How can it be OK that 1,000 PC’s are lost in the malware wars every time a bad ad is served up in ad networks?

I admit a certain hyper sensitivity to all things security when it comes to Internet. I worked at CA and then Comodo – both heavy players in the online security world. I learned about the scary things that can happen if you go online alone. It is not a pretty picture.

So it’s no wonder that I tend to have a zero tolerance to bad online security practices – among my friends, my family, my peers.  I have even less tolerance (is that possible?) for online security industry practices that can allow 1,000 PCs to get infected before an ad is checked for malware.

That’s right! I recently learned that all the ad serving platforms check ads in their networks after it has been served. In the case of Right Media I am told an ad is served 1,000 times before it is checked. If the ad is malware – oh well – 1,000 PCs are likely to get infected. I was shocked TBH. And I was even more shocked to learn that according to all the large ad serving platforms it seemed perfectly OK (at least the 4 large ones) to check ads after they have been served already.  I had the chance to press a rep from Right Media for an explanation about why are ads not checked before they are served. It was explained to me that the sheer tonnage of ads would make checking everything before it ran impractical.

That answer seemed pretty lame actually. And one does not have to look hard to see how this causes problem up and down the ad market value chain. Recently, TechCrunch and The Drudge Report were hit with malware on their sites served up by an ad in the network. http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-20000353-245.html. The backlash was felt by the likes of Michael Arrington who had to explain the issue to his audience. I felt his pain, more keenly felt because I knew there was little he could do to make it better. It is likely to happen again – the only question is when.

Here we see most blatantly the bad things that happen when you detach consequences from accountability as is the case here. The ad server networks are the ones who serve up the ads, good or bad, but if there is fall-out, it is largely felt by the site that delivered the ad. That ruptures the basic laws of accountability and consequence which ultimately leaves at least 1,000 PCs infected with malware every time there is a virus outbreak.

Now I really do not understand the technological limits of checking ads within an ad networks – but how can it be OK to permit ads to be served before they are checked? Could it be that 1,000 is too small a number to worry about? And as the number of ads being served grows, will a higher 10,000 threshold be OK? Then maybe 100,000 will be a tolerable number?

Here is a challenge to the industry. Elinor Mills’ article on this subject mentions Bennie Smith, a vice president of exchange policy at Yahoo’s Right Media who I invite to respond here. Maybe I it got it wrong. Set the record straight – please – I really want to be wrong.

Better yet – I would love to start a dialogue to solve the problem – between agencies, ad networks, advertisers and the security industry. Sometimes talk is not enough. An alternative is needed – an alternating current. But more on that coming…

Judy Shapiro

Advertisements

Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Skepticism abounds in the online world and rightfully so. Even the web savvy visitor can be duped by offers that really sound too good. And the old adage – “if it sounds too good to be true – it probably isn’t legit “– applies doubly on the Internet.  So with all the caveats above – if I said, “here is a free firewall that really works well…” I am sure you are skeptical.  “Oh – it must be crippleware” would be a natural cautionary response. Or “There is catch – like a renewal or subscription fee”.

Wrong and no.

Comodo Firewall Pro boasts unrivalled protection against viruses, worms, Trojans and malware with “out of the box” settings (OK – I won’t bore you with the product spiel because dear Trenchwar Warriors I know you will research it anyway ).

So now let’s even pretend that you accept this is a great high tech, leading edge solution. Now you must be thinking – “What’s the catch? If this product beats comparable solutions from the “large” software companies – why offer it for free?”

Well we are offering it free because as a Certification Authority our revenue comes from the online business community. These businesses can only grow if consumers feel safe surfing and shopping online. Unfortunately, in today Internet environment, trust has eroded and so has online sales growth. We want to reverse that trend.  The more people trust the security of the Internet the more they will shop online. The more consumers shop online – the more online businesses that will be created. And the more products and services we can sell to these growing businesses.That’s why we developed this for free distribution.  So you will never, ever have to pay for renewals, auto updates or subscription fees (and we mean ever)!

