Situational Awareness for Novel Epidemic Response
0.1.0 - STU Ballot

Situational Awareness for Novel Epidemic Response, published by HL7 International Public Health Workgroup. This is not an authorized publication; it is the continuous build for version 0.1.0). This version is based on the current content of and changes regularly. See the Directory of published versions

Security Considerations

The data access in this implementation guide is summarized metrics that are not senstive to individual patients or workers. The metrics may be percieved as sensitive to the organization publishing them. For this reason the project assesses the Security and Privacy Considerations as at most Business Sensitive, where the lower assessment of Anonymous READ Access may also apply.

Given this assessment, the main Security Considerations are focused on

  • Assuring the data published is authentic to the organization publicating the data. That is that a consumer of the API can be given assurances that they are connecting to the authentic service endpoint they intended to connect to. This functionally is provided by common use of TLS with server sided authentication, commonly used in HTTPS.
  • Care must be taken to validate that the server certificate validated and authenticated by the TLS / HTTPS is the server intended to connect to. This is important management of client side certificate trust store
  • Assuring the data communicated is not modified in transit. That is that the consumer of the API can be given assurances that they are retrieving exactly the data that is published. This functionality is provided by common use of TLS with integrity cyphers such as SHA256.
  • The Confidentiality of the communicated data is not critical, but having it encrypted may prevent unidentified risks. Given that common use of TLS includes common use of encryption cyphers such as AES256, this is recommended for consistency sake.
  • The data served by this API may not be considered readily available to all that might request the data. That is that there may be no need for client or app level authentication. This is typical of data that is assesed at Anonymous READ Access
  • The service may choose to request a security token be obtained to provide identity of the client. When a client token is provided the server will have more rich information to make an access control decision or record in an audit log.
  • The client and server may record an Audit Log event such as FHIR AuditEvent. See Audit Records in the Profiles and Extensions section of this guide for profiles created in this guide for the HL7 FHIR AuditEvent resource.

Purpose Of Use restrictions

Given that the use-case for this implementation guide is to support Public Health reporting, the use of the use of client context PurposeOfUse of PUBHLTH is recommended. The communication of PurposeOfUse is not defined in SMART-on-FHIR, so other methods might need to be used. IHE IUA profile provides a OAuth attribute to carry this.

The use of data returned by this API should be limited to the Public Health use-case. Re-purposing the data for other uses, such as re-identification, should be considered a violation of the API intention.

The setting of the PurposeOfUse to PUBHLTH may be addressed through policy agreements and thus not communicated in the API communications.

Local Access Control

The maintaince of the data on the client or server is not specified in this implementation guide. Security considerations must be applied in systems design to assure that the data is appropriately protected from inappropriate use and modification. For example only authorized services and individuals should be allowed to update the metrics that would be served by the API defined here.

Security and Privacy Risks

This section includes an enumeration of some of the risks identified for the use-cases covered and justifying the security and privacy mitigations indicated above.

  • Risk to re-identification when the Location (region reporting on) is small enough to identify too few individuals (e.g. k-anonymity). For example where a region is so small that the community can re-identify a death because it is the only death in that region with the other indirect identifiers (gender, etc)
  • Risk to reputation of a healthcare facility that is serving a community with increased negative incidents
  • Risk to community reputation – if a community is harder hit, it may be percieved negatively on that community. People in that community may be targeted by scams and bullied (cyberbullying).

In addition to the mitigations above, careful definition of regions that would be reported upon should assure that the region is large enough so as to lower the risk of re-identification. Where reporting regions are too small, aggregation into larger regions may be necessary.

Combined reports within one dataset increase the risk of re-identification through the coorelation of indirect identifiers within the dataset. Independent reports can mitigate this reverse coorelation used for re-identification.