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UK University Hospital Manages Portable Data with Encrypted Drives

A university hospital in Britain has mandated the use of removable media from IronKey for staff and consultants who carry patient data with them. Based in California, IronKey sells encrypted USB drives that can be managed remotely by IT administrators through IronKey Enterprise, a Web-based application. If a device goes missing, IT can remotely disable it and wipe the data.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust began issuing the portable drives in summer 2010. At that time the organization told staff, "Users will no longer be able to use their own removable storage devices on the network and will have to submit a request for a Trust Iron Key." The Trust purchased 500 keys and informed users that once that stock was depleted, each department would be responsible for funding replacements. The design of the device makes it waterproof; because it has a rubberized cap, it can be disinfected, a consideration for a hospital setting.

In the United Kingdom the 1998 Data Protection Act sets out guidelines to allow individuals to control information about themselves. Although it doesn't reference privacy per se, the Act does stipulate that organizations holding personal information need adequate security measures in place.

The UK's National Health Service developed an Information Governance Toolkit, which lays out how its agencies process or handle information, including patient data. The Toolkit offers assessment guidance to help organizations understand and report on what level of maturity they're at in their data security processes. The assessment is done annually.

"When data losses in other public sector areas hit the news headlines, the Department of Health issued a mandate via the IG toolkit, which meant our IT team took the required steps to not only protect all data stored on USB drives, but also to ensure we achieved Level 2 of the toolkit," said Ben Everitt, acting head of IT at the Trust.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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