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What kind of sensitive data lives on your computer?

November 30, 2009 by Sara Nagreen

What kind of sensitive data lives on your computer?

When a computer has been broken into, one of the questions that I will ask the end user is "Do you have any sensitive data on this machine?"

What is "sensitive data"?  Well, anything that might be used to steal someone's identity.

  • Credit card numbers
  • Social security numbers
  • Drivers license numbers
  • Usernames and passwords
  • And these are just examples!

If your computer has this sort of sensitive data, the computer support people on campus work with DoIT BadgIRT (Badger Incident Response Team) to determine the damage done. 

One way to determine what types of secure data you have on your own computer is to run the DoIT Identity Finder tool.  This is a simple tool that DoIT makes available to campus at no charge.   This tool is available here ( 

This tool will examine your computer files looking for data that matches certain types of patterns.  It takes only a few minutes to download and install and run.  It may ask that you notify your local IT person before running it.  

Before you say that you don't have this type of data, run the scan anyway.  I ran it and was shocked at the type of data that was on my computer without my knowledge.   All in all, I deleted about 70 items that were potentially sensitive!  You would be surprised the type of information you can collect over the years! 

A good security policy starts with being aware of your surroundings and identifying potential problems.  Take a few minutes to try out this tool and see how you fare.  You might be surprised!

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