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January 19, 2024

What is Personal Information? And, How to Protect Personal Information?

What Is Personal Information And How To Protect Personal Information

Many internet users assume there is no need to be concerned about online security unless they use a public device or the internet. However, this is not the truth. Attacks can be carried out remotely while you are using a personal device. Cybercriminals have become more advanced and started using sophisticated ways to attack that are difficult to detect until they cause a major loss or disruption. 

The third quarter of 2022 marks 15 million data breaches, around 167 percent compared to Q2 of 2022. This poses a great concern for individuals to think seriously about their online security. To avoid threat actors getting hold of your sensitive personal information and financial data, it is important to take appropriate steps and measures.  

There are many ways to secure your data from unauthorized access. This article will help you understand what is personal information and what essential steps you can take to protect personal information online.

What is Personal Information?

Personal information is any data that can be linked to an individual. It can be someone’ name, address, mailing address, phone number, medical record, or financial information. Moreover, online identifiers and Internet browsing history are treated as personal information under specific privacy standards since they may be used to identify an individual uniquely. 

Knowing your personal information and how it’s being used is essential because it can be easily misused or stolen. That’s why it’s crucial to protect your personal information in every way possible.

Types of Personal Information:

Now that you’ve got an idea of what is personal information, let’s explore some types of personal information to get more clarity on the term. Below are the two types of personal information: 

  1. Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

“Data that may be used to directly or indirectly identify a person is considered “Personally Identifiable Information or PII.” 

PII contains personal information such as names, birth dates, telephone numbers, email addresses, and social security and credit card numbers. 

Companies obtain personally identifiable information for several purposes, but it must be managed carefully. To prevent unauthorized access to, or exposure of, personally identifiable information about customers, businesses must implement and maintain stringent data security protocols. 

In addition, customers should be aware of the possible dangers of disclosing their personal information online and should take precautions to protect this information at all times. We can all do our part to preserve not just our privacy but also the privacy of others by raising awareness and taking the appropriate safety measures.

2. Sensitive Personal Information (SPI)

“Sensitive personal information, often known as SPI, refers to any data that may or may not be utilized to determine the identification of a specific individual.”

This may contain the entire names and addresses of the individuals, their Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and any other pertinent financial information. 

Safeguarding this kind of information is of the utmost importance since it might result in severe repercussions for individuals if it gets into the wrong hands. Because of this, many different businesses have gone to considerable lengths to guarantee the safety of their sensitive data. 

They use encryption technology and various types of two-factor authentication to protect your personal information from being accessed by hackers and other dishonest parties. 

They can secure the sensitive personal information of their customers by implementing these precautions, which also allows them to remain compliant with state and federal regulations regulating consumer data privacy.

Importance of Personal Information in Today’s Digital World:

The informational landscape of the digital world is a complex web constantly shifting and expanding. Given the abundance of data at our disposal, it is simple to underestimate the significance of maintaining one’s information privacy in today’s hyper-connected society. 

Your personal information is the most critical factor in determining whether or not you are vulnerable to attacks from hackers and other types of cybercriminals. This applies to any account you have, from social media profiles to online banking accounts. 

For instance, personal information of around three billion users was affected during the infamous and one of the largest data breaches that occurred at Yahoo. This puts PII attacks as one of the biggest threat concerns of today. 

Therefore, it is important for businesses also to utilize and develop individualized goods and services for customers like you. If your personal information is not adequately protected, you risk becoming a victim of identity theft or other forms of fraud.

How Personal Information is Collected?

Collecting personal information is a common practice for companies today. Your data is collected and stored every time you make an online purchase, sign up for services, or visit a website. Most of the time, this data collection is done without your knowledge or consent. 

It can include your name, email address, IP address, location data, browsing history, etc. Companies may also use cookies to track how you interact with websites so they can better target ads and marketing materials toward you. All this information helps them create personalized experiences tailored to users’ needs and interests. 

