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For Your Eyes Only

HIPPA, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has raised concerns regarding patient privacy. In our technology world of computers, fax and email are being used more frequently.

Email is very insecure, however attorneys, experts and clients use of it is on the increase. The problem is when an email is sent, there isn't a guarantee that the intended recipient will be the one that reads it.

Some methods being employed to thwart unauthorized eyes from seeing your message is the ability to encrypt the message. The problem here is that the person receiving it must have a key in order to decipher and read it. Another method is to delete names from the message. The problem with that method is that as humans are not perfect, one or more of the names may not be deleted and compromise the whole email.

To further complicate things, ISPs, Internet Service Providers, are saving a copy of every email message in a huge archive on their servers. Just how long the messages are kept is dependent on the individual ISP. Some say years and others say indefinitely.

Some people labor under the false impression that the word delete means exactly what it says. However, in the computer world, it means something entirely different. For example, in email, when you delete a message it does not get deleted. It goes to a place called Trash or Trash Can where it resides until it gets deleted again. This means that even if your inbox has only one message, your email limit can be full because you have not deleted all the messages you thought were all ready deleted.

This can cause another problem known as bouncing. When ever your email is full, it cannot accept another message and any messages sent to you get bounced back to the ISP that sent it. There it is read again by a bot, which is short for a robot, or perhaps a real human. It's just another way your message can be compromised.

Perhaps the only safe way is to employ 007 tactics and sit down face to face and deliver your message in a sound proof room. However, even that won't work if the room is bugged.

Another problem is in the deletion of files which reside on your computer. Many of those also go to a trash can or protected area and reside there until you delete them a second time. I have my trash cans trashed. Nothing goes there and I save some real estate on my hard drive as a result. I go one further in deleting my files. I use a program called "Erase" which will not only delete a file but delete it by over writing it several times. I make it do 35 passes.

You may wonder why that is necessary? It is due to a problem with magnetic hard drives. When a file is deleted by clicking on delete, it does not get deleted in its entirety. Fragments can be left behind and usually enough of them to be put together again and make another file. This is how un-delete programs work their magic. So if you want your file to be gone and stay that way, you need to have a program called "Erase". It is a free one so you can't beat the price. I use it a lot.

Now that you have finished reading my article, it will self destruct in (5) seconds. Just kidding of course!

Jerry D Gann, RN, CLNC®Certified Legal Nurse ConsultantCM

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