The Scary Side of Cybersecurity Marketing

Blog / The Scary Side of Cybersecurity Marketing

Selling fear is far too common.

As an industry, Cybersecurity is an incredibly young industry that really only became mainstream over the past two decades. Being such a young industry means the tactics that make sales are still being played around with. Unfortunately, a lot of those tactics currently seem to be built on buzz words and fear. It’s not uncommon for there to be a disconnect between marketing divisions and the people doing the work, but this problem can be especially acute when it comes to cybersecurity.

In fact, I was recently surprised while attending a cybersecurity webinar when the speaker spent a fair bit of time talking about both marketing and marketing failures. Some were obvious gaffes on the part of marketers who clearly didn’t bother to consult with anyone who actually knew the technology being promoted. Other times the words were pretty and made sense, but said nothing useful. That’s why I felt it was time to talk about cybersecurity marketing.

“Our magical acronym/buzzword can fix everything”

Although sometimes mocked for it by general public, acronyms are great for engineers and technicians. Often the real terminology is long and difficult to pronounce, so an acronym speeds conversation and just generally makes the topic easier to talk about. And if that acronym happens to be snappy or include a slick in-joke, well so much the better (check out what GNUs means for my personal favourite).

The flip side of this is that whenever new technologies come along, a bunch of new terminology and acronyms usually come along with it but they’re not widely understood. For example, just a few years ago everyone was talking about the magical powers of blockchains and how they could solve everything. Of course, more often than not, when pressed for details the producers couldn’t or wouldn’t explain what blockchains really are and how they could help. “Zero trust” is another buzzword threatening to be exploited by unscrupulous technological snake-oil salesmen. Make no mistake, both blockchains and zero trust policies have real world applications that are extremely valuable, but make sure you do your own follow-up research whenever someone tries tossing a bunch of magical sounding phrases at you regarding cybersecurity products.

“This would have been blocked/detected/never happened with <our product>

Pretty much any time a major cybersecurity incident makes the news it’s almost immediately followed by people claiming their product would have protected the victims. The problematic part is that the precise nature and details of these attacks are almost never made public. Yeah sure you’ll hear “details” like how many people were affected, cost of the breach, etc., but without the technical details to inform them, there’s no way these people can make such claims (which are never backed up with reasoning or evidence). These sorts of marketing claims are particularly obnoxious because the people making them are basically using someone else’s misfortune to try and make a sale based on a lie.

“We block/detect 100% of <attacks>

This is another one of those marketing headlines that are especially grievous. That’s because they’re misleading even though they’re technically the truth. Take a moment to rethink these claims and reword them in your head, as most can ultimately be reduced to “We block 100% of the attacks we block.” Like yeah, so does literally every other program.

Even if a marketing claim isn’t just a clever rewording and straight up declares a product is 100% effective, it’s almost certainly a lie. 100% effectiveness is almost never achievable, and all one needs to do is find a single exception to disprove it. There’s a reason most cleaning and sanitizing agents only claim 99.8% effectiveness.

Sifting through technological marketing jargon is always a bit of a trick, as is determining if what you’re reading or hearing is actually useful or an exaggerated sales pitch. Often times you’ll find plenty of marketing that doesn’t actually offer solutions; they just want to make you afraid enough to buy their product without looking into it first.

If you’re being offered a new cybersecurity product, feel free to contact our cybersecurity experts and we’ll be happy to help consult on it and how to build your cybersecurity profile without relying on bold but misinformed marketing jargon.

The Shakespearean quote for this newsletter comes from Love’s Labors Lost: “They have been at a great feast of languages, and stol’n the scraps.”

Be kind, courtesy your friendly neighbourhood cyber-man.

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