June 08, 2009, 9:24 AM — As you know, there is a wide range of threats online -- malware, bots, phishing scams and more. While your security and IT department implement firewalls and virus protection programs to combat these threats, many companies are missing the most damaging threat to their business online: Intellectual Property posted online by their own employees, whether with or without malicious intent.
Unfortunately a lot of companies are stumbling across their own IP online by accident and well after it is too late. A best-case scenario for undoing the damage is that the data is quickly removed by the website and is never seen again. In the worst-case scenario, the information becomes a viral video on YouTube.
Although new brand protection companies like IPSec and Brand Protect have popped up and grown to fill a much-needed market, the following tools offer free and easy-to-customize Internet monitoring features that allow you to be seconds behind information leaks.
Combine the word Monitor with the social networking tool Twitter and you have Monitter.com. This simple-to-use website allows you to customize Twitter searches by keyword and location and save your searches as RSS feeds to have the data emailed or texted to you instantly. Start off slow with searches for your company name or a new product and monitor twitter for threats, disgruntle employees and internal leaks. You will be amazed to see how many employees actually post on Twitter about their own company or their boss. (See also Despite Threats, Companies Lag on Web 2.0 Security)
As many of you know, Limewire is one of the most popular peer-2-peer file sharing programs on the internet. However, its poor design (which Congress is actually demanding they change) opens the world up to any documents, photos or files on your computer. During a quick install of the program, most users overlook the details and approve the program to share the entire contents of their My Documents folder. Most recently President Obama's new military helicopter designs for Marine One were tracked to Iranian computers after a defense contractor installed Limewire on his personal computer and shared his top-secret company documents to the world.
Simply download and install this program on your computer (make sure to disable all file sharing) and routinely search for your company's name. Documents with "Acme" in the metadata or title will flag and you can actually see the user's IP address and download the file.
While some search tools overlap with data and can lead to information overload, addictomatic.com provides a quick and easy way to search for your company or keywords across a wide selection of sites including news, blogs, YouTube, and even popular photosharing site flickr. Countless unapproved videos and photos by employees can quickly be discovered.
No search for data would be complete without Google. The company's proprietary collection of websites and vast arsenal of tools give it the fourth and fifth place on the list. The power behind Google's server farms full of processors, crawling the web for information, makes Google.com one of the first places to look for leaked information. However, unlike addictomatic, the information can easily be overwhelming without the right combination of search tricks.
Using a recipe of basic and advanced search features can greatly narrow the number of results returned and give you better data. Instead of searching for Acme Company, use "Acme Company" in quotations or narrow your results with more details like "Acme Company" "Confidential Handling" to find any leaked company documents with "confidential handling" in the metadata or headers. Check out Google advanced search or search for "Google Hack Lists" for more tricks like finding your company's IP CCTV cameras and password lists. (See also 4 Google Searches to Run on Your Own Company)
Once you have narrowed your search and tested it out, use Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) to make Google work for you. In this example I have setup two searches in Google Alerts, the first is a simple search to specifically search Myspace users postings about ACME : "Acme Company" site:profile.myspace.com and a second more complex search looking for any Acme file on free file sharing websites: Acme (rapidshare. | megaupload. | sharebee. | mediafire. | slil. | sendspace. | turboupload. | speedshare. | depositfiles. | massmirror.com | ftp2share.com| zshare.net). To setup, make sure to search narrow or specific topics, Acme alone might provide too much invaluable data. After you have picked a good search, simply paste in your term(s), select Comprehensive, select how often Google should search (I use As-It-Happens), enter your email and soon you will be getting information sent directly to you.
Brandon Gregg is a Corporate Investigations Manager.