Private Information Management Initiative (PIMI) FAQ

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What is the Private Information Management Initiative?

The Private Information Management Initiative (PIMI) is a program where RIT Information Technology Services helps RIT faculty and staff scan their computers and attached drives to determine if they contain private information (PI). When PI is found, each RIT faculty and staff member is responsible for remediating the private information by redacting or shredding the files.

The program also includes destruction of paper files containing nonessential PI.

The goals of the program are to identify and reduce the amount of private information at RIT. This reduction will help safeguard the RIT community against identity theft and will help RIT comply with relevant state and federal laws.

What is Private Information?

New York State defines private information (PI) as:

any personal information concerning a natural person combined with one or more of the following data elements: Social Security number (SSN), driver's license number, account number, or credit or debit card number in combination with any required security code. These combinations of information are often used in identity theft. 

The New York State Information Security Breach and Notification Act requires that RIT notify affected consumers if their Private information is compromised.

Why is RIT scanning my computer or drive for Private information?

RIT is scanning your computer or drive because we've found that scans have revealed the presence of Private information on many computers; even when the computer owners do not believe there is any Private information present. We want to reduce the potential for identity theft occurring as a result of information obtained from RIT computers.

How is RIT authorized to scan my computer?

RIT is authorized to scan computers using the RIT network in order to protect the RIT community. See the Computer Code of Conduct and Network Use and the Privacy Policy.

It is important to note that ITS may inspect the results of the scan only to aid in remediation efforts.

Are other universities doing anything similar?

Many universities scan for Private information on computers connected to their networks and have begun remediation of paper files and other media containing Private information.


What are my responsibilities in the Private Information Management Initiative?

Your responsibilities as faculty or staff may be found here.

Scanning and Results

How will RIT scan my system?

Your computer is scanned by Spirion (Identity Finder) software installed on your computer. The scans will be initiated from a central scanning server administered by ITS. Spirion (Identity Finder) also allows you to initiate an on-demand scan. You do not have to be connected to the network to initiate an on-demand scan.

What do I do if the scan is slowing down my computer or I would like to pause it temporarily?

It's easy to Pause Spirion (Identity Finder) so that it doesn't impact your productivity significantly. Go to your system tray, right click on the Spirion (Identity Finder) icon (Ctrl-click for Mac) and choose Maximize. Then click on the Pause button. When you're ready to resume the scan, click on Resume.

What happens when Spirion (Identity Finder) finds Private information?

Spirion (Identity Finder) will generate an interactive report of suspected Private information matches and provide user-friendly tools to erase the information securely or remove the Private information (e.g., Social Security Number, Bank Account Number, Credit Card Number or Drivers License) from the files directly from the interactive report. You may also identify "false positives" by choosing "Ignore" within IDF. ITS may verify that the ignored files do not contain Private information.

I've completed a search and Spirion (Identity Finder) is asking me how to proceed. What should I do?

When Spirion (Identity Finder) completes its search, review the list of results to begin Shredding or Redacting Private Information and Ignoring "false positives."

How do I shred, redact, or ignore a match?

You can choose shred, redact, or ignore by right-clicking on the check box next to the entry and choosing from the options available. NOTE: not all options are available for all file types.  Process the entire list before closing Spirion (Identity Finder).

What do I do if Spirion (Identity Finder) doesn't find Private information?

If Spirion (Identity Finder) completes its search and no Private Information is found, close Spirion (Identity Finder).

I am unable to "shred" a file in Spirion (Identity Finder). What should I do?

If you are unable to "shred" a file containing Private Information, you may not have permissions in Windows that allows Spirion (Identity Finder) to "shred" it. Contact the ITS Service Desk and ask them to login to Spirion (Identify Finder) as admin and securely "shred" the file.

I am unable to "redact" a file in Spirion (Identity Finder). What should I do?

Spirion (Identity Finder) provides a redact option for specific file types that may not work with all file types. If you need to retain an Office file on your computer but need to redact the Private information in the file you’ll need to follow a three-step process.

  1. Save a copy of the file in Office 2007 or 2010 format (.docx, xlsx, etc.)
  2. Use Spirion (Identity Finder) to redact the Private information from the new file
  3. Use Spirion (Identity Finder) to shred the old file.

What do I do with Private information found on my system?

We've created a Private Information Handling Quick Reference Table to assist you in determining how to handle Private information found on your computer or drives.

If you find Private information (e.g. Social Security Number, Bank Account Number, Credit Card Number or Drivers License) on your computer and are not sure whether it should be there, ask your Information Steward/Management Representative.

New York State law does not allow the retention of Social Security Numbers unless there is a clear business need for the information. In general, an RIT employee has a legitimate purpose for having access to the Social Security Numbers of another individual when such number is required for tax or billing purposes, credit authorizations, background checks, or in furtherance of submitting a federal or state governmental application that requires the transmission of an individual's Social Security Number. In addition, social security numbers shall be maintained when required by either court order, subpoena, or by direction of the Office of Legal Affairs.

What is redaction?

Unless required by RIT business processes, files must not contain Private information. Unnecessary information must be sanitized by redacting (removing) the Private information. It is not sufficient to simply obscure or hide the information. Although "redaction" has a broader meaning in editing, in the context of information handling it refers to the removal of information from a document.

What if the only Private information the scan finds is mine?

Private information should not be stored on an RIT computer unless expressly permitted. (This information is typically found in copies of tax returns and filled-in forms.)


Non-Windows Computers

I have a non-Windows computer, will it be scanned?

Currently, only computers with the Microsoft Windows and Mac OSX will be scanned by Spirion (Identity Finder). We encourage you to examine the files on your computer and attached drives to identify Private information and handle it accordingly. For Linux, we recommend using Cornell's Spider. You may also work with your systems administrator to scan the Linux drive from Windows.

Questions and Issues

Whom do I contact with questions?

Please direct any questions regarding information handling or the Private Information Management Initiative to your Information Steward/Management Representative.