How to protect your Personally Identifiable Information online?

personal identity information online

With the rapid upsurge in technological advancements and latest techniques in the world of the web and IT, the transparency of desktop-human connection has become a point to ponder upon. Is the internet reliable enough to store all your data? The question opens up a debate and leads to deep insights on how and what tools can assist the protection of personally identifiable information online.

What is PII?

Let’s explore the meaning of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) before we redirect towards ways to cater to the mishandling of it online. PII is defined as any information that allows the identity of an individual to be inferred directly or indirectly, including any information linked or linkable to that individual, regardless of whether the individual is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, a visitor to the United States, a Department employee or a contractor.

Personally identifiable information (PII) is any data that may be used to identify, contact, or find a specific person, whether alone or in combination with other readily available sources. It comprises medical, educational, financial, and job information that is connected or linkable to an individual. The breach of anyone’s privacy can cost life in some cases, thus it is vital to keep a check on your PII online.

When compared to other issues, a 2017 FICO poll found some surprising opinions about identity theft. Identity theft and financial fraud are the top concerns for 44% of American customers. 22% percent indicated their biggest concern was their mortality or the loss of a loved one. The fear of being a victim of a terrorist attack was cited by 18% of respondents as their greatest concern.

Various Classifications of Personally Identifiable Information

  • Photographs – in particular, social media may be a simple way for a threat actor to get photographs of a person
  • Log-in credentials
  • Geolocations
  • Biometrics
  • Postal addresses
  • Vehicle License
  • Social Security Number
  • URL or ISP Address

How is PII used?

PII is generally used in legit ways by healthcare companies, telephone networks, Wi-Fi providers, insurance agencies, social media providers, and those who protect individuals in any form. Such companies are more vulnerable and prone to being targeted by hackers.

Ways to protect PII

Special Publication 800-122, also known as a Guide to Protecting the Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information, was published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Even though the study is a few years old, many of the suggestions are still used in PII protection strategies today. A few key points of the guide suggest companies junking unnecessary information as in the case of SSNs that are only needed once. Such data must be dumped so that the risk of being hacked is minimized, but even if it takes place, there is less to lose.

Analysis of risk level of data

Not all personally identifiable information (PII) requires the same level of security. A public directory, for example, lists phone numbers with the permission of persons, making its security less important. As a result, it’s critical to put in place a variety of protections that handle various risk levels. Developing PII protection rules, providing employee training, and utilizing access monitoring software are all things that need to be looked into.

Limited Access

Access restrictions on mobile devices (if used to access corporate networks) will help to reduce the danger of PII being exposed during storage and transit. Audits are necessary, which might be time-consuming but will surely aid in maximizing the efficacy of controls and identifying any flaws.

Setting Priorities

Each piece of PII holds a distinct level of sensitivity. A ZIP code, for example, is not as sensitive as a bank account number or access code. A sensitivity rating can also change depending on how the data is combined.

Therefore, you need to prioritize what information is more sacred for you and act accordingly.

Role of Organizations

According to a report by Forbes, some data leaks are unintentional. The greatest thing an organization can do is teach its staff how to encrypt data, create strong passwords, correctly file and preserve data, and prevent viruses regularly.

Usage of tricky passwords

Updating and refreshing your password each year can leave you in a safer zone. Individuals who keep their passwords updated are less likely to get harmed. NIST suggests keeping strong passwords that are longer in length and not using the same code twice to fight the hackers.

Multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication can assist in securing your PII. This process demands more than just your email and passcode as it leads you to another mode of authentication which can either be your fingerprint or another password. Multifactor authentication is more complicated than the regular way of signing into your account but still safer.

Careful dumping of data

Another easy method to secure your PII is to carefully dump your old details. This can be done by overwriting it, purging, and physical destruction of data. Leaving your personal information in daily diaries and journals is also a hurdle to security. Thus, it is suggested to ensure the removal of all such proofs of your PII.

Avoid backing up data on Cloud

Keep a check on the backup sites that assure security to your data. You cannot blindly trust them hence keeping a check, reading updates, and understanding the terms and conditions are necessary steps to avoid a data breach.

Usage of Security Questions

Try to provide fake answers to questions that you can remember later. This minimizes you losing the data and also makes it difficult for the hacker to cross your limits. Lengthy steps to any unlocking are beneficial to your security.

Usage of Incognito Mode

The incognito mode on your devices is a lot safer than randomly using search engines. You can access your private emails and activities through this mode. It enables limited information leakage and keeps no track of your activity.


Your Personally Identifiable Information is your asset. It must be secured religiously. Each year several incidents take place primarily due to online activities by individuals. Such crimes are contemporary with hackers being tricky and updated. All the ways suggested above are vital to making your online experience safer and more untraceable.

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