LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — The threats that loom with modern day technology range from people hacking into e-mail and cell phones to rummaging through garbage at home and work, but what are some ways that can prevent thieves from stealing our most valuable information?
Personally Identifiable Information is personal information maintained by an agency which is used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity. It is linkable information to a specified individual such as their name, social security number, date and place of birth, driver’s license number or identification card number, age, military rank, civilian grade, marital status, race, salary, home/office phone numbers, personnel, medical, demographic and financial information, and criminal or employment history, according to the Air Education Training Command Quick Guide to Safeguarding Personally Identifiable Information pamphlet.
“It’s information that will identify you,” said Master Sgt. Chani Blakeman, 56th Communications Squadron alternate base records manager.
Security needs to be extra tight for personal information. According to an overall record assessment in the AETC pamphlet, more than 250 million records containing sensitive personal information were involved in security breaches in the U.S. between January 2005 and February 2009. Security breaches continued to happen until late October 2013, when General William Shelton, Air Force Space Command commander, made the decision to lock personal accounts for whoever sends out PII inappropriately.
“We are taking several steps to improve notification and reporting of PII incidents,” Shelton said. “My intent is to increase awareness within the Air Force as part of my responsibility to ensure the security and defense of the Air Force Network and its users. PII violations create both a personal and operational risk for all of us.”
Before launching the policy, the Air Force averaged approximately 3.3 reports affecting 1,935 members per day. After launching the policy, that average has dropped to approximately 2.7 reports affecting 991 members per day.
PII is important and always requires extra protection when sending personal information through email, according to the AETC pamphlet.
“Encrypted emails and digitally signed emails are highly recommended when sending PII,” Blakeman said. “Hackers will find a way to access those emails, but with the added protection the PII will be safe and sent to the receiver with no hassle.”
PII is very valuable and should be treated as such, Blakeman said. Airmen should always make sure to treat personal information with care and ensure it does not get into the wrong hands.