Science and Technology News

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Protect PII from the enemy

by Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


2/11/2014 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- With security forces Airmen patrolling Air Force bases around the clock; staff can have sense of security in their work environment. However, wing safety relies on more than just entry control.

Personally Identifiable Information is used regularly on military installations. If it is not handled properly, lives can be damaged.

"You can never be too careful," said Martha Smith, Airmen and Family Readiness Center human resource specialist. "Because of the computer age we live in, your information can be distributed around the world a few moments and your identity is in the hands of an imposter."

Information such as social security numbers, age, marital status, race, telephone numbers, email addresses, medical and financial information are all considered PII.

Enemies, both foreign and domestic, are constantly trying to steal PII and are not biased with their targets, leaving everyone vulnerable to identity theft.

Smith's information was leaked into the public domain six years ago, forcing her to deal with numerous cases of fraudulent charges, loss of credit and identity theft.

"It's been a nightmare," she said. "Not everyone has the Air Force Core Values. They're not all nice, and some people won't hesitate to take it [PII] and hurt you. We have to be hyper-vigilant at all times."

In order to safeguard sensitive information, PII must be enclosed in Privacy Act cover sheets and should not be left unattended unless it is in a secure location. The information needs to be properly disposed of when it is no longer needed.

Disposal methods include: tearing, erasing, burning, melting chemical decomposition, pulping, pulverizing, shredding and mutilation.

"Protecting PII is a responsibility of every Air Force Member," said Lt Gen. Michael J. Basla, Secretary of the Air Force Information Dominance chief and chief information officer. "Loss of PII poses a risk to personnel as well as the security of our installations and systems."

Air Force email accounts will automatically be locked if PII is detected in outgoing emails. Emails may be encrypted to protect sensitive information and prevent accounts from being locked.

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