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March 18, 2024
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 min read

How to Ensure PII Protection with Advanced Security Measures?

Explore the essentials of PII protection, including modern security measures and challenges. Learn how Strac DLP enhances your data security strategy.

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How to Ensure PII Protection with Advanced Security Measures?
Calendar Icon White
March 18, 2024
Clock Icon
 min read

How to Ensure PII Protection with Advanced Security Measures?

Explore the essentials of PII protection, including modern security measures and challenges. Learn how Strac DLP enhances your data security strategy.


  • Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is any data that could potentially identify a specific individual.
  • Adopting security measures like Role-Based Access Control, Multi-Factor Authentication, and regular audits is crucial for protecting PII.
  • Strac enhances PII security through PII redaction and adhering to various regulations to address these challenges.

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is the most critical asset to protect due to its direct link to individual privacy and security. In 80% of reported breaches, customer PII was the majorly exposed data.Since protecting PII has become second nature for businesses, we’ve written this article to offer clear, actionable insights on protecting customer PII. From encryption to access control and beyond, we will explore how modern security measures can shield sensitive information from cyber threats.

What Is PII ?

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is data that can be used to identify, contact, or locate an individual. This includes a range of information that, when properly managed, helps protect individuals' privacy and security.

Types of Personal Identifiable Information

PII can be broadly categorized into two types: sensitive and non-sensitive.

Each type requires different levels of protection due to their potential impact on an individual's privacy and security.

1. Sensitive PII

It includes data that, if exposed, could lead to identity theft or other significant harm. Such information requires strict security measures:

  • Personal identification numbers: These are numbers, such as a social security number, passport number, or driver’s license number, and they act as official identifiers. These numbers are a unique key to an individual’s legal and financial records.
  • Biometric data: The uniqueness of photographic images, fingerprints, handwriting, and other biometric data like retina scans and voice signatures. It offers a deeply personal layer of identification.
  • Medical records: Medical records and health insurance IDs are among the most sensitive types of PII. They encompass the personal health stories and needs of individuals.
  • Financial information: Credit card and bank account numbers facilitate financial transactions and represent a direct route to one's economic life. Thus, they require utmost protection.

2. Non-Sensitive PII

Although it might not pose a significant risk, it can become sensitive when combined with other information. For example, a hacker could combine someone's birth date with their publicly shared home address and full name to reset passwords or answer security questions, gaining unauthorized access to personal accounts. 

This aggregation of non-sensitive PII can thus lead to identity theft or financial fraud, demonstrating how seemingly innocuous information can contribute to significant security vulnerabilities when interconnected with other data points.

Non-senstivie PII includes:

  • Phone numbers: A person's phone number can reveal their identity, making it a fundamental piece of PII.
  • Zip codes: These can provide insights into an individual's geographical location and contribute to a more detailed profile when combined with other data.
  • Addresses: Address information creates a link between a person's physical and virtual identities.
  • Dates of birth: This fundamental piece of information not only confirms an individual's age but is often used in verification processes and can be a key piece in identity theft if mishandled.

The Role of Privacy Laws in Global PII Protection

Privacy laws worldwide regulate how businesses (in their jurisdiction) gather, store and process PII. These laws set standards for acquiring consent data minimization and enable businesses to maintain transparency and accountability. Moreover, courtesy of globalization, privacy laws also include provisions for the safe transfer of data across borders, ensuring that PII remains protected when it is transferred internationally. 

Each region adopts its frameworks to address the complexities of data protection. 

  • GDPR: In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the benchmark of privacy standards. It compels organizations to seek explicit consent from individuals before processing their data and grants individuals extensive rights over their personal information. This includes the right to access, correct, and delete their data, setting a high bar for privacy practices worldwide.
  • CCPA: The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)requires businesses to adopt responsible data handling practices and allows consumers to inquire about, access, and request the deletion of their personal data collected by businesses.
  • PIPEDA: Canada's approach, through the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), outlines principles for businesses on the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in commercial activities.
  • DPDP: India's recent Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill represents a significant move towards a comprehensive data protection regime. The bill highlights consent, data minimization, and the necessity for appointing Data Protection Officers as its core principles.
  • HIPAA: Specifically targeting the healthcare sector, the United States' Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) focuses on protecting medical information. HIPAA's privacy and security rules provide a framework for the confidentiality and security of health information.

Who Is Accountable for PII Security?

The accountability for Personally Identifiable Information (PII) security is a shared responsibility, spanning across various stakeholders. 

Within the organization:

  • Data Controllers: In the context of GDPR and similar privacy regulations, data controllers determine the purposes and means of processing personal data. For example, in an e-commerce company, the data controller will determine the purpose of using this data - order processing, marketing, etc. They are ultimately responsible for ensuring that their processing activities comply with the applicable data protection laws, including the security of PII. This includes implementing appropriate data protection policies, data processing agreements, and security measures.
  • Data Processors: Data processors are entities that process personal data on behalf of the data controller. This includes storing the data on its secure servers, encrypting the data to protect it during transmission, and possibly backing it up. While they do not have the same decision-making power over the data's use, they are responsible for handling the data securely and in accordance with the controller's instructions and legal requirements.
  • Data Protection Officer (DPO): For organizations required to appoint a DPO (such as those processing large volumes of special categories of data under GDPR), the DPO oversees compliance with data protection laws, including the security of PII.
  • Employees: Individuals also hold a critical role in protecting their PII. This includes exercising caution in sharing personal information online and remaining alert to phishing scams and other cyber threats, thereby contributing to the overall security of their data.

