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380AEW Article

Encrypt or else: Air Force’s new method of protecting PII

  • Published
  • By A1C D. Blake Browning
  • 380th Air Exepditionary Wing
As of Feb 6, 2018, U.S. Air Force officials announced a new method in preventing Personally Identifiable Information breaches within email transmissions. This new method of eliminating PII breaches via email will affect all personnel assigned to Al Dhafra Air Base.

"The Air Force depends on reliable, secure communications to operate,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan. “Ensuring confidentiality of every Airman's personal information is part and parcel for maintaining operational security, as well as an inherent command responsibility."

PII breaches can cause harm to one’s reputation or security, which in turn could create a toxic work environment and damage unit effectiveness.

“PII is information about an individual that identifies, links, relates, or describes a member and can be found in people’s personal, disciplinary, or even evaluation files,” said Senior Airman McCall Sponsel, 380th Expeditionary Communication Squadron knowledge manager. “So if that information is released to anyone who doesn’t have the authorization or need-to-know it is labeled a PII breach.”

In an article released by Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office officials it stated the change is not only in policy, but rather a new method to prevent PII breaches via email. 

When users try to send an email that has PII, similar numeric constructs, or keywords in the message or attachment, the transmission will be blocked unless the email is encrypted.

“The system before would still allow you to send the email if you acknowledged it didn’t contain PII, but now transmission will be blocked,” said Sponsel.

The only way to transmit the information is to either encrypt the message or send the information through the U. S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) website.

“Any time there’s a change were going to have to adapt to the change,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Roland, 380th Expeditionary Communication Squadron knowledge manager. “We won’t have the luxury anymore of being able to send the email even if the email doesn’t have PII.”

AMRDEC SAFE ( is a website that allows users to upload their content with their email address, An email is sent to the recipient with a link in order to download the information.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect PII and it goes with the wingman concept,” said Sponsel. “We want to protect our fellow wingmen; we don’t want to release any personal information that could cause harm to not only them but to the unit and their families.”

(Information from a Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office article was used in this story.)