Security expert Dan Clements is building a virtual "lost and found" box for data, a concept he hopes companies suffering from data breaches will embrace to find out just how bad the damage is.
Clements launched his startup, called CloudeyeZ, last September. He has since been nurturing an idea he says could save companies money by getting a better handle on how much data they've lost.
"There aren't a lot of solutions for companies that are hacked," Clements said.
CloudeyeZ in California has a few different services. It works with freelance computer security consultants around the world who specialise in infiltrating forums, for example, that trade in stolen credit card and bank account details.
"We are virtual bounty hunters," Clements said.
If a bank suspects it has been hacked, it could give CloudeyeZ a sample of the data believed to have been stolen, such as a Bank Identification Number (BIN) which identifies a bank associated with a credit or debit card. CloudeyeZ investigators report back where it was found, and leaves the next action to the bank, Clements said.
Contacting law enforcement is sometimes "a last resort" when companies are trying to assess what was hacked, Clements said. The stolen data often isn't identified, and the perpetrators - many who are likely to live outside the US - are unlikely to be prosecuted.
He envisions CloudeyeZ as a step before contacting law enforcement, where companies can get a grasp on what is lost and figure out the least expensive way of handling it.
CloudeyeZ is building a database called the Blind DB to store small bits of text and numbers, which could be matched with lost data. Only vetted parties would have access. CloudeyeZ hopes law enforcement agencies will eventually contribute stolen data so it can be matched with organisations hit with a data breach, Clements said. CloudeyeZ doesn't hold all of the data it finds, as it would rather direct people to where the data is actually hosted.
CloudeyeZ is also experimenting with posting bits of information to Twitter: one of the latest cryptic clues revealed is "52082XXX24,5013,110,33617, wesley, IT guy."
The company also has an escrow arrangement where it acts as a middle-man between a finder of information and its seeker, collecting 20 percent of the reward money. CloudeyeZ provides a sample of the suspected stolen data to its bounty hunters, who then search the underground, contacting their own informants for more information.
In one case, a bank paid a reward for finding some of its intellectual property, Clements said. How does an organization ensure it isn't buying its own property back from the thief? It doesn't, Clements said.
"It's up to them how they want to handle that batch of property," Clements said. "We don't make a judgement call on how the property got out into the cloud. It could be stolen, but we are not going to make that judgment. We are hired by the owner to retrieve it, no questions asked."
Clement said CloudeyeZ is still an edgy concept, but one ready for a post-hack realm. There are so many young males using keyboards as the equivalent of an AK-47 firearm, he said.
"They can get into almost anything," Clements said.