HIPAA Omnibus, Meet Indifference

Do you want to know what you will be reading about in the coming weeks? HIPAA. The Department of Health and Human Services has updated the HIPAA requirements. The 563-page package of regulations includes: Extensive modifications to the HIPAA privacy, security, and enforcement rules, including security and privacy requirements for business associates and their subcontractors. A final version of the HIPAA breach notification rule, which clarifies when a breach must be reported to authorities. Dramatic changes to marketing and fundraising requirements. Modifications to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) which prohibits health plans from disclosing genetic information for underwriting purposes. With topics such as breach notification and marketing constraints, it’s the page-turner you’d imagine it to be. Hundreds of pages of distilled public comments and final rulings. Even if you’re like me, and have an interest in these esoteric topics, they are just words on a page. Does this change anything? Probably not. We have been hearing about the serious nature of HIPAA and HITECH for about a decade without meaningful changes to data privacy or security for health related information. While there is a renewed focus on discouraging healthcare firms from marketing protected health data, or selling patient data to third-party marketing firms, there is little do promote proactive changes to data security or privacy. HIPAA will remain a “topic of interest”, but see little action until we see serious fines or someone goes to jail. Expect lots of media coverage and very little action. Share:

Read Post

It’s just Dropbox. What’s the risk?

From Ben Kepes’ post: Sure Dropbox is Potentially Insecure, but Does it Matter? First, why do people go around IT to use Dropbox? In the majority of cases these are good, solid, hardworking employees that don’t want to introduce risk to their organization but that do want to get stuff done. For whatever reason (inflexible legacy systems, stubborn IT departments, need to be agile) they’ve decided that for a particular project, they want to introduce Dropbox into their workflow to quickly and easily share some content. Evidently folks are storing important stuff in Dropbox, even though many of them know if violates their corporate policy. Duh. We have seen this over and over and over again through the years. Either IT and security helps employees get their jobs done, or employees find ways around the policies. Period. Then Ben gets into a discussion of risk, and trying to understand how bad all this file sharing is. He is trying to gauge the real risk of these folks storing that stuff on Dropbox. He uses a firefighter analogy too, so Rich must love this guy. It gets back to remembering the role of security, which is to ensure business operates safely. It would be great to just implement a blanket policy preventing Dropbox or any application you don’t like. Spend a zillion dollars on a whole mess of NGFW to enforce the policies, and everyone wins, no? It always comes back to making the right decision for your business. Don’t ever forget who you work for and why you are there. Ben sums up pretty well to close his post. Now of course my infosec friends are paid to be eternally suspicious. These guys are (professionally at least) glass half empty – their concerns are valid and they bring an important balance to the picture. But it’s just that, balance, at the same time we need to look long and hard at the benefits that “rogue IT” can bring and ask ourselves whether we shouldn’t in fact lighten up a little. There shouldn’t be absolutes, which irks me. I like clear black & white decisions. But that’s not the real world. If you are Dr. No, let me remind you of the immortal words of Sgt Hulka. Lighten up, Francis. I made my Stripes reference for the day, so I’m done. [drops mic] Share:

Read Post

Totally Transparent Research is the embodiment of how we work at Securosis. It’s our core operating philosophy, our research policy, and a specific process. We initially developed it to help maintain objectivity while producing licensed research, but its benefits extend to all aspects of our business.

Going beyond Open Source Research, and a far cry from the traditional syndicated research model, we think it’s the best way to produce independent, objective, quality research.

