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🎥 Intra-Cell Search & Mask Feature of IRI CellShield EE

by Pat Rushlaw

IRI CellShield™ Enterprise Edition now offers an Intra-Cell Search feature that finds and masks sensitive data in unstructured cell contents. Just as with full-cell values, you can now identify and mask the ‘floating’ sensitive data in Microsoft Excel® spreadsheets with only a few mouse clicks. To learn more about CellShield, watch this video:

For the purposes of this article, we will start with an open Excel document containing sensitive “dummy” data. Note that you can also use the Intra-Cell search feature in the Bulk Remediate option of the EE version.

Start by clicking on the Intra-Cell Search icon in the CellShield ribbon (toolbar):

CellShield Ribbon Shot

This brings up the Intra-Cell Search screen, where you can select your options and proceed.

CellShield Open Dialog

The ‘Name of Pattern’ feature is a drop-down list of common data pattern names that corresponds to matching regular expressions.

CellShield Drop-down Pattern Name

Regular expression gurus can also specify their own pattern. IRI will soon enhance CellShield with the ability to customize the list to add or subtract patterns as needed.

CellShield Pattern Drop-down

You decide which character to use for masking and whether to mask the whole string or a portion of the string.

CellShield Char to Mask

If you do not choose a Masking Character, or attempt to use an invalid masking character, the program will alert you to correct this. Note that the dollar sign (“$”) is an invalid masking character and the tool will not allow its use.

CellShield No Character Warning

If choosing the Partial String, replace the example given with your own start position and number of characters to mask. The start position is from the start of the string pattern found, not the start position in the cell. The default setting, which you can replace, starts at position 1 and masks the first 3 characters in the string.

CellShield Ready to Mask

Selecting the “Find String” button will search the open file, highlight all the matches found with a font-color change, and display the count of the found matches.  Note that highlighting in Bulk Remediate is inactivated since that aspect of CellShield is a background process.

Changing the font color may or may not be an option you want; however, there are limited Excel options available for highlighting within the cell.  Excel wants to “work” on the cell structure, not the data. CellShield found the string pattern in the comment column as well as in the CCNumber column.

CellShield String Found

A typical masking for a credit card number could be the first 4 digits, so we’re replacing the “Example 1,3” with “1,4” as our Partial String to mask.

In our example, choosing the “Mask” button will now redact the first four characters of each string that matches a credit card pattern. Choosing the Mask option also gives a pop-up warning requesting an affirmative answer prior to starting the remediation.

Choosing “Yes” starts the masking, showing its progression, and allowing you to cancel if you choose.  You also have the option to close the file without saving, which is another safeguard for preserving your original data.

Check out this result:

CellShield Mask Done

Two things were accomplished at once, as I chose to find and mask both:

  1. the first four bytes of the credit card number masked with the “#” character. Note that the Intra-Cell Search tool found and masked both occurrences of the credit card number in the Comment column. Font color changes are removed in the Masking operation.
  1. National ID numbers with the Whole String option and a different Masking Character. I did not have to restart CellShield to do this.

As you can see, the CellShield EE Intra-Cell Search features provides an easy way to find and mask sensitive data within your Excel document, regardless of whether the sensitive data is in the entire cell or merely a portion of the cell.

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