When Security Vendors Cry Wolf!

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As a former IT industry analyst and current Chief Technology Officer of a security and systems management software company, I spend a considerable amount of time reading press releases, marketing collateral, and news about and generated by our industry.

I have always been fascinated by the sheer volume of fear-based marketing propagated by security vendors. This in and of itself isn’t terribly interesting, but it provides some insight when trying to understand end-user purchasing and investment decisions.

We all know that fear is a great motivator, and few things evoke more uncertainty and doubt than fear. Marketing departments expect that this fear, uncertainty, and doubt—FUD--will help their companies grow, prosper and expand their market share.

Here are some examples of fear marketing from across the security industry…

“Michael Jackson’s death sparks off spam…hackers are relatively fast to grab on breaking news to spread their malware and spam. They and other cyber-criminals show no reverence to decency or taste. All that they want is to reap financial benefits and turn the lives of other end-users into misery”

There is no connection between a dead celebrity and malware, except that malware authors are opportunistic and will use any media sensation to trick users into clicking on malicious content. Curiously, security vendors play the same game by leveraging fads and media sensations to direct readers to self-serving marketing materials. Don’t believe me? Perform the following Google search; name of your favourite anti-virus vendor+Michael Jackson.

“The damage caused by new mobile threats likely will be more extensive than those caused by today's PC threats because of the large volume of smartphones shipping and the small percentage that are protected by mobile-security measures”

The above statement was written in 2005 by one of the leading anti-virus vendors that happened to be releasing a new mobile AV solution. Mobile malware is like the flying car. Whatever year it happens to be, it is always some years away.

“As we said before the ability to have viruses and all sorts of other malware is inherently available in all modern operating systems, Mac, Linux, BSD…” “…It is a warning to get antivirus protection for those Macs, even if the shopkeeper told you do not need it, even if there are no viruses in the wild today.”

MacOS X, like all operating systems, can be infected, no doubt about it. The costs of managing third party endpoint security solutions at enterprise scale and their negative impact on user productivity, however, can outweigh the risks and costs of an actual infection. Show of hands—how many of you know of you would like your Mac to run as slowly and inefficiently as a Windows box?

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