How to protect personally identifiable information from a cyber breach 

How to protect personally identifiable information

In recent years, personally identifiable information (PII) such as social security numbers, medical history, and banking details have become a high priority target for cybercriminals. For example, There were 1.4 million reported ID theft incidents in 2020, as opposed to 650,000 incidents in 2019. 

Driven by the prospect of high prices on the dark web and security vulnerabilities prevalent in WFH infrastructure, cybercriminal groups have become alarmingly aggressive in their bid to obtain PII.  

This challenge on the cyber risk frontier is a concern for most organisations working with multiple vendors on cloud platforms, which expands the attack surface, making endpoint detection harder and increasing the possibility of a breach.  

Furthermore, if security practices do not meet industry standards, organisations risk violating compliance guidelines, eroding trust from stakeholders, vendors, and customers.  

In this environment, knowing how to protect PII can be critical for maintaining systems integrity while ensuring that customers and stakeholders are safe.  

In this post, we explore the measures you and your vendors can take to prevent cyber breaches and PII theft in the future.  

How to protect personally identifiable information? 
  • Follow compliance procedures 

Handling PII places you under the jurisdiction of several regulatory rulings, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  

These regulator rulings have specific requirements when handling and storing data.  

Following these procedures generates multiple benefits—you not only build trust with relevant stakeholders, but the actions stated in these rulings ensure that you are following best practices to secure personal data.  

  • Vet your third-parties  

Vetting your third-party vendors is critical for protecting your PII.  

Your security systems could have adequate safeguards in place, but if vendors do not follow the same standards, they will inadvertently act as a back-door for cybercriminals to access your system.  

The main challenge in this area is accounting for security standards in a fluctuating industry because certain vendors would have, at one point, had robust security mechanisms but fell behind due to negligence.   

To determine if vendors are following best security practices, consider investing in a security risk rating platform to assess vendor risk in real-time.  

  • Encrypt PII data  

Encryption prevents data loss, and it is one of the most efficient methods for preventing cyber breaches.  

In an environment where most organisations operate within the cloud, encryption practices are critical for keeping their data safe. Data encryption practices add a layer of protection to vendor security systems, eliminating data theft. 

When data is encrypted, it can prevent unauthorised parties from accessing the data by scrambling it. So, unauthorised parties who try to view it would only see random information without finding any pattern or value. 

Furthermore, encryption practices can also protect data when transferred from one platform to another.  

Given that vendors are constantly accessing data and, on some occasions, transferring it to their platform, encryption could prove to be a valuable layer of security to prevent PII theft. 

  • Adopt better vendor monitoring and cloud solutions  

Working with third-party and fourth-party vendors makes it hard to create a secure environment because hundreds of organisations could be accessing PII at any time, making it impossible to track an individual organisation’s footprint.  

Hence, security teams have to figure out how to protect personally identifiable information in an environment where hundreds of organisations could be accessing the data at any time. 

In such an environment, automating vendor security and third-party risk management could prove to be critical for preventing cyber breaches and guarding personally identifiable information.  

Vendor monitoring solutions can monitor your inventory of IT assets, including PII, along with who has access to them and when they have accessed them.  

With this level of insight, you will have an easier time detecting anomalies that could indicate a cyber breach.  

Ensuring personally identifiable information is secure from a cyber breach 

Given how lucrative and vulnerable it is, we can expect criminal groups to make more aggressive plays on PII. Knowing how to protect personally identifiable information could be critical for protecting your customers, employees, and other relevant stakeholders.  

Protecting PII not only requires organisations to adopt best practices but also to use suitable technology to improve security, secure data, and prevent theft. 

About RiskXchange 

RiskXchange provides a powerful AI-assisted, yet simple automated and centralised 360-degree cybersecurity risk rating management approach. We generate objective and quantitative reporting on a company’s cyber security risk and performance, which enables organisations with evolving business requirements to conduct business securely in today’s open and collaborative digital world.  

RiskXchange is an information security technology company, which helps companies of all sizes fight the threat of cyberattack by providing instant risk ratings for any company across the globe. RiskXchange was founded and is led by recognised experts within the security industry, who have held leading roles within companies such as IBM Security.  

Find out more here