How to configure a HIPAA-compliant environment on the AWS cloud

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When it comes to software or apps for the health industry, HIPAA compliance has become a fundamental requirement. Software or applications that comply with HIPAA measures provide security standards around customer protected health information (PHI) and personal data. Amazon Web Service (AWS) is a reputable cloud service provider that can help teams comply with HIPAA security measures. However, there are some further steps that should be taken to configure cloud compliance for any software or application for health services. Let’s check them out below.

Access Control

HIPAA has strict requirements when it comes to access control. All healthcare services should set up access control management to authenticate access. Access control systems include sets of security access policies that control users in regard to the actions they can take when accessing web services and cloud resources. Access to cloud services itself is something that can be tricky. However, with access control settings through a service such as AWS IAMyour team can manage permissions based on predetermined access levels. Your team can also configure diverse types of users or groups.  Access control helps ensure the users have appropriate access when accessing applications and cloud services. 

Authorization and Authentication

In order to be granted access to the sources or systems, it is imperative that users are verified and authenticated. When a user wants to access key infrastructure, they need to be authenticated. Developing a robust authentication process is a key element of securing cloud infrastructure and complying with HIPAA.  AWS enables your team to require  setting a unique username/password for each user. In addition,  user authentication may be performed with a staged or multi-factor authorization (MFA) that involves several authenticating elements including passwording, biometric recording, phone call, or a PIN. This authorization can help ensure secure access to protected health data and production services or infrastructure.

Managing Disposal Media

When developing compliant applications in the  cloud, your team can take advantage of provided configuration to ensure AWS HIPAA compliance for the software or apps. As you know, HIPAA requires you to destroy and completely clean up unnecessary protected health information (PHI) in the proper manner. PHI may be deleted based on user request or when the organization no longer needs this data. After signing a Business Associates’ Agreement (BAA) with the cloud provider, the cloud platform will manage the provisioning and deletion of cloud resources and PHI. When organizations remove servers, disks, or cloud resources containing health data the cloud provider will securely delete this information. 

Backup and Disaster Recovery (DR)

HIPAA requirements also dictate that  health information must be backed up and available for specific purposes in the future. Implementing backup and disaster recovery (DR) for protected health information (PHI) is required if you plan to comply with HIPAA standards for cloud services. Having data backed up is crucial for health data recovery if there is an issue where patients or health provider data is lost due to technical issues or human error. Fortunately, AWS provides  a fully manageable backup feature. Your team can set automatic backup settings  based on a predetermined policy. Teams can implement backup settings in services such as EC2, S3, and RDS to automate and manage backups within your cloud environment.

Data Encryption

HIPAA requires that PHI is encrypted and protected both “at-rest” and “in-transit”  Fortunately, cloud services such as AWS have extensive encryption features your team can enable to  comply with HIPAA. In fact, AWS  currently uses some of  the most advanced encryption protocols to protect data and provide the best encryption performance. Encryption can be enabled on volumes, disks, storage buckets, databases and more through advanced configuration.  When it comes to personal health information, encryption is mandatory not only for HIPAA measures but also as a  general security requirement.

Encryption-Decryption Key Management

Key management is a core component of preventing unauthorized access and ensuring effective encryption standards. The cloud services provided by AWS allows you to manage encryption keys automatically or through manual key management. These not only provide you with flexibility and control benefits but also make it easy for your team to build software or applications that comply with HIPAA regulations. Advanced encryption and key management configuration enables your team to  achieve the best possible data protection against unauthorized access. This advanced security is not available with other web services.

Configuring Monitoring and Auditing

Cloud services such as Amazon CloudWatch and Amazon CloudTrail provide configuration options for monitoring software and applications to ensure AWS HIPAA compliance. You can easily configure resources to monitor and audit system performance and security events. These services enable your team to collect critical cloud service data and API calls.  Auditing services such as Cloudwatch make it easy for your team to aggregate security information and  efficiently analyze  authentication and authorization history. Teams may also use logs in order to keep track of system events and troubleshoot issues across cloud services. With advanced configuration around monitoring and auditing , your team can enhance your overall data governance and security.

Automatic Logout

When it comes to HIPAA compliance, automated logout protocol is required. Your team should specify parameters for  session duration in the API operation. In general, user sessions can stretch from fifteen minutes to half a day. Teams may define user sessions by using fully managed cloud services or configuring individual server options in EC2 and similar services. What you need to do is set the parameter with the values required by HIPAA. Your team may consider the differences required for different devices used to access the application or software. While cloud services provide you with flexibility, remember it is ultimately up to your team to ensure HIPAA security configuration and overall HIPAA compliance.