know the true identity of the sender. Best of all, S/MIME certificates add an encrypted hash (digital “fingerprint) to email messages that won’t match the digital signature if the message is altered even by one character. This feature guarantees the message’s integrity.

Conclusion

In today’s dynamic Internet, riddled with constant security threats and breaches, there’s a thin line between protecting and exposing customers’ sensitive data. The regulations may be stern and the fines severe, especially in the medical industry; however, now more than ever, health care companies have quick access to high-end tools such as digital certificates that make HIPAA compliance a breeze. If you have additional questions about HIPAA-compliant SSL certificates, check our FAQ section, or contact us directly. We’re here to assist you!