Research Instruction & Information Technology Group

Identity Finder

Identity Finder Training Video

Watch Web Based Training designed by ITS to introduce you to the Identity Finder application.


Scanning Guide

Identity Finder Tips & Tricks

Terms Used

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) - Refers to information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person or can be used with other sources to uniquely identify a single individual. Examples of such information are Social Security Number (SSN), Credit Card Numbers (CCN), and Bank Account Numbers (BAN) that are associated with a person’s name or identity.

Client - Refers to the Identity Finder program you are currently using

Results Pane - Located on the left of the Client, contains the results of a scan

Preview Pane - Located on the right of the Client, contains a preview of the currently selected file

Match - Located in the Results Pane, each row is a possible identity match. Could be a file, email, database table, etc.

True Positives - Matches that contain PII

False Positives - Matches that have been falsely marked as containing PII

Remediation - This is the process of reviewing the scan results and cleaning up any True Positives


  1. Identity Finder IconUse the following icon on your Desktop to launch Identity Finder (Also found under Start > All Programs > Identity Finder)
  2. Once the program opens, just click the Start button to begin a scan
    1. Start Identity FinderScans can take as little as 1 hour to complete or up to an entire day
    2. Your C, D, E & H drives will be scanned, as well as, Firefox, Internet Explorer and email
    3. If you Close the program or Log off your computer your scan results will be LOST, forcing you to restart a scan
    4. You CAN Minimize the program while it is scanning, or Lock your computer
    5. If you receive an error during a scan "Outlook is not your default email client" just click OK to continue. You do not want to change your default mail client.
  3. Identity Finder Search CompletedWhen the search is Complete you will get a popup in the system tray, you can click the popup or the icon below it to launch Identity Finder


Note: If you Close the program or Log off your computer your scan results will be LOST, forcing you to restart the scan!

Once the scan is finished, you will be presented with a window containing a list of all files found that could contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Not all of these files will contain true PII, some will contain data that was falsely identified (a false positive).

The easiest way to determine if a file truly contains PII, or if it just contains a false positive, is to click on the file name and view the contents of the file in the Preview Pane (on the right side of the window). The preview pane will show you a preview of the file, with the suspected match highlighted. By viewing the file, you should be able to use your best judgment to determine if the number is true PII, or if it is a false positive.

A false positive could be things like ISBN numbers, journal references, FedEx account numbers, or Zip Codes, or they could be random strings of numbers that appear in the background code of the file.

If you are still unsure whether the file contains PII, you can double click on the file name to open the file and look through it.

If you need assistance in determining which files contain PII, please contact us at

Once you have determined if the file contains PII, follow the steps below.

If the file contains PII, you have two options:

  1. Shred IconSHRED the file. This will delete the file completely from your machine. This is the safest option, and will ensure that the PII is unrecoverable if your computer were to be compromised. If you no longer need the file, please Shred it.
  • To Shred the file, click the "Shred" button in the top bar of the window.
  • CLEAN the file. This is the process of removing the PII data from the file without losing the rest of the information. Only use this option if it is necessary to retain the rest of the data in the document.
    • To Clean the file, double click it to Open it.
    • Delete the data from the file.
    • Choose "File > Save As" from the menu and rename the file to indicate that the PII was removed. We recommend that you use a file name such as "OriginalFileName_PII-Removed" so that you can easily tell which files have been cleaned.
    • Return to Identity Finder and Shred the original file.

    If the file DOES NOT contain PII, you can Ignore or Skip the file.

    1. Ignore IconIGNORE the file. The program will remember this file in the future, so client_ignore_exit will not show up the next time you scan your computer (per PSU Security, this option will be available after the third scheduled scan is completed).
    • To Ignore the file, click on the file name and click the "Ignore" button at the top of the window.
    • In the drop-down list that appears, choose the first option: "This File Location"
  • SKIP the file. If you choose to simply Skip the file, it will still show up in subsequent scans.
    • To SKIP the file, simply move on to the next file in the list.

    When you are finished with all the files in the list, you are done with the remediation! Simply click the X button to close the window.

    ***If you have a large number of scan results, and feel comfortable using the Identity Finder program, see Identity Finder Advanced Tips & Tricks (courtesy of the College of Liberal Arts)

    Data Scanning FAQ

    General Questions

    What is Identity Finder?
    Identity Finder software helps individuals and businesses prevent identity theft, by finding and securing personally identifiable information (PII)—like Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, bank account data, and passwords—stored in files, emails, web browser data, and system areas. Once the data is located, owners have the option to shred the information, quarantine it to a secure location, or protect it through encryption.

    How fast does Identity Finder search?

    It depends on the amount of data and the number of matches found. The more matches found, the more slowly Identity Finder searches. A thorough initial search will speed up all subsequent searches.

    Why is data scanning necessary?
    As the number of laptop thefts and other computer systems intrusions continue to rise, the greater the need to protect personal and institutional information. Security measures need to be implemented by staff or faculty working with personally identifiable information to help reduce the risk of a data breach. Some individuals are not aware of the sensitivity of the information to which they have access, nor of the consequences. It is important that all staff have the knowledge to identify the type of information they are handling so they can take the necessary precautions and implement the security measures required to protect this information.  Data scanning for PII such as Social Security numbers (SSNs) and Credit card numbers (CCNs) is crucial as this type of PII is highly susceptible to unauthorized use. Furthermore, the University may have a legal obligation to notify the persons affected if a computer with PII on it is compromised.

    Am I able to perform the scan myself?
    Yes; you can perform scan yourself by following the instructions in the Scanning Guide.

    Will someone help me with scanning my computer(s)?
    It is the individual’s responsibility to scan the computers used for Smeal-related work. The RIIT Group is also available to support you in using the scanning software if you have trouble doing so.

    When is the best time to do my scanning?
    You can perform your scanning at any time. The program works in the background and will not impact you while you do your regular work. If you have an older computer, you might notice the scanning tool slows down the performance of your computer; in that case, we advise you to consider running the scan overnight.

    Depending on how many files the scan identifies, reviewing and deleting confidential information may be time-consuming, so we recommended that you review the results at a time convenient for you.

    How many times can I scan my computer?
    You may rerun the scanning software as frequently as you wish.

    To rescan a Windows devices follow the following steps:

    1. Start
    2. Select All Programs
    3. Select Identity Finder
    4. Select Identity Finder Enterprise Edition
    5. Double click on start

    To rescan a Macintosh devices follow the following steps:

    1. Double-click on your hard drive
    2. Open the application folder
    3. Double-click Identity Finder
    4. Press Start

    What if I use a laptop that I take home in the evening?
    You don’t need to be connected to the network to run the scan.  Once you have the software installed, you can then run it at any time.

    File Specific Questions

    What types of files are scanned?
    The tool in use for Windows and Mac will examine all files on your system for Social Security, credit card, and bank account numbers. The Windows tool will examine email messages and attachments. The tool in use for Linux attempts to inspect the following types of files for Social Security and credit card numbers:

    • Brio Query files (bqy)
    • Office 2003 formats (.doc, .ppt, .xls, .docx, .pptx, xlsx)
    • Text files (.txt)
    • Archives (.zip)
    • Access databases (.mdb)
    • Filemaker Pro databases (.fp3)

    Other file types are not examined by the scanning software. In particular, email messages are not being examined, although email file attachments of the above file types will be scanned.

    Can I start deleting files or confidential numbers before the scan?
    Yes. There is no need to wait for the scan if you know you have files with confidential numbers.