Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 15/12/2004 You may have noticed the stories about malware-infected fake Christmas cards arriving in people's emails. Naughty, naughty.

Wednesday 15/12/2004

You may have noticed the stories about malware-infected fake Christmas cards arriving in people's emails. Naughty, naughty. Anything that encourages people to click on links connected to unsolicited mail is wrong: if you don't get this behaviour right, then any attempt to screen out viruses and other infections from your PC will be compromised from the outset. Human behaviour is the biggest problem in computer security.

So a big fat raspberry to ScanSafe, the "leading worldwide provider of Web virus scanning and Web filtering as an Internet-level managed service". You'd hope that such a company would have some sort of idea about how Web-borne security threats propagate: you'd certainly hope that they wouldn't do anything as silly as send out an email Christmas card that requires the recipient to click on a link to an external website.

But they did. And then they sent these out to journalists. Plonkers.

Moreover, I think I'm going to put the word 'leading' into my spam filter rules. Any company that describes itself thus, isn't. In fact, 'leading' almost guarantees that you've never heard of them -- and in any case if you have heard of them, then you don't need to be told what they are. Worse, a press release that describes a company in such a way is saying "We're really important, but you haven't heard of us", thus subtly implying that the journalist reading it is either extremely inexperienced or utterly incompetent.

These are not good things for a journalist to think. Assuming you're given the benefit of the doubt and the hack wearily pursues the story, they're going to find out how big and leaderish you really are -- and if you're using the L word, you're not. Are you?

So, PRs, please desist. Stop using the word. If you must use it, back it up with some figures showing how your company is leading -- which market it has a dominant share of, what independent analysis puts their technology ahead. That sort of thing. Otherwise we won't like you.

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