March 7, 2023

    Deciphering Compliance: HIPAA, SOX, and GLBA Differences

    If you’re subject to regulatory compliance, this can have a major impact on the way your business operates. HIPAA, SOX, and GLBA are three regulatory compliance standards that apply to a wide range of companies. Learn more about these compliance standards, and the steps companies must take to align with them.

    Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Compliance

    What is HIPAA?

    Today, healthcare companies must go to great lengths to keep their patients’ and clients’ healthcare information secure. That confidentiality is thanks to HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 established standards regarding the privacy of a person’s health-related information. These standards are related to the information needed for healthcare coverage. The goal of HIPAA was to improve health insurance coverage continuity and portability in both group markets and individual markets. 

    Complying with HIPAA

    Healthcare information is among the most private and sensitive information in regular use. Because both digital and physical records are common, HIPAA compliance is a little different from other compliance regulations in that it has both Physical Safeguards and Technical Safeguards to follow.

    Physical Safeguards

    • Facility Access Controls - Controlling who can access your physical facility is the first line of defense in terms of protecting your data. Physical access should be limited only to those authorized to work with sensitive data. 
    • Workstation and Security Controls - Once inside your facility, workstations and all of your devices – desktop computers, laptops, tablets, etc. – must be protected. Physical access to these workstations should also be limited to authorized personnel.
    • Devices and Media Controls - Finally, data on any devices or media, like hard drives, external hard drives, memory cards, or flash drives, should be protected. Unapproved access should be prevented.

    Technical Safeguards

    • Access Controls - The ability to access the files themselves should be limited to approved parties. No one should be able to read, write, modify, or transfer data unless they are authorized to do so.
    • Audit Controls - You must be capable of performing an audit on data activity. This means producing a detailed log of who accessed files, when they were accessed, and any activity regarding these files.
    • Integrity Controls - Policies and procedures must be in place to ensure that electronic protected health information is not altered or destroyed. 
    • Person or Entity Authentication - It’s vital that you ensure the users attempting to access protected data actually are who they claim to be. This could mean using methods like multi-step verification.
    • Transmission Security - All HIPAA-covered data must be protected when being transferred to other parties.

    One way to align with HIPAA standards, especially the Technical Safeguards, is to adopt a HIPAA-compliant secure file sharing solution. This can help you adhere to these measures and keep your data safe.

    Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) Compliance

    What is SOX?

    The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) was passed in 2002 to ensure that shareholders and citizens were protected from accounting errors or fraudulent practices occurring in enterprises. It also helps to ensure the accuracy of public disclosures made by these enterprises. As all public companies must comply with SOX, understanding the required steps for compliance is essential.

    Complying with SOX

    The goal of all SOX-based compliance measures should be to safeguard all financial data. By protecting this data, you assure its integrity. Thus, many companies take the step of encrypting all sensitive financial data, protecting it from unauthorized access. 

    Beyond encryption, you should also have the appropriate security controls established to prevent against data loss or alteration. Not everyone in your organization needs the same level of access to sensitive data, so following data security best practices regarding granular access controls, user passwords, and file sharing security helps you protect SOX-covered data.

    While SOX relates to a different type of data than HIPAA, a secure file sharing solution can also facilitate your efforts to keep accounting data secure. In fact, some top solutions come with SOX-compliant features built in, making it easier than ever to comply with SOX mandates. 

    Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) Compliance

    What is GLBA?

    Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act focuses on the data protections financial institutions must have in place. These compliance measures apply to companies that offer consumers financial products or services. This could mean loan providers, financial or investment consultants, or insurance providers. Information sharing practices must have the appropriate safeguards in place to protect sensitive data.

    Complying with GLBA

    GLBA compliance starts with how financial institutions interact with their customers. They must first protect customer data from being accessed by unauthorized parties. These institutions must also communicate to customers how their financial data will be used and who it will be shared with. Customers must also be given the opportunity to opt-out if they are unwilling to have their information shared with any third parties. 

    If your organization falls under the GLBA umbrella, it’s vital that you comply. You want to avoid the consequences of noncompliance like heavy fines, but you also want to ensure that you’re protecting your reputation. If customers can’t trust you with their sensitive data, they may be reluctant to trust you with their business at all.

    Like the other compliance mandates explored above, GLBA compliance is much easier when you store and transfer your data using a secure file sharing solution. You can adopt a single solution that has all the necessary measures in place to keep customer data protected.

    How Do HIPAA, SOX and GLBA Differ? 

    The primary difference between each set of compliance regulations is that they are all focused on protecting a different type of data. HIPAA protects a patient’s healthcare information, SOX protects financial information of public companies, and GLBA protects the data of financial institution customers.

    However, they all share a unified goal: keeping sensitive data secure. When you trust a secure file sharing solution to protect your data, you minimize the risk of noncompliance and can meet compliance regulations with a single solution. Instead of implementing all the needed security measures yourself, you can trust that your file sharing solution vendor has done the necessary work for you. You’ll be confident that your data is protected, and you’re in compliance with HIPAA, SOX, or GLBA. 

    Want to learn more about the specifics of HIPAA compliance? Download this HIPAA Readiness Report now.

    Martin Horan

    Martin, Sharetru's Founder, brings deep expertise in secure file transfer and IT, driving market niche success through quality IT services.

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