So try it out. If you like it spread the word. Better yet, we’d like to start a conversation with you. As a Certification Authority, Comodo has a special responsibility to keep the Internet secure and safe.  Your input will help us come up with more and more ideas to make every PC safer. Like you, we’re crazy about the net but not the fraudsters on it. And, so we’re developing top line products every day to counteract every trick (of theirs) in the book. We have launched a few new solutions (some free – some not). And more on the way – like a new service that actually does the heavy lifting of restoring your good name in case you do get victimized. It’s a revolutionary approach that can save you hundreds of hours of hassle.  

But we can do better with your insight and intelligence! We want to hear your feedback on what you feel is extremely important for making the internet a safe place to communicate and interact. So join the good fight and help us make the Internet truly safe for all users. To help guide us in our development efforts, we want to hear your creative ideas, concerns and observations. We know they’re valuable. 

Now whenever someone says, “…there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. You can just smile at them because you know that it not always true. Bon Apetit!

Judy Shapiro

The making of marketing miracles

“What is a marketing miracle?” you ask. In my world view, a marketing miracle is when a small entrepreneurial company can “out brand” the largest established companies in their space – without breaking the bank in marketing and advertising costs. Or a miracle can be the launch of a company that was considered as dull as watching paint dry become a poster child for the prosperity of the dot com boom. Some miracles have a David versus Goliath feel to them, others are miracles of timing. It’s useful for marketers to recognize marketing miracles because if you are lucky enough to be in on the ride, it is always exciting and rewarding on many levels in one’s life.  

Does it happen a lot. No, which kinda of explains why it is called a miracle. But they do happen and I know because I have been lucky enough in my career to have seen two, spread over a dozen years.  

Why I got so lucky to have a ring side seat not one miracle but two – who knows. But I know a miracle when I see them and I am always in awe. It restores my faith in the possibilities of what marketing can really do for a company. It is restorative and inspiring which is why I want to share it with you.

 Miracle #1

My first miracle was when the Lucent brand was launched. (As a side note – Lucent rise and fall of Lucent was in my opinion a case when marketing was actually better than the products the company had to sell. It was only a matter of time before the product realities overwhelmed our ability to create a compelling brand message. But that’s another story L )

Anyway, I was an AT&T employee at the time, and I was drafted (literally) to go to the equipment side of the company, yet unnamed. I was not happy. I wanted to stay with AT&T but an ex-boss of mine convinced me it could be fun. “I’ve never actually launched a brand” I said. He said, “we’ll learn”. We did and fast. I became part of a small core team who had the full responsibility to launch the Lucent brand. My role was corporate brand management and I had to deal with all sorts of rebranding requirements – from buildings to stationary and everything in between. I was responsible for product naming and worse I had to enforce a set of corporate marketing communications guidelines across 11 very very independent business units who all had their own idea of how to market their brands which often did not adhere to the greater Lucent branding good.

And yet, after just 12 months, the brand was awarded a best-in-class brand by the American Marketing Association. We continued to win that award two more years. Stock had gone up a lot. After 18 months, we won the APQC Branding award (American Productivity and Quality Council). Harvard did a case study. In other words, we made boring telecom equipment sexy – to employees, to customers, to partners and most importantly to investors – big and little ones. In fact, we overtly targeting individuals to invest in Lucent as individual investors tend to “buy and hold”. After two years, a stock that had started at about $5 had risen so much it had split.

So what was the miracle? The miracle was that we were able to market Lucent to reflect the optimism the emergence of the Internet was having on the collective psyche. The miracle was one of being able to capture the core essence of society’s imagination just at that moment in time.

Miracle #2

I admit it. I was a non believer. I was almost (gasp) blasphemous. The CEO of Comodo in June or July of 2006 set what seemed to me to a highly optimistic goal regarding the number of installations of our consumer firewall solution.  I was not sure the number was even possible. We were after all starting from a cold start. The first 6 months or so were slow. We celebrated when we hit the 1,000 mark with great glee. But then, we got our viral marketing engine into gear. Forums were set up, web pages were SEO’d and so forth.