Here’s how it works:

  • Content is developed ‘live’ on the blog. Primary research is generally released in pieces, as a series of posts, so we can digest and integrate feedback, making the end results much stronger than traditional “ivory tower” research.
  • Comments are enabled for posts. All comments are kept except for spam, personal insults of a clearly inflammatory nature, and completely off-topic content that distracts from the discussion. We welcome comments critical of the work, even if somewhat insulting to the authors. Really.
  • Anyone can comment, and no registration is required. Vendors or consultants with a relevant product or offering must properly identify themselves. While their comments won’t be deleted, the writer/moderator will “call out”, identify, and possibly ridicule vendors who fail to do so.
  • Vendors considering licensing the content are welcome to provide feedback, but it must be posted in the comments - just like everyone else. There is no back channel influence on the research findings or posts.
    Analysts must reply to comments and defend the research position, or agree to modify the content.
  • At the end of the post series, the analyst compiles the posts into a paper, presentation, or other delivery vehicle. Public comments/input factors into the research, where appropriate.
  • If the research is distributed as a paper, significant commenters/contributors are acknowledged in the opening of the report. If they did not post their real names, handles used for comments are listed. Commenters do not retain any rights to the report, but their contributions will be recognized.
  • All primary research will be released under a Creative Commons license. The current license is Non-Commercial, Attribution. The analyst, at their discretion, may add a Derivative Works or Share Alike condition.
  • Securosis primary research does not discuss specific vendors or specific products/offerings, unless used to provide context, contrast or to make a point (which is very very rare).
    Although quotes from published primary research (and published primary research only) may be used in press releases, said quotes may never mention a specific vendor, even if the vendor is mentioned in the source report. Securosis must approve any quote to appear in any vendor marketing collateral.
  • Final primary research will be posted on the blog with open comments.
  • Research will be updated periodically to reflect market realities, based on the discretion of the primary analyst. Updated research will be dated and given a version number.
    For research that cannot be developed using this model, such as complex principles or models that are unsuited for a series of blog posts, the content will be chunked up and posted at or before release of the paper to solicit public feedback, and provide an open venue for comments and criticisms.
  • In rare cases Securosis may write papers outside of the primary research agenda, but only if the end result can be non-biased and valuable to the user community to supplement industry-wide efforts or advances. A “Radically Transparent Research” process will be followed in developing these papers, where absolutely all materials are public at all stages of development, including communications (email, call notes).
    Only the free primary research released on our site can be licensed. We will not accept licensing fees on research we charge users to access.
  • All licensed research will be clearly labeled with the licensees. No licensed research will be released without indicating the sources of licensing fees. Again, there will be no back channel influence. We’re open and transparent about our revenue sources.

In essence, we develop all of our research out in the open, and not only seek public comments, but keep those comments indefinitely as a record of the research creation process. If you believe we are biased or not doing our homework, you can call us out on it and it will be there in the record. Our philosophy involves cracking open the research process, and using our readers to eliminate bias and enhance the quality of the work.

On the back end, here’s how we handle this approach with licensees:

  • Licensees may propose paper topics. The topic may be accepted if it is consistent with the Securosis research agenda and goals, but only if it can be covered without bias and will be valuable to the end user community.
  • Analysts produce research according to their own research agendas, and may offer licensing under the same objectivity requirements.
  • The potential licensee will be provided an outline of our research positions and the potential research product so they can determine if it is likely to meet their objectives.
  • Once the licensee agrees, development of the primary research content begins, following the Totally Transparent Research process as outlined above. At this point, there is no money exchanged.
  • Upon completion of the paper, the licensee will receive a release candidate to determine whether the final result still meets their needs.
  • If the content does not meet their needs, the licensee is not required to pay, and the research will be released without licensing or with alternate licensees.
  • Licensees may host and reuse the content for the length of the license (typically one year). This includes placing the content behind a registration process, posting on white paper networks, or translation into other languages. The research will always be hosted at Securosis for free without registration.

Here is the language we currently place in our research project agreements:

Content will be created independently of LICENSEE with no obligations for payment. Once content is complete, LICENSEE will have a 3 day review period to determine if the content meets corporate objectives. If the content is unsuitable, LICENSEE will not be obligated for any payment and Securosis is free to distribute the whitepaper without branding or with alternate licensees, and will not complete any associated webcasts for the declining LICENSEE. Content licensing, webcasts and payment are contingent on the content being acceptable to LICENSEE. This maintains objectivity while limiting the risk to LICENSEE. Securosis maintains all rights to the content and to include Securosis branding in addition to any licensee branding.

Even this process itself is open to criticism. If you have questions or comments, you can email us or comment on the blog.