Identity Finder Frequently Answered Questions

Information security is everybody's responsibility!

What is Protected Data?

Protected data is an all-encompassing term that includes any information defined as confidential, personal, proprietary, health insurance or medical information. For a detailed list of Level 1 Confidential Data and Level 2 Internal Use Data, read Information Classification Handling and Disposal Standard.

What Specific Protected Data Can Identity Finder Locate?

The basic "Start Search Now" feature locates Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and passwords.

The "Open Advanced Interface" feature allows you to select any or all of the following: Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, bank account numbers, driver licenses, date of birth, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and personal addresses.

If you first run the basic search, you can return later and open "Continue Search Wizard" or the Identities icon to select additional data fields.

Why Clean-up Protected Data?

If your computer or electronic storage device is lost, stolen or broken into over the network, protected data may be obtained from your compromised equipment. It's easy to accumulate protected data on your computer. Just from daily use your own personal information (e.g., passwords, credit card number) may be retained from transactions. Monthly absence reports created on your computer may contain your social security number. And long forgotten documents, spreadsheets and e-mails may contain student and employee Social Security numbers or other identifying information. Under California law, the University must notify everyone affected by a breach if protected data was, or is reasonably assumed to have been, acquired by unauthorized individuals. The loss of time and expense to manage a security incident, damage to the University's reputation and possible legal liability makes proactive data clean-up a worthwhile task.

Why Can't Information Technology Services Do This for Me?

The ITS Help Desk or your assigned Information Technology Consultant (ITC) can assist you with software installation and configuration process. However, you must ultimately determine what files to securely retain or securely delete based on your current work requirements or University records retention requirements. In addition, the Identity Finder software may find your personal protected data, such as passwords, Social Security numbers or financial account information, that should remain private even from ITS and ITC support staff. If you need assistance with installation or configuration, an up-to-date list of campus ITCs is available at

How Long Will It Take to Clean My Computer?

The clean-up duration is dependent upon the number of drives or media being searched and the quantity of files, folders and sub-folders on the computer and storage media. For this reason, clean-up time varies for each individual and is difficult to predict. However, most system testers reported the average scans took one hour or less. Search results can be saved and file clean-up completed at a more convenient time. Since multiple files can be selected for an identical action (e.g., all checked boxes should be deleted or secured), you can manage your results very quickly. If you choose to secure files, a single password will protect all files, which expedites the process.

Identity Finder runs in the background so you can continue working. While there may be some minimal impact on your computer's processing speed during the search process, those who tested the system reported no impact. But past experience has taught us that having to manage a security incident and notify individuals about the loss of their personal information can take away hundreds of hours from University work, making the time spent on proactive clean-up a very worthwhile task.

Can I Stop the Clean-up and Return to Finish It Later?

Yes, but Identity Finder is not capable of restarting from the point at which you cancelled the search. You can cancel the search at any time but once you resume the search, it will search from the beginning. It is recommended that you complete the search once it has started. Consider starting the search during a lunch break or when you leave work for the day. Just press Ctrl/Alt/Delete to lock your computer before leaving your desk. Remember, Identity Finder runs in the background so you can continue to work while it is searching. Once your search is complete, you can securely save your search results and return at a later time to manage your search results.

Can Identity Finder Detect Protected Data on My Flash Drive?

Yes. Identity Finder will first scan the computer's hard drive, then all CDs and DVDs in the drives and finally all external electronic storage devices that are plugged into the computer's USB ports. Multiple external electronic storage devices can be plugged in simultaneously but they are limited by the number of available USB ports. But a word of caution, it is not advisable to leave external electronic storage devices unattended if you chose to scan your computer after working hours.

I Forgot to Scan My Electronic Storage Media. Can I Still Scan It?

Yes. Identity Finder will allow you to designate a specific drive to scan. Install the CD, DVD or external electronic storage device. Then in the Locations menu, click on the drive you want to scan.

How do I Obtain the Identity Finder Tool?

If you have a computer that receives automatic computer patches and updates from ITS Baseline Services, then Identity Finder is already on your computer. There is a new blue sniffing dog icon on your desktop titled Identity Finder.

If you have a Mac or a computer that is not updated through Baseline Services, you will need to perform a quick, simple download to install it on your Mac.

Installation instructions for computers and Macs are in Step 1 – Install Identity Finder.

What Options Do I Have For Managing My Confidential Files?

There are five options – Shred, Scrub, Secure, Quarantine and Ignore. But not every option is available for every type of computer or file. Depending on where the file is located on the computer, the available options will appear in the Main Ribbon.

  • Shred utilizes a Department of Defense wiping standard to permanently delete the file.
  • Scrub removes the personal information and leaves all other content in place. This feature is available only for files created in Office 2007 and later.
  • Secure uses application-specific encryption to password protect the file.
  • Quarantine moves the highlighted file to a quarantine location and permanently shreds it from its original location.
  • Ignore allows designated items to be ignored by Identity Finder.

Is Identity Finder Difficult to Use?

Identity Finder is very user-friendly. Once the software is installed, the application will provide prompts to guide you through the steps. And again, you only need to complete the search initially. You can return later to manage the identified files.

Can I Download a Copy of the Software on my Personal Computer?

No. Our license is for campus use only. You can visit for more information on the Identity Finder Home Edition, which offers a one-year subscription covering three home computers for under $40. There is also a free download version that searches only for credit card numbers and passwords.