In about 15 months since launch we had reached download rates that I thought were unattainable. After 20 months, I realized how right the CEO was. In just under 24 months, we have just launched the first of a line of identity management solutions for end users starting with a new No Worry Warranty. No one else in PC security comes close. The sales goals have been set. They are optimistic. But this time I do believe. We will achieve it – sooner rather than later.

Which leads me to miracle #2.

The power of this strategy has resulted in Comodo being more searched on the Internet than the $3B company VeriSign. All on the fuel of emarketing. It’s not free – but it doesn’t cost $80/ barrel either.

Do you believe in miracles?

Judy Shapiro

Top Ten Marketing Disappointments for 2007

 

How quickly 2007 seems to have blitz’d through my visual frame. One minute I am just throwing out the New Cards joyfully wishing me a great 2007 and hark – here’s the new crop of cards for 2008! Time to take stock and recount what started as promising marketing approaches that either fizzled or were badly executed.

So here new years revelers is my top ten list of marketing disappointments for 2007.   

1) Beware the Google machine – are you scared yet? They are into radio buying, TV ad space, wireless, software and what next? Companies that get too big too quick implode. Think Time Warner/ AOL.  Everywhere I turn I bump into them – feels like invasion of the Google machine. I am getting scared.  

2) A second life for Second life? Typical. People thought it was the next “big” thing and next thing you know – people start dissing it. Advertisers cry – “is no one there?” and start back peddling. Oh grow up. New ideas take time to jel – learn how it works and use it right and well. 

 

3) A rose by another name is still called affinity marketing. Ok – today it is called viral marketing a.k.a. social media a.k.a. community marketing and on and on. Let’s remind ourselves – that this is just a new name for what 15 years ago we called affinity marketing – described as “birds of a feather flock together”. Today, the basic “birds of feather flock together” concept has not changed but the ways we can deliver the message has increased substantially. The good news is that now we can reach an affinity group cheaper with a lot less lead time or fuss. The better news – you can start this type of program with just a little smarts and even less cash. The best news – it is interactive. The “many to many” model is an engagement model that is ongoing and can be sustained over time. A marketers dream, but don’t let the buzz of “viral marketing” scare you. You can do this type of marketing yourself – and don’t let any social media agency tell you otherwise. 

 

4) SEO can’t get no respect. SEO is one of those unsung heros of the marketing world. But it is often overlooked and underappreciated. Why? Because it is so misunderstood and worse lots of folks out there selling the digital version of snake oil. “Get to first page ranking – guaranteed in 30 days”. We’ve all seen that ad. But find a credible technology provider and you’ll see real results. Better yet. Read up on it yourself. You won’t have to do it – but you’ll know better what to expect. 

 

5) Mobile marketing – like trying to catch a cloud in your hand. I worked on 802.11 back when wireless penetration was barely at 40%. Now that there is near virtual wireless penetration – everyone and his brother (I think I mean that literally) is doing wireless marketing – pushing content, ads whatever to people on their phones. Enough already!!! The backlash will surely hit hard and heavy. Worse – many of these ventures doing wireless marketing are not well developed. If you want to play in wireless marketing – watch your step — 

 

6) Blogging is no silver bullet. Hey I love blogging (ya think J) but don’t think it is a silver bullet to replace good marketing strategy and execution. It is seductive to put all your eggs in the bloggin basket. Resist the temptation. Blogging is a tactic that should be part of a well developed plan.

 

7) Public Relations activities still stuck. PR agencies are stuck somewhere in the 1980’s. They still think that their main goal is to get NYTimes coverage. That’s nice but it does not actually build business anymore. It is far more productive to evolve how PR works. A few “big” announcements deserve to get news pick up but far more often you should focus on what’s news to your prospective customers who can generate revenue. If you plan these two levels of PR – you can get the front page of BusinessWeek and more revenue from customers. That’s the way to unstick your PR.  

