Identity Finder Unearths Secrets Hidden in PCs, Macs

"If a master password is not used, the passwords are stored in plaintext and could be discoverable by any malicious software run on the machine," says a spokesman for the Mozilla Foundation. Like many users, I blithely gave Firefox permission to remember passwords and never gave it a second thought. I was completely unaware of how those passwords were being handled.

Identity Finder can disable the storage of usernames and passwords in Internet Explorer and Firefox, and create a master password for Firefox -- but Mozilla does it better. As you type in a new master password, the Firefox dialog box includes a "Password quality meter" that measures how strong your password is.

The Bottom Line

Identity Finder Professional does a good job of scanning Windows computers in a business setting, so long as you understand what it does and does not search. You'll need the Enterprise edition if you want to scan Exchange, SQL Server, and file server data, or if you have many machines to manage and want centralized control of searches, results reporting and remediation.

Identity Finder Mac Edition doesn't search everything, but it does do a good job rooting out the most sensitive identity data within the types of documents commonly found in most users' Documents folders.

There are good business reasons for adopting a tool like Identity Finder. For example, many companies today have a zero tolerance policy for the storage of personally identifiable information. Any Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, federal tax ID numbers, bank account numbers or other sensitive data is to be removed as soon as an employee has finished with them.

That's fine going forward, but how do you find what long-forgotten documents are hidden on employees' computers -- like mine? A stolen laptop containing an archive of hundreds of Social Security numbers or credit card numbers could cause a lot of public embarrassment and legal headaches.

If you have one or two home or business computers, you could consider periodically performing multiple searches for personal identity information using a desktop search tool like Google Desktop, but Identity Finder makes the process much easier, and its AnyFind feature, which casts a wider net, is more thorough. Identity Finder lets you schedule regular searches and can save the results for later review -- and it's fairly inexpensive.

I'd recommend going with the Professional edition. The free edition is simply too limited, and for $10 more than the Home edition, you'll have the full-featured product.

Robert L. Mitchell is a national correspondent for Computerworld. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rmitch, or e-mail him at rmitchell@computerworld.com.

Product mentioned in this article

(1 items)

  • Identity Finder

    This data-shredding software is effective at finding and protecting personal information on a PC, but it's expensive.

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