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Web Monitoring For Brand and Executive Protection

Introduction

For years, companies have been using online data to protect their organizations against cyber compromise. But can online data be used to support other enterprise functions—like brand reputation management and executive protection?

The short answer is yes. News, social media, the dark web, and other public online data sources host a variety of risk indicators—from damaging pre-viral content to physical violence planning. Without easy access to this information, organizations are more likely to overlook risks, causing lasting reputation damage and harm to executives and other assets.

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With the right web monitoring tools, enterprises can make faster, more informed decisions in response to risks impacting brand reputation and executive safety.

Web monitoring has become more important for executive and brand protection since early 2020. According to a survey by Infinite Global, almost half of non-executive directors significantly increased their reputation management efforts since the onset of COVID-19. Other evolving risk factors, like disease transmission, cyber compromise, and social unrest means that executive protection teams also need to reconsider their information-sourcing strategy in the post-pandemic world.

What is web monitoring, and how do effective web monitoring tools support brand and executive protection?

What is Web Monitoring?

The term web monitoring refers to the aggregation and analysis of publicly available web content. This content is used by organizations to inform security response, risk management, or business and marketing strategies. 

The timeliness and breadth of online information help security and brand management teams avoid information gaps and respond in real-time or near real-time to risk. A 2021 Forrester survey found that 82% of enterprise risk professionals believe real-time information is more crucial than ever. Web monitoring enables organizations to access accurate risk information that may be unavailable or slower on other sources.

Web monitoring is a broad term that covers all content types and uses. Other common terms under the umbrella of web monitoring include:

  • Social media monitoring or social listening. This focuses on public social media chatter and is common for supporting marketing, PR, and physical security teams.
  • Open-source intelligence (OSINT). OSINT is a data collection methodology for any publicly available sources, online or offline. In an online context, this includes social media content, public records, news, and unindexed websites, to name a few.
  • Threat intelligence. According to Gartner, threat intelligence is “evidence-based knowledge… about an existing or emerging menace or hazard to assets.” The term is usually associated with cybersecurity, relying on online data inputs relevant for digital risk protection.

What does web monitoring look like for executive and brand protection teams? For some applications, web monitoring often means directly accessing raw content, like a social media post in its original form. Raw data analysis is valuable for threat detection and investigations. 

For example, the content of an individual post may be crucial for detecting and responding to an immediate risk like a bomb threat on an executive’s travel route and supporting a follow-up investigation.

But some brand reputation functions, like marketing, don’t need to interact directly with raw content. For them, web monitoring means accessing key trends and insights generated from a large set of incoming data. This could mean, for example, public sentiment towards a new product, or post volumes over time mentioning the product.

How To Monitor Web Content

The term web monitoring refers to the aggregation and analysis of publicly available web content. This content is used by organizations to inform security response, risk management, or business and marketing strategies. 

The timeliness and breadth of online information help security and brand management teams avoid information gaps and respond in real-time or near real-time to risk. A 2021 Forrester survey found that 82% of enterprise risk professionals believe real-time information is more crucial than ever. Web monitoring enables organizations to access accurate risk information that may be unavailable or slower on other sources.

Web monitoring is a broad term that covers all content types and uses. Other common terms under the umbrella of web monitoring include:

  • Social media monitoring or social listening. This focuses on public social media chatter and is common for supporting marketing, PR, and physical security teams.
  • Open-source intelligence (OSINT). OSINT is a data collection methodology for any publicly available sources, online or offline. In an online context, this includes social media content, public records, news, and unindexed websites, to name a few.
  • Threat intelligence. According to Gartner, threat intelligence is “evidence-based knowledge… about an existing or emerging menace or hazard to assets.” The term is usually associated with cybersecurity, relying on online data inputs relevant for digital risk protection.

What does web monitoring look like for executive and brand protection teams? For some applications, web monitoring often means directly accessing raw content, like a social media post in its original form. Raw data analysis is valuable for threat detection and investigations. 

For example, the content of an individual post may be crucial for detecting and responding to an immediate risk like a bomb threat on an executive’s travel route and supporting a follow-up investigation.

But some brand reputation functions, like marketing, don’t need to interact directly with raw content. For them, web monitoring means accessing key trends and insights generated from a large set of incoming data. This could mean, for example, public sentiment towards a new product, or post volumes over time mentioning the product.

Applications for Brand & Executive Protection

Brand Reputation Management

A 2020 survey on the state of corporate reputation found that global executives credit 63% of their company’s market value to its reputation. As more businesses and consumers embrace digital transformation, online spaces provide valuable data for guiding brand management decisions and detecting brand reputation risks before they escalate. When we talk about using online data for brand protection, what does this actually look like? 

  • Brand-damaging content detection. When the media or the public take a negative stance on a product, service, or company action, they use public social media and news channels to voice their concerns. Web monitoring helps companies detect and respond to negative chatter, minimizing reputation damage before it goes viral. 
  • Misinformation and counterfeiting detection. Amazon detected over 2M counterfeit goods in 2020—and according to Mimecast, brand impersonation attacks increased by almost 400% in the first half of that year. Brand impersonation and counterfeiting attempts are performed on mainstream social media, as well as covert sites like less-regulated social networks and marketplaces. 

An effective web monitoring strategy can scan a wide range of sources for these risks so brands can quickly find and address misleading content, brand impersonation, and counterfeits affecting their brand.

