Identity Finder-Computing Services - Carnegie Mellon University

About Identity Finder

Identity Finder assists you in preventing identity theft by finding personally-identifiable information (PII) stored on your computer, file shares or external media and providing you with the ability to easily and quickly protect or securely dispose of it.

What is Personally-Identifiable Information?

Personally-identifiable information (PII) is any piece of information which can potentially be used to uniquely identify, contact or locate a single person.  PII is generally kept private and often used for financial, medical or research identification.  Examples of PII include Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, driver’s license numbers and account passwords.

Why Clean Up PII?

If your computer or external media is lost, stolen or broken into over the network, sensitive PII may be harvested from your compromised equipment.  A surprising amount of sensitive PII (e.g. your passwords, credit card numbers, and maybe even Social Security number) may be retained on your computer just from daily use along with sensitive PII stored in personal and work files.  This information can be used to steal not only your money and identity, but also the money and identities of anyone else who either shares your computer or whose sensitive PII you store for Carnegie Mellon work.  And if you do store sensitive PII for Carnegie Mellon work, the University would be obligated under Pennsylvania state law to notify everyone affected by the breach and could potentially be legally liable.

You might think this could never happen to you, but consider these facts:

Invest the time now to clean PII from your machine and help prevent Identity Theft for yourself, for everyone who shares your computer and for everyone whose data you handle. 

Why Can't Computing Services do This for Me?

Although your departmental computing administrator or DSP consultant may install software and help you with the clean up process, you must ultimately decide what files to securely delete or securely retain given your duties and needs.  Additionally, the PII searching software will find sensitive PII such as passwords and financial account numbers that you should keep private even from your computing support personnel.

How Do I Clean Up PII on Windows & Mac Computers?

Follow the steps provided in this document to install and run Identity Finder.

Steps for Cleanup

  • READ introduction material on this page
  • Download and install Identity Finder
  • Configure and Run an Identity Finder Search
  • Manage Your Search Results
    • Choose how to clean each search result
    • Re-run Identity Finder for additional external storage or shared folders
    • CLEAN files that you KNOW contain PII but Identity Finder missed (Identity Finder may not recognize certain custom file formats)
  • Schedule Re-runs so that you remember to run Identity Finder regularly (e.g., weekly, monthly).

Last Updated: 01/30/2012