Outside the organization:

  • Third-party accountability: Service providers accessing an organization's PII must maintain the data's confidentiality and integrity. Their practices must align with their clients' security and privacy expectations and regulatory requirements for a consistent protection level throughout the data lifecycle.
  • Regulatory oversight: Governments and regulatory bodies are key players in PII security. By establishing and enforcing data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), they set data handling standards and maintain organizational compliance.

Best Practices for Protecting PII

The below practices are designed to mitigate risks, achieve compliance with regulations, and protect the privacy and integrity of PII.

1. Categorizing PII data

The foundation of effective data protection begins with data categorization. This process is essential for understanding the data types held, particularly to identify and secure PII against breaches. By systematically categorizing data in different genres, organizations can apply appropriate protection measures to sensitive datasets for streamlined data management.

2. Evaluating risks

Conducting a thorough risk assessment is imperative to identify and mitigate potential threats to PII. This involves conducting security assessments to identify risks, analyzing the impact of these risks, and prioritizing them based on their impact and likelihood. It helps organizations tailor their security strategies to the specific vulnerabilities and threats they face to achieve maximum protection against cyber threats.

3. Following compliance guidelines

Adherence to compliance standards is not optional but a mandatory aspect of data protection, much like abiding by legal statutes in a jurisdiction. Ensuring compliance with frameworks such as GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA is crucial for legal operation and for bolstering the trustworthiness of an organization's data security practices, thereby enhancing the protection of PII.

4. Managing user permissions and configuration

Managing user permissions and system configurations is critical in safeguarding PII, reminiscent of the stringent access controls to a secured facility. Regularly reviewing and adjusting these permissions and configurations will help you ensure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive data.

5. Concealing data details

Data masking is a vital technique for concealing the details of PII. By rendering PII inaccessible to unauthorized users through encryption or tokenization, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of sensitive data exposure. To further assist the process, exploring a PII compliance checklist can provide a structured approach to ensure that all necessary measures are in place for PII protection.

6. Implementing access controls

Implementing stringent access control measures is similar to establishing a checkpoint system for limiting access to PII to those with legitimate needs. This minimizes the potential for unauthorized access and enhances the overall security of sensitive information.

7. Monitoring user activities and privileged users

Continuous monitoring of user activities, especially those involving PII, helps prevent potential security incidents. Implementing SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) systems and setting up alerts for unusual access patterns enable prompt detection and response to suspicious activities or potential security incidents.

8. Auditing access to sensitive information

Regular auditing of access to sensitive information is as crucial as conducting financial audits to ensure fiscal responsibility and transparency. This involves reviewing who has accessed PII, when, and why and automating the collection and analysis of access logs. These audits help verify compliance with access policies and detect any unauthorized or anomalous access patterns.

9. Preserving security logs

Implementing log management solutions and defining log retention policies are key steps in this process. They help maintain detailed archives in historical research for a comprehensive record of all interactions with PII. This documentation also helps with forensic analysis in the event of a security incident and for demonstrating compliance in regulatory audits. 

10. Preventing data breaches with DLP

Implementing DLP strategies is essential for preventing unauthorized access, disclosure, or alteration of PII. By employing a DLP solution like Strac, organizations can protect the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive data from internal and external threats.

How Does Strac Enhance PII Security?

Strac is a modern SaaS and Endpoint DLP solution for complete data security. It is designed to protect sensitive data and enhance PII security through its capabilities.

  • Identifying and cataloging sensitive data: The initial step in enhancing PII security involves accurately discovering and classifying sensitive information. Strac employs advanced algorithms to discover and classify sensitive data across unstructured text and documents, including PII. 
  • Immediate detection and redaction capabilities: With Strac, organizations benefit from real-time detection and redaction of sensitive information. This immediate response mechanism helps mitigate risks associated with unauthorized data access and keeps PII secure.
  • API for PII redaction: Strac’s integration capabilities ensure that organizations can maintain the privacy and security of PII without disrupting existing workflows or business operations.
  • Detailed access management: Controlling who has access to sensitive information is a critical aspect of PII security, and Strac helps you control who has access to sensitive data. 
  • Seamless app integrations: The platform integrates seamlessly with popular SaaS applications, endpoints, and cloud services. This ease of integration means organizations can quickly deploy security measures across their existing infrastructure.
  • Adherence to various regulations: Continuous scanning and protection of sensitive data by Strac help organizations meet stringent regulatory standards like PCI, HIPAA, SOC 2, GDPR, and CCPA. This helps businesses meet their legal obligations and maintain their reputation.

Be proactive before breaches occur. Book a demo and secure your PII.

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