Tips for Tracing a Reputation Attack
- by Tony Ahn, in Reputation Management, with -
Unfortunately in today’s world, anonymous online attacks are easy to mount. However, some simple cyber-sleuthing can help track down additional information to help one determine the source.
A lot of attack sites aren’t set up to have broad reach, but to damage the reputation of a person or company just to a particular group of people, such as those that know the person, for example. Let’s take one in particular: a site set up to defame a particular family that owns a couple educational institutions in Metro Manila, Philippines. Whoever put up the site is obviously out to get these people: it relies on a great number of unsupported allegations that have been refuted directly by the family, which has supplied documentary evidence of their position. But that’s not so important right now. Let’s take a look at how to track the source.
When an attack site is created, nobody knows it exists until it is shared. Therefore, looking at the first sharer is an excellent way first step. In this case, Get Real Philippines blogger Paul Farol tweeted about a new website attacking the Benitez family called “Aristocratic Thieves”, which he claimed to discover via Google Alerts
. Google’s webcrawler, however, can only find a site and crawl it if that site has incoming links, meaning other sites are already linking to it. It is important to search a new site for incoming links as soon as possible after it is created. Go to Google and type link: and then the URL of the site in question, like this: link:aristocraticthieves.wordpress.com
. A search of incoming links showed there were none registered by Google (therefore no possibility of a Google Alert by January 10.) The first post on the site was dated January 8, and Paul tweeted his discovery
of the site on the same day at 7:15am. The posts do not contain timestamps, but first comment left on the first post on this site was left at 3pm, eight hours after Mr. Farol “discovered,” the site and tweeted a link to it. Therefore there is no evidence that anyone “found” the site before Mr. Farol.
Considering that Mr. Farol was the first person to discover an unknown site, it is probable that he either created the site himself, or collaborated with the person who did, especially given the follow up hit pieces on his own website. In some jurisdictions, this may constitute probable cause to open an investigation.
A little bit of cyber-sleuthing is always worth trying, as it can help one get to the root of where the issue is coming from.