Email Encryption To Achieve HIPAA Compliance

a doctor holding a stethoscope next to a scale

Email encryption is key to achieving HIPAA compliance, which is essential for any organization that processes protected health information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets out the standards governing the privacy and security of personal medical data. This article will overview email encryption, how it helps organizations meet HIPAA requirements, and best practices to ensure effective implementation.

Protecting PHI from unauthorized access or disclosure cannot be overstated. Email communication presents particular challenges in this area as messages are sent across networks outside of the organization’s control, where malicious actors may be vulnerable to interception. Email encryption provides a means to safeguard confidential data contained in emails so that only those intended to have access can view them.

Organizations must adhere to strict rules when dealing with PHI under HIPAA regulations, including implementing appropriate technical safeguards such as encrypting emails containing sensitive patient data before sending them electronically. Email encryption ensures that all PHI communications remain private and secure when used correctly.

Understanding HIPAA Requirements

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a set of standards designed to protect individuals’ medical information privacy. HIPAA applies to all entities collecting, storing, or transmitting electronic health records (EHRs). Organizations must take specific steps to secure confidential patient data to ensure compliance with these regulations. One such step is the implementation of encryption technologies.

Encryption is a process by which data is transformed into an unreadable format for unauthorized users. It can be used with transport layer security (TLS) protocols and public key cryptography (PKC) to provide additional layers of protection for EHRs stored on computer networks. By encrypting sensitive data before it leaves the system or network, healthcare providers can prevent costly breaches caused by malicious actors attempting to access personal medical information without authorization. In this way, healthcare facilities gain assurance that their patients’ private information remains safe and secure at all times.

The Need for Email Encryption

Given the importance of HIPAA compliance, email encryption has become necessary for organizations with access to patient data. Email encryption is an effective way of securing emails to protect patient privacy. Additionally, it ensures confidential communication between healthcare providers and patients. It involves encrypting messages so those with authorized access can only read them.

To achieve HIPAA compliance through email encryption, there are two main methods: end-to-end encryption (E2EE) and transport layer security (TLS).

End-to-End Email Encryption

This type of encryption provides the highest level of security. This ensures that only the sender and recipient can read the content of the email message. End-to-end encryption secures emails from being intercepted or tampered with during transit from one device to another.

Transport Layer Security

TLS works similarly to E2EE but does not guarantee complete confidentiality. Third parties may still have access to the contents of an encrypted message. However, TLS does protect against tampering or interception once a message has been sent over a network.

In addition to these two methods, organizations should consider implementing other measures such as digital signatures, authentication protocols, and secure file transfer services to further enhance their email security systems and ensure full compliance with HIPAA regulations.

In summary, adopting strong email encryption practices is essential for any organization which processes protected health information to remain compliant with HIPAA requirements and protect patient privacy.

Email Account Attacks & Takeovers by Cyber Criminals

a person sitting at a desk in front of a computer

If organizations thought that cyber criminals have mainly moved on from email exploits to other more lucrative points of attack, they are, unfortunately, mistaken. In fact, email exploits remain a significant contribution to account takeover attacks. This article will discuss some of the stats surrounding email attacks, and ways in which cyber hackers like to exploit email users, and it will also outline some steps organizations can take to combat this persistent security threat.


When hackers do attack email accounts, 78% of them do so without the help of any applications outside of email. This overwhelming percentage shows that the use of email alone remains a powerful potential source of unwanted cyber-attacks. Another interesting statistic centers around the length of time that hackers stay undetected while exploiting an email account(s). Researchers show that data thieves were able to linger undetected for an entire week on over one-third of all hacked email accounts. For organizations working with confidential data, this is particularly disturbing, as a week’s worth of email correspondence is often significant.

Other email hacking attempt stats include:

  • 31% of email hackers focus solely on compromising email accounts.
  • 20% of single email attacks affect other email accounts, including personal accounts. 

 If one thinks it is comforting to learn that only 31% of hackers are interested in gaining access to an email account and assume that’s the end of their exploit, it is a false assumption. While the stats show that some hackers only focus on gaining access to the accounts, their next step often involves selling the information they observed to other cyber criminals, who then use the data for blackmail or other criminal purposes. Of course, the other stat which shows that 20% of successful email exploits also involve the exploitation of multiple user accounts, meaning hackers are gaining access to a password for one account and are able to use that same password to exploit multiple accounts.

