Search Engine Query Monitoring: The Little Known Benefit of Web Security

Search Engine Query MonitoringIn today’s connected world, it is not difficult to understand the need for web filtering: after all the most common source of malware infection is the internet, and to have comprehensive protection you need to have multiple web security engines in place, including a web filtering solution.  Did you know that some web filtering solutions based on website addresses and categories can also have other features which give companies additional and tangible benefits? One of these features is ‘search engine query monitoring’.

This simple, but often overlooked capability, can be used for several purposes. For example, by monitoring what an employee is actively searching for on the popular search engines, you can gauge their mood: Are they happy? Are they bored? Are they looking for another job? In addition, analysis of their searches can also help determine:

  1. If the user is performing work-related searches  or pursuing personal activity on company time
  2. If they are doing anything suspicious
  3. If their search queries indicate that they have personal problems that might impact their performance at work or require the company’s assistance.

What is search engine query monitoring?

Search engine query monitoring is the ability to identify and log search terms when people perform a search on a search engine. If a user, for example, runs the following query: https://www.google.com/#q= +security+jobs + London, the web filter will extract the “Security Jobs London” keywords and log them.

Why is it useful?

Under most circumstances you will see mundane stuff; typically searches related to the employee’s work or their personal interests. Whether or not a company allows this activity during work hours is down to the company’s policy. However, there could be instances when you may observe searches which the company probably wants (and needs) to be aware of. Let’s say you find something like https://www.google.com/#q=web+filter+bypass. You will immediately know that this user is trying to do something unacceptable and looking for ways to bypass your filter (obviously not something they would do, if they knew that a simple search for the term was being logged). Even more worrying are search query like https://www.google.com/#q=ways+to+commit+suicide.  In other words, analysis of search terms can help build an intuitive picture of a person’s mood or intentions – current or future. This information may help the company improve the efficiency of a business, and help HR boost company morale, protect employees, and minimize legal liabilities incurred by employee actions.

What do I need to do?

GFI WebMonitor is an automated web security management application that provides this functionality as one of its web filtering features. You can define policies to exclude those individuals you don’t want to be monitored if need be, but by default users’ search queries will be monitored and logged.

What search engines are supported?

Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Lycos.  Queries on any of these search engines will be monitored. Furthermore, for those in Eastern Europe and Asia, GFI WebMonitor also supports search engine monitoring for Yandex, the most popular search engine in Russia and other east European countries.

Search over HTTPS? Will search engine monitoring work in this case?

We see many search engines sending search queries over HTTPS. This has created a bit of a furore in the web Analytics world, but this is not an issue because GFI WebMonitor supports HTTPS scanning. When this is enabled, GFI WebMonitor will inspect queries over HTTPS and the queries will still show up. This is also a security feature in the event that individuals are trying to visit HTTPS-based websites. If this happens, GFI WebMonitor will monitor and protect the end-user.

The power of automation

Once you have chosen the keywords to monitor in employee searches, GFI WebMonitor will monitor internet activity and automatically generate reports and alert you when searches for these keywords are done. By default GFI WebMonitor has a number of reports which can be used right out of the box, without the need to configure anything. However, you can also create your own detailed reports. Here are a few examples:

  1. TV series or movie downloads – people attempting to search for TV series or movies to download could make the company legally liable if pirated material is downloaded via the company’s connection
  2. Adult and Pornography Searches – people attempting to search for Adult content via search engines even though Adult websites are blocked
  3. High Risk Searches – searches for explosives, weapons, suicide and other problematic terms
  4. Your own custom search term report – you can easily create your own reports for specific terms, and in any language you want.

Would you like to learn more about search engine query monitoring? Join us for an informative webinar on the topic. You can also try GFI WebMonitor for 30 days and monitor what terms your users are searching for. You might be surprised!

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