However, it’s important to note that not all data collection is terrible or unethical. When done right, ethical data-collecting practices can lead to better user experiences and improved customer service. 

Companies should be transparent about the data they collect and how it will be used and provide users with straightforward ways to opt-out of having their information collected. Understanding how companies gather your personal information is essential for protecting your privacy online.

How Personal Information is Abused?

The use of personal information is not just limited to identity theft. Personal data can also be used for purposes that are not necessarily malicious, unethical, or illegal. 

For example, companies can use the information they collect about people to profile and target them with specific ads or offers. They may also share or sell this data without permission, resulting in a loss of privacy for individuals. 

Additionally, some organizations have been known to carry out sophisticated scams using personal data from unsuspecting victims. Such tactics include creating false profiles on social media platforms and using them to spread inaccurate information or phishing for sensitive details like passwords and financial information. 

Misusing personal information is a serious issue, as it can lead to significant financial losses and even put individuals at risk of physical harm. Unfortunately, it is too easy for criminals to access and use this data for their gain.

How Personal Information affects Your Digital Privacy?

Personal information can affect your digital privacy in many ways. When you create an account on a website or register for an online service, you may be asked for specific personal information, including your name, age, and address.

This data is then stored on the online service’s servers. If this data gets into the wrong hands, it can be used to gain access to accounts, steal identities or even commit fraud. 

Similarly, if you use a device that stores personal information – like a laptop or mobile phone –there’s always the chance that someone could gain access and steal your data. They could also track your location using GPS technology. Even if these devices are password-protected, criminals might still find ways to unlock them.

Why And How to Protect Personal Information?

Protecting personal information is easier said than done. It requires a conscious effort to stay aware of your online and offline activities, be it signing up for an email subscription, filling out forms, making purchases, or simply browsing the internet. Here are some tips that can help you protect your personal information:

  1. Think before you reveal any information about yourself: Be cautious about what you post on social media platforms or share with strangers. Make sure that the sites on which you provide your information request only necessary data from you. 

  2. Use strong passwords: Create unique passwords for every website or service and make them as difficult as possible to guess by using symbols, numbers, uppercase, and lowercase letters. Avoid using common words or your personal information. Also, don’t share your passwords with anyone. 

  3. Keep anti-virus software up to date: Install anti-virus software on all your devices and keep it updated regularly to protect yourself from online threats such as malware, spyware, worms, etc.

  4. Use two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication is an extra security layer requiring a second login and the usual username and password combination that provides more secure access to your accounts or services. This will help Prevent unauthorized access even if someone knows your password. 

  5. Monitor bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges: Check your bank statement every month for any suspicious activities or unfamiliar tasks on your account, and report immediately if you find any.

These measures can help secure your personal information and protect you from scams or data breaches. It’s essential to stay informed about the latest security threats and take steps to be proactive in safeguarding your online activities. So start taking steps today to ensure your personal information is secure!

Bottom Line

Personal information is anything that can identify an individual. This includes name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, and email address. Protecting personal information is essential as it can be used for identity theft or fraud. There are a few ways to protect personal information: keep it confidential, use strong passwords, and be aware of scams.

If you’re concerned that someone may have gained access to your accounts or personal data, get guidance on how to check if your identity has been stolen, what to do if it has, and how to move forward after identity theft.

We hope this post would help you understand what is personal information and what essential steps you can take to protect personal information online. Thanks for reading this post. Please share this post and help to secure the digital world. Visit our social media page on FacebookLinkedInTwitterTelegramTumblrMedium & Instagram, and subscribe to receive updates like this.  

Arun KL

Arun KL is a cybersecurity professional with 15+ years of experience in IT infrastructure, cloud security, vulnerability management, Penetration Testing, security operations, and incident response. He is adept at designing and implementing robust security solutions to safeguard systems and data. Arun holds multiple industry certifications including CCNA, CCNA Security, RHCE, CEH, and AWS Security.

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