What is encryption?
Encryption is the process of converting readable text in to unreadable text via a secret code called an encryption algorithm. Only the correct key can unlock this encrypted data and convert it back in to readable text. Encryption also provides a “Safe Harbor” from a HIPAA security rule compliance standpoint. This means that if your laptop containing confidential patient data gets stolen and that data is encrypted, then you do not need to report it as a data breach. This saves your practice HIPAA fines and avoids getting your name on the HHS Hall of Shame.
Encrypting the entire hard drive (Full Disk Encryption) is the best solution.
For Windows PCs
Windows 7 Ultimate /Enterprise editions and the Window 8 Professional edition have features like “BitLocker drive encryption”, that encrypts the entire drive or files on the hard drive and “BitLocker To Go” that encrypts data stored on the USB flash drive. Enabling these two features protects your ePHI from unauthorized access and creates a “safe harbor” in the event of a data breach from a compliance standpoint. Additional features present in these editions include AppLocker and DirectAccess which provide IT administrators greater control and oversight thereby increasing data security and reducing the risk of a data breach.
You can protect a folder or multiple folders by encrypting them using third-party software like 7-Zip. You need to download and install this software on your windows machine.
For Apple computers
Filevault is a full disk encryption program available in Apple Mac Computers running Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later. Filevault automatically encrypts the data on your drive. You can enable filevault by :
System Preferences > navigate to “Security & Privacy” folder>Click Filevault > Click “Enable Filevault
Record your recovery key – you have the option to store the key with Apple
Click “Restart” to restart your Mac and begin the encryption process
Encrypting individual Files
In Microsoft Office 2010 or 2013
In an open document, click File > Info > Protect Document > Encrypt with Password.When you select Encrypt with Password, the Encrypt Document dialog box appears. In the Password box, type a password.
In Microsoft Office 2007
In an open document, click Microsoft Office Button > Prepare > Encrypt Document.
Set a password for the document.
Important: Microsoft cannot retrieve lost or forgotten passwords, so keep a list of your passwords and corresponding file names in a safe place.
Protect (encrypt) files/folders on Mac computers using “Disk Utility”
Follow these steps to create an encrypted disk image:
- Access Disk Utility located in /Applications/Utilities
- Click the New Image button, or choose File > New > Blank Disk Image.
- Use “Save As” to name the disk image and save it to the desired location.
- Select a size for the disk image file from the Size pop-up menu.
- Just use "read/write disk image" choice for the image format if you are not sure what to use.
- Choose 128-bit AES encryption (and/or 256-bit AES in Mac OS X v10.5 or later) from the Encryption pop-up menu to encrypt the image's contents with a password. Click the Create button.
- Enter and verify a strong password
Important: If you forget the password, data stored in the encrypted disk image cannot be retrieved.