The tech threat to PR

Tech companies know about online threats. Many others don’t, PR included.

Dan Santow on Wordwise talks about the threats to relationships inherent in Instant Messaging, especially when communicating with clients. To be sure, it’s a minefield and one that many people will have experienced with email. The nuances of speech just aren’t there in text, and misinterpretation can abound.

However, there are real technical threats involved not just with messaging systems but any instance in which a company connects with the outside world – which effectively nowadays means any company.

Now, I’m not particularly tech-savvy but I’m aware of these risks having worked in tech firms for over ten years, including dotcoms. My experience is that any tecchie worth his salt could quite easily take advantage of the numerous ‘vulns’ in operating systems, as well as people’s psychology, to compromise the weak systems of most non-tech companies. This is why I was astonished when I came to PR to see people using IE rather than Firefox, running Outlook Express instead of Thunderbird and, most of all, to see them all IM-ing away without a care in the world.

I don’t know enough to explain what’s so bad about this approach but what I do know is that tech firms just wouldn’t tolerate this. They would have strict policies in place to stop it before it starts – get caught using anything other than company-approved web software and you’re in big trouble – but it seems that ‘soft’ companies just don’t. I’ve even had occasions where I’ve asked our tech people about possible security risks. Their response has been “we don’t know about this stuff”.

We haven’t had a problem yet but I can only imagine that it’s the ‘prize’ firms that hackers really go for. They will all want the glory of compromising some big tech concern such as Microsoft or a defence system. Meanwhile I’m convinced that a lot of non-tech companies are prone to attack because everyone chatters away through the holes in their security caused by Instant Messaging.

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