Officials urge watchful eye on personal information
June 27, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 27, 2014) -- Although there are many ways to protect one's personally identifiable information, such as companies or organizations that will keep a watchful eye on PII, Fort Rucker officials want to remind people that responsibility still falls on the individual.
PII is any combination of information that can be used to identify a person, according to Deborah Seimer, director of Fort Rucker Directorate of Human Resources.
One of the most familiar PII violations is identity theft, said Seimer, adding that when people are careless with information, such as their Social Security number and date of birth, they can easily become a victim of the crime.
A person with any combination of that information has the potential to violate another's PII, she said, but oftentimes, people are is careless with their own information.
Over the last few years, the DHR Administrative Services Division has had all Fort Rucker forms reviewed by the originating office to have the SSN removed or provide a justification to retain it to help in that regard, said the HR director. When the effort began, there were 67 Fort Rucker forms that required SSNs and other PII information, but after the most recent review conducted April 14, that number has been reduced to only eight forms that have a requirement to retain the SSN.
"One of the things that we've noticed [on Fort Rucker] is people seem to be under the misunderstanding that the green recycling bins are safe for PII to be put into," she said. "Those bins are not to be used for placing any type of PII in because what is in those bins doesn't go from their office to a shredder. Once it goes into a recycling bin, that information is no longer protected."
Any type of information that is disposed of in the recycling bins has the potential to be viewed by anyone with access to the bins, said Seimer. From the office, that information can travel miles to the recycling center where it is picked up by an organization outside Fort Rucker.
"People are cleaning out their files and not thinking about what could happen putting that information into the recycle bin," she said.
Seimer said that many people also seem to be under the misunderstanding that if the files they are throwing out are old, then they have no pertinent information in them. Regardless of how old they are, if the files or documents have any type of PII on them, they need to be destroyed properly by shredding, she added.
Most of the organizations and offices on post have shredding machines, and the installation has a high-volume disintegrator run by the security office that is available to use at the recycling center, she said, so people have no excuse not to properly destroy PII documents.
"We use a disintegrator for paper that will shred documents and turn them into briquettes," said Linda Green, security assistant for the Fort Rucker security division.
Essentially, the high-volume disintegrator turns paper into dust and compacts it into briquettes that the recycling center sells to different customers for various uses, she added
The recycling center also houses a CD/DVD destroyer, as well as a hard drive degausser and destroyer, said Heather Androlevich, security assistant for the Fort Rucker security division.
"(The hard drive degausser) uses really powerful magnets to completely obliterate any data on the hard drives so that they can't be read," she said. "For classified hard drives, they also have to through the degausser and the hard drive destroyer to be physically destroyed. It actually bends the hard drive so that there is no chance that any data can be retrieved from it."
In order to use the equipment, people must take a safety class provided by the security office and set up an appointment at their convenience, said Androlevich, adding that they can even accommodate unit training on a case-by-case basis.
To set up a training appointment, people can call 255-3094 or 255- 2973.
People found in violation of mishandling PII have the potential to be hit with civil penalties that range from payment of damages and attorney fees to personnel action that can include termination of employment and possible prosecution, according to officials at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. Criminal penalties can also be charged from a $5,000 fine to misdemeanor criminal charges if the violation is severe enough.
"[PII violations] can be a pretty big deal," said Seimer. "The operational security manager has to get involved, as well as the security office to assess the situation and that can all take a lot of time."
Mishandling of PII is not only a problem when it comes to disposal of physical documents, she said, it also applies to electronic data, adding that there have also been incidents where people on the installation are mishandling PII electronically through emails that haven't been properly encrypted.
"Bottom line: we need people's support in spreading the word within their organization regarding the importance (protecting PII)," said Seimer. "Either remove the PII altogether from AKO, or create password protected documents that are properly secured and restricted."