Social media sites have gained popularity in the past ten years as a medium to keep in contact with loved ones, business associates and friends. However, there can be drawbacks to the usage of said media when one is employed in certain career fields, such as the healthcare industry. Utilizing social media networks can inadvertently give way to the sharing of confidential patient information with people that may not have a need to know which would then cause the company to violate HIPAA Security Rule compliance.

Social media applications are not just a part of one’s personal lifestyle; this has also become incorporated in the corporate climate. Many places use these applications for marketing, file sharing, communication, and employee recruitment. While these applications can open up a great many doors of communication, some type of guidance or governance is necessary. Because banning the use of such sites is most likely unenforceable or impractical, a hospital or other such entity that must shield private information should at least ask or force their employees to adhere to some Social Media Policy guidelines.

For instance, when utilizing social networking sites, one should use separate passwords for the different sites, as an individual can easily hack all of one’s accounts if they know the one password. A security breach of one account could snowball. Passwords should be complex and change every 90 days. Accessing social media sites should be over SSL and only from trusted network connections, not coffee shops especially for business purposes!

In the case of company documents or patient information, if it isn’t found on the company’s web page it probably should not be posted elsewhere. There are sites that exude a feeling of privacy and security, but are far from it. Allowing one’s corporate information security team to determine what sites are acceptable is the best option.

Another thing one should not do is post his or her own identifying information publicly, such as date of birth, his or her social security number, or an employee ID number. If a site requires this information, 1) it is most likely not a reputable site, and/or 2) one could make something up or ensure that it is not going to be displayed in a profile that will be public.

Some information may not be considered confidential; yet not posting these items to public social media sites is probably a good idea. This can include anything from rumors, to purchases the company plans on making, anything about the technology one’s company uses or will use, and any projects the individual may be working on.

So in one’s personal endeavors, it is most beneficial to all involved if confidential information, or information that could be considered secret, stays out of the hands of the public. Follow practical posting guidelines and do not share more information than is necessary in corporate social media activities.


Gary Bahadur

CEO KRAA Security, baha@kraasecurity.com

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