Personally Identifiable Information | Cyber-Security Awareness

October is Cyber-Security Awareness Month! Take this opportunity to review and improve practices around issues of online security.

The bulk of your personal identity should be kept private for security’s sake, especially online. You may not know it, but you could be letting identity thieves know key facts they can use to steal your personal identity through freely given personal identifiable information on social media and other platforms.

What exactly is personal identifiable information? The United States Government Accountability Office defines Personal Identifiable Information (PII) as “…information that can be used to locate or identify an individual, such as names, aliases, Social Security numbers, biometric records, and other personal information that is linked or linkable to an individual. Loss of such information may lead to identity theft (the wrongful obtaining and using of another person’s identifying information in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain) or other fraudulent use of the information, resulting in substantial harm, embarrassment, and inconvenience to individuals.”

What Constitutes Personally Identifiable Information?
The Department of Homeland Security denotes the following data as sensitive PII. If necessary to collect and house these data, protect these diligently.

  • Name and other names used
  • Social Security number, full and truncated
  • Driver’s license, passport number, and other government identification numbers
  • Financial information (i.e. account numbers; income)
  • Medical information, disability information
  • Biometric identifiers
  • Citizenship or immigration status
  • Gender
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Account passwords
  • Last 4 digits of SSN
  • Birthdate, place of birth
  • Home and personal cell telephone numbers
  • Personal email, mailing, and home address
  • Religious preference
  • Criminal history
  • Mother’s middle and maiden names
  • Spouse information, marital status, child information, emergency contact information
  • Law enforcement information, employment information, educational information
  • Military records

How to Increase the Security of your PII
Following the Equifax breach, Stanford University provided to its students, faculty, and staff a list of best practices for protecting PII. How many of these practices do you already follow? What small changes could you make to keep your personal information more secure?
http://news.stanford.edu/2017/09/13/stanford-offers-best-practices-protecting-personal-identity-following-recent-credit-agency-breach/

Additional Resources
This eight minute video from PBS focuses on online privacy and the evolution of privacy issues. “This new digital world allows us to connect with each other with increasing ease, but it has also left our personal information readily available, and our privacy vulnerable.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCmKJyVx9AY

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