1.1 Security Policies and Mechanisms

The DICOM standard does not address issues of security policies, though clearly adherence to appropriate security policies is necessary for any level of security. The standard only provides mechanisms that could be used to implement security policies with regard to the interchange of DICOM objects between Application Entities. For example, a security policy may dictate some level of access control. This Standard does not consider access control policies, but does provide the technological means for the Application Entities involved to exchange sufficient information to implement access control policies.

This Standard assumes that the Application Entities involved in a DICOM interchange are implementing appropriate security policies, including, but not limited to access control, audit trails, physical protection, maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of data, and mechanisms to identify users and their rights to access data. Essentially, each Application Entity must insure that their own local environment is secure before even attempting secure communications with other Application Entities.

When Application Entities agree to interchange information via DICOM through association negotiation, they are essentially agreeing to some level of trust in the other Application Entities. Primarily Application Entities trust that their communication partners will maintain the confidentiality and integrity of data under their control. Of course that level of trust may be dictated by local security and access control policies.

Application Entities may not trust the communications channel by which they communicate with other Application Entities. Thus, this Standard provides mechanisms for Application Entities to securely authenticate each other, to detect any tampering with or alteration of messages exchanged, and to protect the confidentiality of those messages while traversing the communications channel. Application Entities can optionally utilize any of these mechanisms, depending on the level of trust they place in the communications channel.

This Standard assumes that Application Entities can securely identify local users of the Application Entity, and that user’s roles or licenses. Note that users may be persons, or may be abstract entities, such as organizations or pieces of equipment. When Application Entities agree to an exchange of information via DICOM, they may also exchange information about the users of the Application Entity via the Certificates exchanged in setting up the secure channel. The Application Entity may then consider the information contained in the Certificates about the users, whether local or remote, in implementing an access control policy or in generating audit trails.

This Standard also assumes that Application Entities have means to determine whether or not the “owners” (e.g. patient, institution) of information have authorized particular users, or classes of users to access information. This Standard further assumes that such authorization might be considered in the access control provided by the Application Entity. At this time, this Standard does not consider how such authorization might be communicated between Application Entities, though that may be a topic for consideration at some future date.

This Standard also assumes that an Application Entity using TLS has secure access to or can securely obtain X.509 key Certificates for the users of the application entity. In addition, this standard assumes that an Application Entity has the means to validate an X.509 certificate that it receives. The validation mechanism may use locally administered authorities, publicly available authorities, or some trusted third party.

This Standard assumes that an Application Entity using ISCL has access to an appropriate key management and distribution system (e.g. smartcards). The nature and use of such a key management and distribution system is beyond the scope of DICOM, though it may be part of the security policies used at particular sites.