What Is PII in Cybersecurity?
PII stands for personal identifiable information, or sometimes personally identifiable information. Essentially, this is a subset of data that can be used to identify individuals in the real world based on information that may be stored on business servers or other online applications. In cybersecurity, protecting sensitive data like personal identifiable information is one of the main priorities of an effective cybersecurity framework.
What Is Considered Personally Identifiable Information?
Defining personal identifiable information may be more challenging than it appears, since, traditionally, PII is any type of information that can be used to identify a specific individual. This can include information such as an individual’s name, mailing or business address, email address, telephone number, birth date, driver’s license number, credit card numbers, debit card numbers, social security numbers, and tax numbers. Even biometric data can be considered identifying information, and why PII security controls are so important.
Why PII CYbersecurity May Depend On Case-By-Case Assessments
Although there are many great examples of what is considered PII data, there are many other types of personal identifiable information that can be considered a cybersecurity risk based on a case-by-case assessment. Employment information, taxpayer identification number, passport number, can be identifiers that may help potential criminals misuse or sell PII on the dark web Essentially, there may be times when nonsensitive data can be combined with PII to identify a specific individual. In these cases, nonsensitive data is also considered PII and must be protected. In either case you need to protect against data breach and theft of this information.
What Is the Difference Between Sensitive PII Data and Non Sensitive PII?
The main difference between sensitive and non sensitive PII is that nonsensitive personal identifiable information or quasi identifiers of non sensitive PII cannot be used by itself to identify an individual. For example, demographic information such as gender, race, ethnicity, primary speaking language, religion, and zip code are all nonsensitive personal identifiable information.
By contrast, sensitive personal identifiable information is specific information that lists an individual’s name, date of birth, or government numbers used to identify the individual, such as a social security number or the number on a state ID. Sensitive PII can be used by itself to compromise an individual’s identity since these are unique identifiers. medical records from healthcare providers, there is another whole host of customer data pertaining to medical history that also falls into other compliance requirements.
Should Both Types of PII Be Protected?
Although nonsensitive PII presents a much smaller risk of identity theft, when nonsensitive PII is combined with sensitive PII, such information becomes a high risk of identity theft. This is the main reason why both types of personal identifiable information should be protected by businesses and other organizations that possess the personal information of employees, clients, and customers. A data breach not only can leave the individuals information at risk, but leaves your company open to fines and lawsuits.
It’s the role of cybersecurity services to identify what can potentially count as personal identifiable information, or other sensitive data, and create a framework that will protect it. For example, cybersecurity experts should analyze the type of data your business stores to predict what nonsensitive data can be used to increase the likelihood of identity theft. If such information isn’t needed to conduct business than it may be a better policy to not collect it to begin with.
Why Does Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Need Extra Security?
Personal identifiable information is one aspect of data stored by businesses and organizations that requires extra layers of security. One of the main reasons that PII requires extra security is that this information can be used to steal an individual’s identity. Identity theft is a cyber threat that uses stolen sensitive data such as personal information to open accounts for profit, such as new bank or credit card accounts.
Recovering from identity theft is often a very difficult process that can take several years. Not all financial institutions offer recovery options for victims of identity theft, and some victims may need to go through the process of changing their name, social security number, bank accounts, and other major aspects of identifiable information to recover from identity theft. In extreme cases, victims of identity theft may need to file for bankruptcy. This is why businesses need to protect personally identifiable information.
General Data Protection Regulation
In addition to the risk of identity theft, personally identifiable information is also subject to certain regulatory bodies. For example, many government organizations have policies that will determine how personal identifiable information is protected and stored online. The goal of government regulations is to protect consumer data to prevent identity theft.
Some government organizations, such as the European Union, have a robust data regulation plan to reduce the risk of identity theft. Although general data protection regulation began in the EU, they have become a global standard for protecting consumer information. Some of these regulations include masking online identification of private IP addresses, protected health information, and letting users know when location data is being collected.
How Can Your Business Protect PII?
When a business possesses personal identifiable information of customers, the business must protect PII and notify consumers when PII has been compromised. Your business can use cybersecurity services to protect PII by creating a cybersecurity framework that will protect personal identifiable information with tools such as predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, secure passwords, two-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication, and other encryption.
How Can Individuals Protect PII?
Individuals should be deeply concerned about protecting PII, the best way to protect personally identifiable financial information online is to use authentication apps, passwords, fingerprint scans, and other security measures to keep information such as passwords, credit card information, online wallets, and login information secure.
It’s important for individuals to be mindful of what information is shared on social media and to destroy important documents before they are discarded. Individuals also need to be aware of potential scams that can collect personal identifiable information. For example, government organizations will never ask for credit card information. It’s also good practice to never give away your social security number on the phone, over email, or through any other unsecured method.
How Else Can Cybersecurity Services Help Your Business?
In addition to protecting PII, businesses also need to be aware of other ways cybersecurity services can enhance the overall security of your business. Not only do businesses need to be concerned about protecting consumer information, but businesses also need to protect employee information from potential data leaks. Some ways cybersecurity services can help include:
Create a Cybersecurity Framework
A cybersecurity framework should be flexible and tailored to the precise needs of your business. An effective cybersecurity framework will manage core security features such as identifying potential risks, protecting information, detecting cyber crime activity, responding to cybersecurity threats, and recovering from data breaches.
When a business has a cybersecurity framework, not only does the business have tools to manage cybersecurity risks, but the business also has a plan for how to respond to risks more quickly. This is particularly important if your business handles sensitive data that is subject to certain data privacy laws.
Manage Digital IDs and User Access
Services that manage cybersecurity can also help your business manage digital IDs and user access to your business’s servers and data. For example, cybersecurity can help businesses simplify how certain data privacy is managed, including revoking permissions when employees are offsite or no longer working in a certain department. By instituting data tracking and access control within an organization, you can mitigate specific risk associated electronic PHI & PII laws while providing a system to ensure employees can access what they need in order to do their work.
Install and Manage Cloud Security Features
Since many companies use cloud services to host data storage, software applications, and other types of data, it’s important to use a cybersecurity service that can manage the security features of cloud applications. The goal of managing cloud security is to protect data stored on the cloud from hacking or other data breaches. Cloud security benefits by using tools such as virtual private networks, two-factor authentication, and firewalls. Many breaches come from phishing attacks which too can be mitigated with a combination of employee education, security policies and IT features install on the corporate network.
Implement Data Security Measures
A cybersecurity service can also help your company implement data security measurement measures. For example, as part of your cybersecurity framework, your business can keep data safe from identity theft and data corruption. Effective data security will include tools such as end-end encryption for transmitting data, encrypting data storage, and using authentication to restrict access to certain data.
Protect Application Security
The security of applications used by your company is also central, particularly applications that store employee and consumer data. For example, payroll applications must be protected with security measures to keep employees secure. Many businesses don’t realize it, but the applications used by your business are one of the areas cybercriminals will target during a data attack.
Upgrade Network Security
Finally, hiring a cybersecurity services can also help your business upgrade the overall security of your network. The network of your business can include the software your business uses and the physical servers that may be stored at your business headquarters. Network security will manage elements such as system access and other digital prints that can be used to identify cyber threats.
Personally identifiable information is sensitive data and one of the main risks associated with cybercriminal activity. When cybercriminals have access to PII, it’s much easier to steal an individual’s identity. Businesses must protect a person’s identity from being stolen online. This includes both consumers and employees by using a robust cybersecurity framework. To learn more about how managed IT support can benefit the cybersecurity of your business, contact us today.