ITS Online»Antivirus & Data Security

Remove Sensitive Data: Running Identity Finder

Identity Finder is a software tool you may use to search emails and files for data such as Social Security numbers, credit cards, and passwords.

To learn about what can be considered sensitive data, please see the definition of “Confidential University Data” in this policy released by the Penn Privacy Office.

Day 1: Run Identity Finder to Search for Sensitive Data

Identity Finder is preconfigured to search specific locations for passwords, social security and credit card numbers. Please do not change any of these options. 

  1. Click here to run Identity Finder*
    • *NOTE: Only works in Internet Explorer on computers in the Law School.
  2. A bar will flash across the bottom of the window in Internet Explorer, click Run — do not click Save.
  3. Make a password that you will remember. This password is for your profile, you will need to use this password the next time you open Identity Finder.
  4. Click the Start button toolbar at the top. The search can run for several hours depending on how many files you have.


  5. Once the search is complete: Click Save As to save the results from your search so you can come back to it later or in case something happens while viewing the results. The file will be saved as .idf, which can only be opened with Identity Finder.


NOTE: To open your Identity Finder file after closing the program, open Identity Finder, click on the folder icon in the top-left of the window, select your Identity Finder results file (.idf), and click Open.

Day 2: Review the Results & Remove Sensitive Data

Once the search is finished, Identity Finder will list everything that it believes should be removed.  Occasionally, it does pick up some false positives (such as a sample credit card number in a temporary internet file), so it’s important to check the results to see what you can remove.

Identify False Positives

  1. If you can’t identify what the match is from the information in the results window, right-click on the file and select either:
    • “Launch” to open the file, or
    • “Open File Location” to see where the file is being stored.
  2. If the match is a false positive, then right-click on the result, hover over Ignore and select either:
    • “This Identity Match” to ignore all matches similar to this one, or
    • “This Item Location” to ignore all matches that come from that particular file.
  3. In the prompt that appears, click Yes.

Delete Files You Do Not Need*

*Not sure what to delete? Please see this guide to learn more.

  1. Click the checkbox to the left of each result.
  2. Once you have selected everything you wish to delete, click the button labeled Shred in the toolbar at the top.
  3. Click Yes on the prompt that pops up, and then OK on the prompt that confirms your selections have been deleted.

Redact Sensitive Data From Files You Need to Keep

  1. If you need to keep the file but not the data, right-click on the result and select Launch to open the file.
  2. Remove the sensitive data from the file, then save and close it.
  3. If you need to keep the file AND the data, then please report the data via the Cleanup Completion Survey.

Helpful Tips

Save & Open Results File

Depending on the number or results returned, you may want to process the results in a few sittings. You can save your results at any point and open it later. When you open the file, you will need to enter the same password you created when first running Identity Finder.

Preview & Masking

In the Configuration tab of the toolbar, click on the Mask Matches button to display ’*****’ in the place of passwords in results window. This does NOT change the files, but only how the results are displayed.

Here you can also enable/disable the Preview Pane on the right to increase your privacy while processing the results by clicking the button in the toolbar.

Video Walkthrough

We have a video demo and help document to help you learn how to identify, locate, and analyze sensitive data stored in your email and on the server. The video shows you how to use the software from start to finish.


Please examine the results and take steps to protect the data: delete the files, redact the sensitive data, or list them in the SPIA survey if they need to stay on the server.

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