Vancouver firm uses radio to teach laptop security

Vancouver-based Absolute Software Corp. released its newest radio spot Tuesday aimed at educating listeners on laptop security.

In a series that the company calls “An Absolute Minute,” listeners are presented with a faux news report which outlines the dangers posed by cyber criminals such as identity theft and other loss of personal data. The spots also advocate some of the ways that users can help protect themselves, many of which relate back to Absolute Software products.

All the spots can be downloaded and broadcast for free on the company’s Web site.

“There’s no question there is an appetite for tools and tips on Computer security issues out there, so this seems to fit well and find a good listener,” John Livingston, CEO at Absolute Software, said. “The last series we did was picked up and broadcast a few thousand times, so we hope this one can be as successful.”

In addition to being on the radio, Livingston said the spots will also run at national computing shows through North America. He said the material resonates with listeners because of how prevalent data security and identity theft are in today’s headlines.

“We think this is topical for listeners, many of whom now put tremendous pressure on people in IT and other folks close to the computing side of the business to take measures and secure user data,” Livingston said. “So, this acts as just another way to raise the general awareness at both consumer level and the enterprise level.”

In the latest spot, the company indicates a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds, with 97 per cent of them never being recovered. The report also goes on to outline what laptop owners can do to fight these odds, including keeping laptops out of sight while traveling, frequently changing passwords, and backing up data on a regular basis. The Absolute Software Web site is referenced in the spots as a source of further tips for users.

“In theory this is a good idea, but it falls apart in execution,” David Senf, director of security and software research at IDC Canada, said. “First, the ads lean too heavily toward fear mongering, which is a very short term means of selling something. Second, the only action suggested in the spots lead listeners to a Web page with some suggestions that don’t help further build this vendor’s relationship directly with customers and prospects.”

Senf referred to a Toronto Hydro Telecom radio ad on network security, which he heard recently, as a better method on executing the spots. “They presented a problem that customers face, then directed them to participate in roundtables where the problems can begin to be solved,” Senf said. “In both the Absolute Software and Toronto Hydro cases, awareness is elevated. But in the former, both Toronto Hydro and the customer benefits more.”

And while James Quin, senior research analyst at London, Ont.’s Info-Tech Research Group, acknowledged Absolute Software’s promotional interests in the radio spots, he was quick to point out the value this information could have to potential listeners.

“They are providing valuable information that can be used to achieve greater levels of security and protection,” Quin said. “Although it may seem pretty common sense, as Voltaire said, ‘Common sense is not so common.’ Putting this into a reviewable format hopefully makes it more available to more people.”

But as for whether or not the ads will lead to more security conscious users – and help alleviate some of the pressures on IT managers – Quin was skeptical.

“The opinion of Info-Tech is that attempting to make users a part of the solution, when it comes to security, is the wrong road to take,” Quin said. “Solutions that eliminate potential user risks are a far safer alternative since they work for educated and uneducated users alike.”

That aside, Quin said that more education is never a bad thing and even though none of the radio ads are revolutionary in the tips these provide, it is still important to have these messages reinforced in the hopes that people will actually listen and adopt the recommendations.

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