Competitive Intelligence

1.6 Competitive Intelligence

My resume of module 02 footprinting form CEH material

The next phase in footprinting methodology is competitive intelligence. Competitive intelligence is a process that involves the gathering, analyzing, and distribution of information about products, customers, competitors, and technologies using the Internet. The information that is gathered can help managers and executives of a company make strategic decisions.

Competitive Intelligence Gathering

Competitive intelligence gathering is the process of identifying, gathering, analyzing, verifying, and using information about your competitors from resources such as the Internet. Competitive intelligence means understanding and learning what about other businesses, in order to become as competitive as possible. It is non-interfering and subtle in nature compared to the direct intellectual property theft carried out through hacking or industrial espionage. It concentrates onthe external business environment. In this method, professionals gather information ethically and legally instead of gathering it secretly. Competitive intelligence helps in determining:

  • What the competitors are doing
  • How competitors are positioning their products and services.

Companies carry out competitive intelligence either by employing people to search for the information, or by utilizing a commercial database service, which can be lower in cost.

Sources of Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence gathering can be performed either using direct or indirect approach.

  • Direct Approach

    Direct approach serves as primary sources for competitive intelligence gathering. Direct approach techniques include gathering information from trade shows, social engineering employees and customers and so on.

  • Indirect Approach

    Through an indirect approach, information about competitors are gathered using online resources. Indirect approach techniques include:

    • *Company websites and employment ads
    • Search engines, Internet, and online database
    • Press releases and annual reports
    • Trade journals, conferences, and newspapers
    • Patent and trademarks
    • Product catalogues and retail outlets
    • Analyst and regulatory reports
    • Customer and vendor interviews
    • Agents, distributors, and suppliers
    • Industry-specific blogs and publications
    • Legal databases E.g., LexisNexis
    • Business information databases E.g., Hoover’s

Competitive Intelligence - When Did this Company Begin? How Did it Develop?

Gathering competitor documents and records helps to improve productivity and profitability that in turn stimulates the growth of the company. It helps in determining answers to the following:

  • When did it begin?

    Through competitive intelligence, companies can collect the history of a particular company, such as its establishment date. Sometimes, they gather crucial information that is not often available to others.

  • How did it develop?

    What are the various strategies the company uses? Development intelligence can include advertisement strategies, customer relationship management and so on.

  • Who leads it?

    This information helps a company learn about the competitor’s decision makers.

  • Where is located?

    Competitive intelligence also includes the location of the company and information related to various branches and their operations.

Attackers can use the information gathered through competitive intelligence to build a hacking strategy. (check book for more details)

Monitoring Website Traffic of Target Company

Attackers can monitor a target company’s website traffic using tools such as Web-Stat, Alexa, and Monitis to collect valuable information. These tools help to collect information about the target’s customer base which help attackers to disguise as a customer and launch social engineering attacks on the target. The information collected includes:

  • Total visitors: Tools such as Clicky ( find the total number of visitors browsing the target website.
  • Page views: Tools such as Opentracker ( monitor the total number of pages viewed by the users along with the time stamps and the status of the user on a particular web page (whether the webpage is still active or closed).
  • Bounce rate: Tools such as Google Analytics ( measure the bounce rate of the target company’s website.
  • Live visitors map: Tools such as Web-Stat ( geographical location of the users visiting the company’s website. track the
  • Site ranking: Tools such as Alexa ( track a company’s rank on the web.
  • Audience geography: Tools such as Alexa track a company’s customers’ location on the globe.

Tracking Online Reputation of the Target

Online Reputation Management (‘ORM’) is a process of monitoring displays when someone searches your company’s reputation on the Internet. ORM then takes measures to minimize negative search results or reviews. The process helps to improve brand reputation. Companies often track the public feedback take measures to improve their credibility reputation management, organizations will This transparency may help the attacker organization. given to them using ORM tracking tools, and then and keep their customers’ trust. For positive online often try to be more transparent over the Internet. to collect genuine information about the target

Online Reputation Tracking Tools

Online reputation tracking tools help us to discover what people are saying online about company’s brand in real time across the web, social media, and news. They help us in monitoring, measuring, and management of one’s reputation online. An attacker makes use of ORM tracking tools to:

  • Track a company’s online reputation
  • Collect a company’s search engine ranking information
  • Obtain email notifications when a company is mentioned online
  • Track conversations
  • Obtain social news about the target organization