Garlik’s Angel Online Data Protection Service Flies Into Google’s Chrome Store

Garlik, maker of the U.K. born-and-bred semantic-enabled online identity service DataPatrol, is taking another dip into American waters. The company, which counts among its founders semantic web leading light Professor Nigel Shadbolt, today released a free, try-it version of its Garlik Angel service. The full Angel product monitors social networks, public websites and illegally traded data sites to help users keep their personal information from being found by online criminals.

The app – one of the first to hit the Google Chrome store when it opened in December – originally was available for $3.99 per month. “Basically we are trying to tell you if any of your information is in the public domain, on public sites, traded in botnet networks or on the public web, and tell you if there is too much information out there about you, and inform you about what best you can do,” says Mischa Tuffield, semantic web developer at Garlik.

The fee-based version of Angel is dropping to a lower price point, $1.99, that includes web searching and monitoring of information such as social security numbers. The free version will offer only monitoring of personal data that shows up within illegally traded data sources, gathered internally by Garlik and based on key-logged information in botnets.

The U.S. market is a noisy one to break into, compared to the U.K., for a service of this type, Tuffield says. Garlik’s first foray here was in partnership with Sovereign Bank, as a bundle for premium account customers, and Tuffield says that’s working well. But there are more banking choices stateside than in the U.K., and Garlik has fewer connections to them here than it does to banks across the big pond, where it is hooked in with a fair percentage of the main banks and a couple of telcos, too.

There’s also some education in getting U.S. consumers to think more broadly about the safety of their data, beyond the sanctity of their social security numbers or credit card numbers, and more proactively, too, vs. alerts after the fact. Other personal information (phone numbers, addresses, date of birth, etc.) spread across the web can be a gateway to creating problems, too. “We try to position ourselves as informing you of what’s going on before hand, and quickly,” says Tuffield.

And there’s more going on that you would want to know about than you might realize. For example, your residence, age, and other data that might be leveraged to support criminal schemes could wind up posted as a PDF file on the web site of a club you belong to. That’s usually “accidental slippage” of information, Tuffield says. More malicious is a trend these days for criminals to hack into stores’ customer databases and then post them on “paste bin” sites. The rise of e-commerce — including among smaller organizations that might build their web presence with open source tools and which might not have the resources to regularly apply patch updates — makes things easier for the bad guy who knows how to exploit those unattended vulnerabilities.

“Hackers more and more are trying to exploit data to dump out people’s customer databases, and then they get traded,” Tuffield says.

The semantic technology behind Garlik’s offerings makes it easier for the company to do things like continually add and integrate more data sources to its monitoring catalogue. The company plans to revamp its web site to better explain why its semantic heritage matters, as well as to better address U.S. customers. It’s also working on growing relationships with more U.S. database source hosts to enrich the product for stateside use. In England, for instance, it is the sole private company to have access to data sets such as the Royal Mail’s data feeds, which helps it protect users from postal-related fraud.

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