July 21, 2004

The Open Group Launches Certification to Support Encryption of e-mail at the Organization Gateway

New S/MIME Gateway Program Allows Healthcare Providers Protect Private Health Data Cost-effectively

Press Release


The Open Group and Massachusetts Health Data Consortium (MHDC) today announced the launch of a certification program which guarantees the interoperability of e-mail products that encrypt e-mail at the organization boundary to ensure the privacy of information carried by e-mail across public networks, and awarded certificates to BT Syntegra and Tumbleweed Communications Inc., vendors of the first two products to be certified within the program, and reported statements of commitment to participation in the program from two other vendors, Zix Corporation (ZixCorp) and NetIQ Corporation.

The S/MIME Gateway Certification program was developed by The Open Group in direct response to a requirement from MHDC whose members need to ensure the privacy of Private Health Information to conform to the provisions of the HIPAA regulations, without the unacceptable management overheads associated with traditional desktop-based e-mail security solutions.

The Open Group S/MIME Gateway specification establishes an interoperable profile of the S/MIME Gateway specifications from IETF and adds a simple protocol for the exchange and installation of public keys between business partners. Certificates are awarded to vendors in respect of products that are guaranteed to conform to the S/MIMEGateway specification and which have been tested against other certified products.

Speaking at the launch of the program, Allen Brown, President and CEO of The Open Group hailed it as a true partnership between IT customers and product vendors: “This is a demonstration of how The Open Group is meeting the business needs of real customers. MHDC approached us with a problem their members were having. We worked together and jointly found the right solution that best meets their needs: a certification program that enables health care providers to protect private health data while keeping their costs manageable.” Brown also stressed the significance of MHDC’s active participation: “The role they played in scoping the requirement and demonstrating the market for conformant products was key to the success of the project.”

Elliot Stone, Executive Director and CEO of MHDC, provided this perspective: “The healthcare industry is increasingly using technology to support the patient care process and reduce medical errors. However, an obstacle to the proliferation of technology has been the need to assure that personal health information is private and secure as it is electronically communicated among the key healthcare stakeholders: physicians, hospitals, health plans, and patients. Although our CIOs in Massachusetts recognized that S/MIME Gateways would provide a cost effective solution to secure email, the vendor offerings in the marketplace were not compatible. The Open Group provided the critical element to overcome this obstacle – a collaborative process to developing standards and implementing a vendor certification program.”

"We support The Open Group's initiative to establish a certification program for this type of secure communication," said Rick Spurr, President and Chief Operating Officer for ZixCorp. "All efforts to ensure interoperability and develop standards will benefit both vendors and end users alike."

NetIQ confirmed today that they are in the process of certifying NetIQ MailMarshal Secure under The Open Group’s new S/MIME Gateway Certification program. “The ability to ensure secure email delivery is growing in importance. Our enterprise customers must show that they comply with regulations such as HIPAA, and they therefore require encrypted email capabilities,” said Jim McGrath, Senior Director of Product Management at NetIQ. “However, prior to The Open Group’s development and subsequent announcement of this new standard, interoperability was a major concern industry-wide. NetIQ has seen success in assisting to create a secure, yet interoperable messaging systems.”

About The Open Group

The Open Group is a vendor-neutral and technology-neutral consortium, which drives the creation of Boundaryless Information Flow™ that will enable access to integrated information within and between enterprises based on open standards and global interoperability. The Open Group works with customers, suppliers, consortia and other standard bodies. Its role is to capture, understand and address current and emerging requirements, establish policies and share best practices; to facilitate interoperability, develop consensus, and evolve and integrate specifications and open source technologies; to offer a comprehensive set of services to enhance the operational efficiency of consortia; and to operate the industry’s premier certification service. Further information on The Open Group can be found at http://www.opengroup.org.

Note to Editors: Boundaryless Information Flow is a trademark of The Open Group.

About MHDC

The Massachusetts Health Data Consortium was founded in 1978 by the state's major public and private healthcare organizations to serve as a neutral agency to collect, analyze and disseminate health care information. In 1995, Elliot M. Stone, the Consortium’s CEO, helped found the Affiliated Health Information Networks of New England project, a collaborative effort currently consisting of the chief information officers of 37 healthcare organizations and 10 information technology companies/consultants. The mission of the Affiliated Networks is “to improve the region’s health care information infrastructure by fostering the growth of a variety of health information networks, building on systems already in place, while encouraging collaboration and standardization among these networks.” See http://www.mahealthdata.org).

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