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McAfee's missed messages

We're intrigued by the "McAfee hacks hackers" ads, in part because they raise an important question: who, exactly, is the intended customer?

When walking through the San Jose Minetta airport on Wednesday, I couldn't help but see McAfee's name strewn throughout the terminal. The marketing folks at McAfee must be on an advertising kick because there are numerous, visible advertisements that read, "Hackers hack code. McAfee hacks hackers."

OK, McAfee, you got my attention, but my question is, just who are you trying to reach with this message? Here is a list of possibilities and my associated confusion:

1. Enterprise customers. This audience doesn't seem likely. Enterprise security today is much more about governance, risk management, and compliance than hacker paranoia. Yes, you do have to guard against hackers, but as part of an overall set of processes and architecture. Doesn't seem like McAfee's advertisements are a good fit here.

2. Consumers. I guess John and Jane Q. Public are more-likely targets, but this seems like a mismatch as well. Consumers want comprehensive protection against viruses, worms, spyware, phishing, etc. The average consumer probably associates the word hacker with movies like Firewall, Swordfish, and War Games--not end-point security.

3. RSA attendees. Maybe, but RSA Conference 2008 isn't for a month and it is in San Francisco, not San Jose.

I've been around high-tech marketing and advertising for a long time and I don't get this strategy or positioning at all. For security professionals, direct fear of hackers harks back to the early 1990s when Kevin Mitnick was on the FBI most-wanted list. Now he is a highly paid security consultant helping companies marry security defenses to business operations. Hmm, maybe this is what McAfee should be talking about as well.