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Identity theft is one of the most rampant cyber crimes in the world. Identity theft statistics show that 889 million data breaches occurred in 2021, affecting over 150 million people.
Data gets stolen mainly because of the careless use of PII or Personally Identifiable Information.
Your PII needs protecting. In this article, learn the definition and examples of PII and how to boost your information security to guard yourself against cyberattacks.
🔑 Key Takeaways:
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is any information that determines an individual’s identity directly or indirectly.
PII includes a person’s full name, phone number, or social security number. These information pieces are also considered Direct Identifiers as they identify anyone with no supplementary information.
On the other hand, ethnicity, age, and race are called Indirect Identifiers because they can only be linked to a person with the help of more identifiers.
PII is used to identify and locate users. It also leverages enterprises in classifying which data should be stored, processed, or managed for their gains. Since it uniquely distinguishes consumers from one another, businesses employ it to develop or improve services, products, and ads.
PII collection has grown over the past decades. Although storing personal information has helped enterprises, it has also invited cybercrimes.
PII attracts many cyberattacks. Hackers are known to cause data breaches and steal PII. They tend to hold them captive through deviant ransomware or sell stolen PII on the dark web.
The latest statistics revealed that 15 million Americans had their IDs stolen in 2021 alone. Moreover, 75% of companies have admitted to dealing with data breaches, causing significant disruptions to their businesses.
Experts divide PII into two groups: Sensitive and Non-sensitive. Identity thieves usually steal Sensitive PII because it gives them access to a person’s properties and finances.
Sensitive PII has to be transmitted and stored with encryption, something that Non-Sensitive PII can go without.
Sensitive PII is information that could cause significant harm to a person if it’s lost, stolen, compromised, or disclosed without authorization.
Examples of Sensitive PII are:
💡Did you know?
In January 2023, a famous American restaurant, Five Guys, admitted to a large data breach back in September 2022. COO Sam Chamberlain addressed the cybercrime in an open letter, only admitting it months after the attack. Hackers stole sensitive PII from employees and customers, such as names, social security numbers, and driver's license numbers.
Indirect or Non-sensitive PII can be accessed from public sources like the Internet, phonebooks, and corporate directories.
Non-sensitive PII is still linkable information that can reveal a person’s true identity. If combined with the other PII type, Non-sensitive PII becomes sensitive.
Indirect PII can be:
✅ Pro Tip:
If you’re looking for someone, you can access some of their PII through People Finders. You can also use reverse lookup services to determine that person’s current location.
The internet stores a lot of identifiable information about you. Below is a list of extensive identifiers to help you familiarize and safeguard your PII:
⌛️In a Nutshell
There’s a long list of identifiable information about you. These nuggets of information can range from your name to your biometrics to your medical records. Knowing which PII can truly compromise you is the first step to keeping yourself safe online.
There are several ways to protect your digital footprint. However, one of the best is to familiarize the regulations to prevent nefarious people and organizations from stealing and misusing your PII.
Several laws in the world mention PII, including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Not complying with these PII laws can lead to fines and litigation.
Instead of having just one unified PII law, the US has a few federal laws that state how to handle an individual’s data.
The country also has a governing body that prosecutes illegal PII collection and use.
About 71% of all countries have legislation to protect their citizens’ privacy. These laws focus on collecting, using, and sharing private information without giving notice or consent from consumers.
Enterprises are legally responsible for keeping your PII safe. However, it’s up to you to ultimately safeguard them.
Cybercriminals could use your PII to commit fraud or other crimes. Identity theft can be a traumatic experience and can even cost millions. For one thing,
So you should be more attentive in using your private information online. Here are simple and helpful ways to protect your PII and retain your anonymity:
👍 Helpful Articles:
Learning about PII is crucial to safeguarding your privacy online. To extend that knowledge, here’s a list of helpful articles about Internet privacy:
PII is more than just any information you can throw around the Internet. It’s a collection of sensitive data that can pinpoint a person’s true identity, their location– their entire life.
With this, PII is a frequent target for cyber criminals who will use it for identity fraud or sell it to someone who will.
Your PII may be as simple as a few strings of numbers, but it can cause life-altering experiences if not guarded closely.
The government may have written several laws to protect it. But in the end, it’s up to you to protect your PII and your privacy.
Sensitive PII should be protected at all times. Examples are your full name, mother’s maiden name, Social Security Number (SSN), Passport information, fingerprints, personal phone number, and financial or bank information.
Personal information is broader than PII. A person’s device ID numbers and browser history are part of their personal information. However, only their full name, phone number, and email address are considered PII because they can be used to identify them accurately.
A birthday is personally identifiable information. Specifically, it’s a Sensitive PII that may be able to cause harm to a person if it's lost or disclosed.
Your email address will not be published.
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