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Identity Finder: What secrets are hidden in your computer?

May 13, 2010 06:00 AM ET

On the second pass, I had Identity Finder search on all nine identity data types that are found by the AnyFind feature and came back with an additional 234,709 results -- a totally unmanageable number. Lesson learned: Using the AnyFind feature on identity data types such as e-mails, addresses and phone numbers casts the net too widely. Practically speaking, the AnyFind function is useful only for more sensitive, structured account numbers such as those for bank accounts, credit cards and passports.

Using more specific search criteria in the other categories can help pare down the results. Even then, you can end up with very large result sets. Fortunately, you can apply filters to organize the data by location, identity data type or any other search criteria you choose.

What does Identity Finder find?

When I let Identity Finder Pro crawl my work computer, it found the following:

  • 722 Social Security numbers, including federal tax IDs on contract documents, two instances of my Social Security number and my wife's number on a completed medical insurance PDF claim form that was never deleted, and a reference to my Social Security number in a personal letter asking a financial services company not to use it in identifying me.
  • 119 passwords, including 50 stored in unencrypted form by Firefox, multiple usernames and passwords associated with various FTP download sites, several log-in names and passwords for conference calls, and a spreadsheet that contained more than 50 usernames and passwords for various online Web sites and accounts.
  • 39 bank account numbers, 15 of which pointed to actual personal and professional accounts. These included my American Express credit card number from a downloaded and forgotten PDF statement, and a family member's Visa credit card number embedded in correspondence.

Identity Finder came up with very few false positives when it searched for passwords and Social Security numbers. I caught quite a few false positives with bank accounts, but to be fair, most were fake bank account numbers embedded in PowerPoint and PDF presentations. Likewise, all 31 birth dates discovered were fakes in sample data associated with a Microsoft Access demo and a PowerPoint presentation.

I got interesting results on the other two Windows-based systems. On the Acer, Identity Finder found Firefox passwords and not much else. However, on the eMachines desktop, which is my primary home machine, Identity Finder discovered eight instances of credit card numbers (much to my consternation), 23 instances of Social Security numbers, all belonging to me or my spouse, 105 unencrypted passwords stored by Firefox, and eight bank account numbers, all of which were false positives.

Identity Finder -- Mac Edition

The Mac Edition has the same basic look and feel as the Windows editions but lacks many of its older, more established sibling's features. Feinman says the company has spent more time developing its Windows version because of its focus on business users. "The Mac version trails the Windows version by about a year," he says.

So, what's different? While the Mac Edition supports searches for the same identity data types, the AnyFind option is available for fewer of them. There's no summary window to tally the total number of items discovered in each category, and results can't be filtered. More important, searches don't include any e-mail or browser data, you can't redact sensitive data from discovered files, and it can only search the local disk -- no external or networked disk drives.

The current Mac 2.1 client also isn't a full partner in the Enterprise edition: It can report search results to the central console, but you can't remotely schedule or start searches like you can with Windows clients.

That will change with Mac Edition 3.0, which the company says will ship later this month. The new edition adds the missing summary status window and allows the Enterprise edition console to set policies and schedule tasks on Mac clients. Identity Finder hopes to have a new version that supports searches of Apple Mail and the upcoming Outlook client for the Mac later this year.

I tested both Version 2.1 and a beta version of 3.0 on a MacBook Pro. On its first run, Version 2.1 crashed about one minute into the search. I relaunched the program and ran several more searches without any problems. The beta of Version 3.0 installed and ran without any significant issues.

When applied against the same data set I used to test the Windows version, Identity Finder Mac Edition returned the same results, with one rather large exception: It missed some 50 unencrypted passwords stored by the Firefox browser. (You can close this security hole yourself by going to the Security tab in the Preferences dialog and unchecking the option enabling Firefox to remember passwords, or by by checking the "Use a master password" box, thus encrypting your passwords.)

Identity Finder
The Mac edition has the same basic look and feel as the Windows editions.
Click to view larger image

I found the lack of results-filtering tools to be a drawback when dealing with the large set of results generated after my first search. For subsequent searches, however, that shouldn't be as big of an issue, since presumably far fewer results would be found.

Mac Edition works with OS X 10.4 or later; it costs$19.95 for a single-user license or $49.96 for a three-user license.



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