  • Marketing and PR strategizing. News and social media content are valuable for evaluating public reactions and sentiment towards a brand’s products, services, and image. Web monitoring tools help aggregate sentiment and key analytics surrounding product launches and other public corporate activities so brand management teams can adapt their strategy.
  • Crisis management. A company’s crisis response is the top factor in deciding its reputation, according to a 2020 survey by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research. As we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, real-time online information is crucial for informing risk response. For example, public social media content can detect misinformation and alert security teams to new outbreaks affecting supply chains, customers, and personnel. A more informed crisis response strategy helps retain the trust of stakeholders, employees, and customers, reinforcing a company’s reputation.

Executive Protection

iStock-921483562 executive airport plane travel

Executive threats come from all directions: from unforeseen physical risks to doxxing and negative press. Public online content is often the earliest and most accurate source of executive threat data. And alongside traditional executive protection tools—like bodyguards and security cams—web monitoring is crucial for surfacing this information and reducing blind spots.

Web monitoring supports executive protection teams by:

  • Identifying targeted hate and attack planning. According to CSIS data, domestic terror incidents peaked in 2020 and are occurring at a higher rate than the US has seen in decades. Executives are often targeted in online discussions by extremists opposed to the company’s values or actions—or simply because of an executive’s religious views or ethnicity. Less-regulated networks like alt-tech, chan sites, and anonymized forums are valuable for locating hate or harmful intent targeting VIPs.
  • Detecting physical security threats. According to a 2021 report by Genetic, physical threats have been identified as a top priority for security teams as a result of COVID-19. Bystanders near a natural disaster, shooting, or another physical threat often document the event on social media in real-time. This information allows executive protection teams to respond to threats faster and improve situational awareness near critical locations—like an executive’s office, travel route, home, or event facility. 
  • Assessing publicly available patterns of life. Public social media posts of a VIPs pet, daily routine, or travel plans may seem harmless. But this information can be leveraged by threat actors to target executives—either to improve social engineering or to locate an executive. Executive protection teams can use web monitoring to assess an executive’s patterns of life and remove any vulnerable content.

Travel Risk Management

In 2019, a GBTA survey revealed that 46% of UK and US business travelers work for companies that lack transparent travel security policies. Organizations that still fall into this category are more likely to risk executive safety as travel resumes in an even more complex and unpredictable threat landscape.

Effective web monitoring gives travel risk management teams more timely, accurate data, helping organizations stay ahead of COVID-era travel risks. Web monitoring applications for travel risk management include addressing:

  • Disease transmission and healthcare. Monitoring public social media activity illuminates foot traffic levels in specific areas without security personnel being physically present. This data also supports contact tracing and outbreak prediction, which can inform travel planning and risk response. 
  • Travel logistics and disruptions. The pandemic has complicated Visas, border crossings, and other logistics. Localized news and media sources are valuable for accessing up-to-date information about travel restrictions abroad—especially if a last-minute detour is required. Since security teams may be unfamiliar with relevant news sources in other countries, web monitoring tools like the Echosec Systems Platform are useful for aggregating and translating content from global sources.
  • Unforeseen crises. Social media is often the earliest and most reliable source of location-based risk information as bystanders observe a crisis through their devices. This can provide early threat detection and reduce blind spots for security teams supporting vulnerable business travelers.

    Travel risk management teams also use social media content to assess public sentiment in target destinations so they can stay better prepared for social unrest or political instability. Monitoring mentions of relevant locations on covert sites like chan boards and alt-tech also help security teams predict violent planning and attacks.

Digital Risk Protection

Genetic’s 2021 EMEA Physical Security Report found that cybersecurity is a top priority in 2021 for almost 7 out of 10 physical security teams. Since the pandemic’s onset, cybercriminals have exploited public fear and domestic workforces to capitalize on social engineering strategies and vulnerable systems. 

Increased cyber risks are likely to persist even as the world returns to a “new normal.” Brand management functions need to stay vigilant in the event of a data breach, which can create costly long-term reputation damage. Executive protection teams must also consider increased cybersecurity risks to executives, who often carry the highest payoff for attackers.

A web monitoring strategy that covers fringe social networks and forums, paste sites, and dark web marketplaces helps executive and brand management teams:

  • Find doxxing indicators and other data leaks as early as possible. Doxxing—which typically leaks location, contact, and financial data for VIPs—can compromise an executive’s digital and physical security. Content on doxxing and paste sites alerts executive protection teams to targeted data leaks compromising high-profile individuals in their care. Brand protection teams can also use web monitoring software to scan unindexed forums, messaging apps, and marketplaces for new data leak indicators that could escalate into a PR disaster. 
  • Get familiar with emerging adversary tactics. From social engineering to SIM jacking, cyberattack strategies are constantly evolving. By monitoring malicious hacking chatter on the deep and dark web, executive protection teams can stay up-to-date on emerging strategies and adapt their digital risk strategy accordingly.

Using Echosec Systems

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation, and evolving physical security threats, brand and executive protection teams are radically shifting their approaches to information gathering. Public online content is valuable for illuminating risks early on, and web monitoring has become integral to effective risk management. 

The trouble is that web monitoring tools don’t always address the overlapping range of risk management applications discussed in this article. Executive protection and brand management teams can easily find a web monitoring solution to support marketing strategies, or crisis response, or digital risk protection—but not one to bridge the gaps between these use cases.

Echosec Systems has addressed requirements for both brand and executive protection teams by creating a Platform that covers the intersection of digital, physical, and brand security. This is accomplished through a combination of wide data coverage, location-based searching, and usability. 

According to Forrester, almost 4 in 5 risk decision-makers have plans to invest in more risk management solutions. Web monitoring software is an obvious investment for any brand and executive protection teams as easy online data access becomes necessary for timely risk detection and response.

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