Protecting healthcare data on Android devices

Posted: Oct 16, 2013
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With more health professionals using smartphones and tablets in their work, the security of these devices is of utmost importance in order to prevent data breaches. recently published suggestions to improve security of iOS devices in clinical practices.

But what of those professionals using Android rather than iOS? The concepts are largely the same, but there are a few key differences when it comes to ensuring your Android use is HIPAA-compliant.

– Install anti-virus software
The sheer number of apps available on the Google’s Play apps store means some malware are bound to slip through the net. Coupled with some malicious websites, mobile viruses have the potential to cause serious data breaches and should be carefully avoided. Fortunately there are a number of mobile security and anti-virus apps that can be implemented to protect data.

– Encryption
Encrypting your data makes it unreadable for third parties. By going to Settings / Location & Security / Data Encryption, the data on your Android device can be encrypted.

– Lock your apps
Locking your apps to limit access to those with a passcode is a quick way of deterring any prying eyes. It provides an additional layer of security against those who manage to bypass an Android’s original security, particularly if the device has been lost or stolen.

– Don’t use file sharing
File sharing applications such as Dropbox can be a life saver when it comes to running an efficient business, but can also put your data at high risk. As they have not signed Business Associate Agreements to protect your PHI, avoid using the apps altogether.

– Back up your device
Without a backup, all information on the device could potentially be lost. Backing up your data gives the user a peace of mind if the device was to be infected by a data-damaging virus, or if the device was to be lost. A backup of any data would allow the user to safely perform a system wipe to avoid the data falling into the wrong hands.

– Remote track your device
There are numerous device-tracking apps for Android that can locate a lost or stolen device. By tapping into an Android’s GPS the device can be tracked and found to prevent a potential data breach.

– Erase data
If tracking your Android amounts to nothing, or it ends up in an unreachable location, then a number of apps are available that allow the data on the device to be wiped remotely. When coupled with the extended passcode and all the other data protection features, this ensures that in the case of the device being lost the data will be secure.