How They Do It

We’ve already learned that it’s not uncommon for hackers to gain access to multiple accounts, merely by trying to re-use an employee’s password.  Some hackers will research a company to find details about employees who hold significant positions within the organization. They then impersonate a person in power by sending an email to a first-line employee, who in turn gives up confidential corporate information, since they assume they’re interacting with a corporate representative in a position of significant responsibility. 

Hackers may also do online research, looking for clues about a company such as what clients they serve and/or what vendors with which they interact. They then use this information to impersonate employees from these companies and send spear-phishing emails to key members within a targeted organization.

Data thieves may also employ brand impersonation tactics throughout an email and send it to unsuspecting employees. When employees open up the email it looks like it is from a trusted source such as Microsoft, Apple, or Google. The body of the email may state the employee needs to reset their password with a specific company, only to steal the employee’s “new password” after they click on the reset link.

How to Combat Cyber Criminals

Certainly, training staff members on how to spot phishing and other hacking attempts should be part of every organization’s strategy to combat exploits. Computer security specialists have multiple tools at their disposal to help them with early detection and mitigation of compromised emails. Computer security professionals also use software apps that include forensic tools, advanced detection techniques, and incident-response resolutions.


If the idea of trying to ward off data thieves and hackers seems daunting, there is help available. Third-party computer security specialists are thoroughly trained in providing comprehensive security packages for all sizes and types of organizations. If you would like to know more about how to develop a complete strategy to thwart security exploits, including how to effectively secure an organization’s email accounts, please contact us.

Computer Tip of the Day – 4 Tricks for Using Gmail for Business

Gmail is the preferred email service provider for many people. People use it for business and personal purposes alike. Here are four useful tips to help you use Gmail more effectively.

Forward Mail From Another Client

If you have a business email address that is associated with your website, it can often be a pain to constantly have to go to your cPanel dashboard and log in. As an alternative, you can have your mail forwarded to your Gmail account. Just go to settings and click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Follow the instructions or ask your website hosting provider if you run into any hiccups.

Undo Send

What if you send an email and then suddenly realize that perhaps it wasn’t worded right or that sending it was a mistake? Click the Undo Send option that pops up in the yellow bar at the top of the screen if 30 seconds haven’t yet passed. First, though, you have to enable this option in the settings.

Preview Your Gmail Messages

If you have a large screen, you can enable a preview tab so that you get a pane to preview the beginning parts of your emails without even opening them. First, though, you have to enable Gmail Labs in the settings. You can then toggle between a preview pane, a vertical preview pane, and a horizontal preview pane. Gmail Labs is where you can get many features that haven’t yet been released to everyone yet.

Forward Entire Gmail Threads

If you want to forward an entire thread of emails to a contact right away, you can do that by enabling Conversation View in your settings first. When you click on the forward button, click on More and select Forward All.

For more computer tips and IT help, contact us today.

Four Major Benefits of an MSP

a group of people sitting around a wooden table

When so many of your business operations depend on computers and digital communications, high-quality IT services are essential for your company’s success. Hiring a managed service provider (MSP) to oversee critical IT functions can help your company grow and thrive.

What are Some of the Key Benefits of an MSP?

The services an MSP provides are flexible and can change with your business’s evolving needs.

Sometimes, MSPs serve as a well-run, outsourced IT department, managing a wide variety of IT functions and precluding your need to hire in-house IT staff. On other occasions, MSPs manage a smaller set of IT tasks or are hired for specific projects. If you already have in-house IT personnel, the MSP may work as their partners and share responsibilities with them.

They enhance your abilities to handle complex IT issues.

MSPs bring their support and expertise to bear on a range of areas, including cyber security, cloud computing, communications (e.g. email and VoIP), vendor management, network maintenance and monitoring, and data backups and restoration. Their round-the-clock management and support give you reliability of service, improved productivity, compliance with regulations, and stronger security.

They can provide you with a more proactive approach to IT services.

Rather than merely reacting to IT emergencies, your MSP works to anticipate and act on problematic issues before they develop into disasters. MSPs can also help you with IT planning, guiding you in IT-related decisions that best serve your company’s short-term and long-term needs.

They save you on various expenses.

When working with MSPs, you pay only for the services that you need, and often you can sign up for deals that include a bundle of essential services. Furthermore, with the reliable support and management you receive from MSPs, you minimize costly downtime and reduce the chances of suffering devastating IT disasters. By taking over different IT functions, MSPs also free up more of your time, so that you can focus on growing your business.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about our managed services. Working with an MSP will give you reliable, high-quality IT services tailored to your business needs.