Personally identifiable information (PII) can be defined as any information that could be used to identify or locate an individual. Protecting PII should be a top priority at any business, as failure to do so leaves both the company and its customers vulnerable to attack. The first step is to Learn How to Secure Personally Identifiable Information. Business owners can read on to find out how to get started.
Identify and Classify PII
Just about every modern organization handles some amount of PII. The nature of that data is different for each of them, though, so the best place for any business owner or security officer to get started is identifying PII. It often includes data on customers’ names, addresses, birth dates, phone numbers, and financial information. Even data such as age, gender, and race can be classified as PII, so when in doubt, review some additional reading about what kinds of customer information falls into this category.
PII can be classified for easier handling. Public data is non-sensitive and low risk and does not generally require access to data. Private data could pose risks to the company or its customers if it is exposed and should be available only to those who need the data to perform their jobs. Restricted data is highly sensitive and should only be accessible on a need-to-know basis since according to realtimecampaign.com, this form of PII is most likely to be exploited should it fall into the wrong hands.
Put Safeguards in Place
Once security officers know what kinds of PII the company handles, they can begin to implement safeguards such as those recommended by the DHS. The level of safeguards in place should reflect not just the classification of PII handled by the company but also safe use standards put in place for the industry in which it operates. In most cases, a company such as TokenEx is sufficient to protect sensitive data during storage. However, some industries have higher compliance standards than others.
Even the most effective safeguards won’t protect PII if employees don’t know how to use them. Provide ongoing education for employees regarding the handling of sensitive data. It’s especially important to provide education to employees who have access permissions that go beyond basic, publicly available information. It’s also wise to implement an easy-to-use reporting program that allows employees to inform their superiors if they suspect that someone is abusing or mishandling the company’s PII.
Conduct Periodic Assessments
Just having a system in place isn’t enough. The security system must be evaluated periodically to ensure that it is effective. Hackers are always coming up with new ways to gain access to sensitive data, so security officers must stay one step ahead by conducting risk assessments.
When customers purchase products or services through a company, they have a right to expect that their PII will be kept private. Companies that fail to take adequate steps to protect PII could face sanctions and wind up with severe reputation damage. It’s worth investing the time and money into coming up with a plan now before a breach occurs.