Marketing Malware

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We always knew that security can’t be left up to users, and now there is hard proof. Reuters just published the results of an (admittedly ridiculous) test in which a computer specialist named Didier Stevens offered free viruses on Google Adwords. The text of the ad was “Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!” and 409 people clicked on it.

Of course, the online marketer in me is wondering what keywords he advertised on, who he was competing with, what was his price per click, and my mind is whirring for ways he could have optimized his ad to improve conversion rates for his free virus…

Even though the incident described here was an experiment and no viruses were actually distributed, in reality, similar marketing questions are being asked by malware distributors all the time – how to improve the open rate of their email campaigns, and how to get users to click-through? (the end result of which is, of course, infection). Lately they have been using good old-fashioned social engineering to make email subject lines seem just too juicy to delete, even if the receipient doesn’t know the sender. If we want to stay one step ahead of the virus writers and distributors, it’s not enough to think like an engineer (sorry, guys!) – we also have to think like a marketer and imagine what new clever tricks will they think of to bring their ‘product’ (i.e. malware) to their target market?

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