 

8 ) Is the shine coming off the PPC model? It is true dear friends and if Google could hear me now they would no doubt disagree. The Google PPC machine has peaked and now is the time to understand how to minimize costs while optimizing revenue. Try this experiment. Reduce PPC by 10% – and track if you see a difference. I bet you won’t. You may even be able to reduce by 20% before you see some drop off.  I suggest you use some of the new tactics to augment what was your PPC budget. You may even see more revenue. 

 

9) eMail marketing – don’t open till you see the whites of their eyes. This is a tough one but email marketing effectiveness is harder and harder to achieve. Between fear of fraud emails, SPAM filters and all else – emails have even less of a chance of getting through. Stick to emails that are to your own customers with real offers. That works better than ever before and focus on other tactics to gain new customers.

 

10) Security in digital marketing. It is a battle many are losing and it is sad to report that even if a site has all the security in the world it does no good if a user’s PC has been compromised. The key is to help your customer stay safe online. If you can, offer them digital safety tips. Better yet – you can offer them great free security software – like Comodo Firewall. It’s free, it works and your customers will appreciate the tip. They stay safe and you can be assured that they will remain secure customers.

 

So here’s my wish to you all for 2008 – may your marketing be fruitful and frugal – and to all a good night.   

Judy Shapiro

And now a word from our sponsor …

Before you fire up your new PC or laptop – turn up the heat on PC protection – for free with Comodo Firewall Pro

The marketers’ engines are gathering a full head of steam to propel us consumers (some willing, some not) into the Holiday season with promises of great stuff. One sure fire item that is always high on everyone’s list is the PC.  And usually, these bright shiny PCs and laptops comes crammed with lots of security solutions — some free, some free for a while.  

But before you fire up your PC and activate the preinstalled security software, take heed – many of today’s leading anti-virus (AV) solutions are simply not up to the job of providing up-to-the-minute anti virus protection to keep your new PC healthy. Really. Here’s one sobering stat from Virus Total. Within any 24 hour period less than 1% of viruses are detected by any anti virus solution. “Yikes” you say and rightfully so. The dismal performance of most anti virus solutions is because they work on the old model of using a “signature based methodology” to  identify the bad guys. Simply, these solutions let every application into the PC and then try and figure out what’s bad based on how the file looks.

Well, it’s easy to see why that’s not too efficient. What about “new” signatures the AV solution has never seen? How can it possibly detect those? Sure, the security vendors provide regular updates – but that’s a little like having a burglar system that only protects against known burglars even if you get regular mug shot updates from the police.  Not the best idea really.

So is there a way to really protect your brand spanking new PC without it costing you another bunch of cash? There is and it’s free to boot. It is called Comodo Firewall Pro (Version 3.0) with A-VSMART P technology. Millions of users are protecting their PCs with the previous version of Comodo Firewall Pro which PC Magazine recognized as one of the leading firewall on the market (paid or free) and this new version (Version 3.0) is a super charged version.  

A-VSMART P technology is short for “Anti Virus, Spyware, Malware Rootkits and Trojan Prevention” technology and it does the job better than any conventional AV or security system your PC might come with because it operates from a wholly different perspective. Instead of letting all applications in and then trying to weed out the malware, A-VSMART P technology prevents unrecognized applications from ever getting access to your PC in the first place. Plus, if you have a new PC, this new solution really rocks because it has a patent-pending feature called Clean PC Mode. This feature takes a profile of your new PC and all the applications in it and registers them as safe. After that, the only applications that get installed on your PC are applications that are either recognized by Comodo’s extensive white list of trusted applications (which include nearly one million applications in the database and growing) or applications you expressly allow to be downloaded. This is the most effective way to keep a new PC healthy and no other anti-virus solution has anything like it.

So go ahead, download this powerful firewall for free. And in case you are wondering why Comodo gives it away free, it’s simple really. The Comodo group of companies represents a leading security company and the world’s second largest Certification Authority. If more people are confident shopping safely online, then there will be more eMerchants who will need Comodo security products and services.

So fire up your new PC – but first turn your PC onto Comodo Firewall Pro. It’s the safe bet for a safe computer.

For a free download, go to: http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com

Judy Shapiro 

%d bloggers like this: