Archive for August 2011

Social,Mobile and Email Marketing:Web technology and Softwares   Leave a comment

If social media is just reaching the tipping point as an important channel for retail marketers, the mobile channel has moved past that point and shows every sign of becoming more pivotal in the years to come. That has big implications
for e-mail marketing. A recent study revealed that 20% of marketing e-mails are opened on a mobile device. While
retailers are always glad to see their e-mail opened, the fact that consumers are reading marketing e-mail on the small
screens of mobile phones poses significant challenges. The most obvious is how to format e-mail so that it can be comfortably read on those smaller mobile screens. Some retailers create e-mail messages formatted specifically for mobile phones, which can be a time-consuming and expensive approach because there is no sure-fire way to tell whether a consumer will first view the message on her mobile phone or personal computer.

A more practical solution is to find a format that will ensure e-mail messages render properly on a mobile phone and a PC. The standard width for desktop e-mails is 600 pixels and the standard for smartphones is 300 pixels. Creating an e-mail that splits the difference to between 400 and 450 pixels is a good compromise.

No one can predict the device on which a consumer will view their e-mail, but e-mail marketers can create messages to be viewed on narrower screens, such as a mobile phone, that will look fine on a personal computer. The main thing to
remember is that most consumers perform e-mail triage on their phone, so there is no guarantee they will scroll to read the entire message. That means the most important information has to be above the fold.

Other tips for creating e-mails that can properly format on mobile phones include using blocky text links that are easier to see and push on a touch screen, and reducing and eliminating graphics embedded in the message. Retailers can also employ technology that automatically formats an e-mail message to the mobile device, such as an iPhone.

Formatting to mobile devices is a strategic challenge for e-mail marketers, but also a necessity because more consumers are opening their mail on their smartphone. It’s important that retailers take the time to understand this challenge to create a smoother e-mail marketing experience for mobile users.

E-mail marketing software offers retailers a choice of ready-made e-mail templates and the option of creating customized templates. Retailers can place logos and images in the e-mail. Retailers can monitor open rates, click-throughs and forwarded e-mails in real time and compare the results of current e-mail campaigns with previous campaigns.

While formatting e-mails for mobile phones imposes new requirements on retailers, they also have new opportunities
because consumers carry their mobile phones with them all the time, wherever they go.

Retailers seeking to capture new e-mail addresses should hang signs in their stores urging consumers to opt in to their e-mail lists by entering a mobile code or scanning a QR code to receive a discount coupon for that day’s purchase.
(A QR code is a two-dimensional bar code consumers can scan with their phone cameras to obtain information or link to a retailer’s web site.)

Once the consumer enters or scans the code, the retailer can immediately respond with a text message asking for the shopper’s e-mail address; upon receiving that address, the retailer can then send a welcome e-mail containing a scannable electronic coupon, along with other promotional information.

The same concept can be used in store by retailers to promote their mobile apps or a rewards program. When consumers are in the store they are already engaged with the retailer and are more receptive to e-mail marketing.

While text messaging can be a useful complement to e-mail marketing, especially for reaching mobile consumers, retailers must also keep in mind its drawbacks. For one thing, it costs considerably more than e-mail and it is harder to track whether the message has been opened.

Text messaging is great for time-sensitive campaigns, such as sending a reminder to consumers that opened an e-mail about a four-hour sale that only an hour is left, but we are not seeing widespread use of text messaging campaigns.

Some retailers send text messages to consumers whose location indicates they are close to one of the retailer’s stores. For example, the merchant can promote limited-time incentives to encourage a shopper to walk into a nearby store.

While the mobile channel and social media represents new and sexy ways to reach consumers through e-mail, retailers should not forget the fundamental blocking and tackling techniques that have made e-mail one of the most reliable forms of marketing.

Creating lifecycle campaigns that maintain steady contact with consumers is a core strategy. Starting with welcome
messages when a consumer opts in to a retailer’s e-mail list and continuing with birthday greetings, post-sale follow-up
and product care tips, there is no shortage of messages that can be sent to customers over the course of the relationship.

Lifecycle campaigns are set up according to specific triggers, so opportunities are not missed. Lifecycle messages speak directly to the consumer in very targeted and timely ways so the open rates tend to be in the 30% to 80% range, usually significantly higher than regular broadcast sends.

Another basic of e-mail marketing is to use images wisely. While images can sometimes slow downloads, a few wellplaced images can greatly enhance an e-mail’s effectiveness.  In terms of placement, images put off to one side allow for text and image to share the prime space above the fold. There has to be a good balance between HTML text and images so that consumers scanning their e-mail understand what you’re trying to convey—even with images off.

Personalization is another critical element of e-mail marketing, and one that offers even more potential today because consumers reveal more information about themselves via social networks. Retailers have more opportunities than ever to accumulate information about consumers to segment their e-mail marketing lists. Two key segments include their best customers, those that represent the greatest lifetime value, and evangelists, shoppers who are anxious to proclaim their appreciation of the retailer’s merchandise.

Thanking high-value customers and brand evangelists for their loyalty by offering exclusive deals or sneak previews of incoming merchandise speaks to them on a personal level and can significantly increase future open and click-through rates for a retailer’s e-mail.

Once the decision to segment the list is made, retailers need to decide how finely they want to slice and dice it. The goal is to identify segments that retailers know the most about, and express that knowledge in a way that creates a very personalized experience. The more personal the e-mail the better the response to it will be.

Better segmentation not only leads to higher open rates, it can open the door to more opportunities to communicate
with consumers through e-mail. “A lot of retailers don’t e-mail with enough frequency because they overlook opportunities to send an e-mail. Using customer intelligence applications can help them unearth new up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

Customer intelligence is a segmentation practice based on consumer behavior. For example, a retailer of outdoor apparel and gear might want to reach out to customers that have purchased hiking boots in order to offer them related
accessories, such as socks, rain gear and water bottles. The retailer can filter out those consumers who purchased their boots at least six months ago, then segment by gender, in order to send out well-targeted e-mail offers that will not seem overly intrusive.

Customer intelligence used to be for identifying which customers not to (snail) mail to, but by reversing its use for e-mail, retailers can identify new opportunities to reach out to customers. Customer intelligence is bringing more of the discipline used in traditional direct marketing to e-mail.

One fundamental that should not be forgotten is the need to test all aspects of an e-mail campaign.  Everything from what’s in the subject line and its length to layout and timing of the message should be tested.  E-mail best practices evolve, so retailers need to constantly test to find out what is working now for their customers.

Create and Remember Strong Passwords   Leave a comment

We live in a password driven world, one in which 4 to 20 characters can unlock the door to accessing data, communicating with friends, and making online purchases. The problem is that passwords should be different everywhere you use them, making it quite difficult to remember them all. And, if a password is truly strong, it’s usually even tougher to remember. But follow the tips below and you can take total control of your terms for access.

Use Different Passwords Everywhere
Why would you do this when it’s so easy to just type “fido” at every password prompt? Here’s why: If “fido” gets cracked once, it means the person with that info now has access to all of your online accounts. A recent study by BitDefender showed that 75 percent of people use their e-mail password for Facebook, as well. If that’s also your Amazon or PayPal password, and the wrong person discovers it, say goodbye to
some funds, if not friends.

Remember To Change Passwords
You should change them often (okay, maybe not every day). Don’t share them. Don’t leave them out for others to see (no sticky notes!).  Actually, sorry, they should be mysterious. In other words, make your password a total mystery to others.

Avoid Common Password
If the word you use can be found in the dictionary, it’s not a strong password. If you use numbers or letters in the order
they appear on the keyboard (“1234” or “qwerty”), it’s not a strong password. If it’s the name of your relatives, your kids, or your pet, favorite team, or city of your birth, guess what—it’s not a strong password. If it’s your birthday, anniversary, date of graduation, even your car license-plate number, it’s not a strong password. It doesn’t matter if you follow this with another number. These are all things hackers would try first. They write programs to check these kinds
of passwords first, in fact.

Other terms to avoid: “god,” “money,” “love,” “monkey,” “letmein,” and for the love of all that’s techie, if you use “password” as your password, just sign off the Internet right now.

How to Build strength
To create a strong password, you should use a string of text that mixes numbers, letters that are both lowercase and uppercase, and special characters. It should be eight characters, preferably many more; a lot more. The characters should be random, and not follow from words, alphabetically, or from your keyboard layout. So how do you make such a password?

1) Spell a word backwards. (Example: Turn “New York” into “kroywen.”)
2) Use l33t speak: Substitute numbers for certain letters. (Example: Turn “kroywen” into “kr0yw3n.”)
3) Randomly throw in some capital letters. (Example: Turn “kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3n.”)
4) Don’t forget the special character. (Example: Turn “Kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3^.”)

You don’t have to go for the obvious and use “0” for “o,” or “@” for “a,” or “3” for “e,” either. As long as your replacement makes sense to you, that’s all that matters. A “^” for an “n” makes sense to me.

Password Creation Tricks
Choose something simple to remember as a password, but when you type it, place your fingers on the wrong keys—
maybe one key to the left or to the right. Then a password like “kroywen” becomes “jeitqwb” or “ltpuerm.” This is only going to work for non-perfectionist touch-typists. And skip this tip if you type passwords on your phone; you’ll only sprain a thumb trying to be inaccurate instead of letting the inaccuracy flow naturally.

Another option is to pick a pattern on the keyboard and type based on that. For example, a counter-clockwise spin around the letter “d” could result in “rewsxcvf.” Throw in some random caps and numbers to really lock it down.

Perhaps the easiest thing to remember is an acronym from a phrase of your choice. “We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning” becomes “wdstfiwab” based on the first letters of each word.

Remember, the longer the password, the stronger it is. Always. Something more than 15 characters is very difficult to remember, but it’ll be a breeze with a mnemonic.

Third-Party Passwords
If you don’t trust yourself to create an unbreakable password, there are plenty of tools that will make one for you. The PC Tools Secure Password Generator, for example, makes one based on your criteria: how long, include (or don’t) mixed case, numbers, punctuation, similar character replacement, etc. It even provides a phonetic pronunciation guide that you use as your mantra while typing the password, for example: MA7ApUp# is MIKE – ALPHA – seven – ALPHA – papa – UNIFORM – papa – hash.

Password Testing
If you’re worried that your password of choice isn’t strong enough, check it at How Secure is My Password?. The site will even tell you how long the average PC would take to crack it. For example, cracking “kroywen” would take 13 minutes, “kr0yw3n” would take about 2 hours, “Kr0yw3^” 15 days, and “MA7ApUp#” about 3 years.

You can tell from these results that more capital letters are better for strength and more characters (eight instead of seven) also make a huge difference. Adding a single capital letter to the end of “Kr0yw3^,” such as “Kr0yw3nZ,” boosts the crack time to 3 years. Throw another special character in (“Kr0yw3^Z!”) and it jumps to 237 years.

Password Tracking and Changes
It’s easy for me to say that you should use a strong password and then expect you to remember that messy non-word string of characters. But how dare You use a different password on every site you visit and account you own. That’s madness!

Or is it? Here’s a simple trick that would make your already steroid-strong password even more muscular, while individualizing it for each entry. Simply take the first three letters of the site or service you’re entering and append them to the beginning or end of your strong password. On Amazon, you’d have “Kr0yw3^AMA.” Your e-mail could be “Kr0yw3^EMA.” Facebook would be “Kr0yw3^FAC.” Notice I always use all caps for the appended letters, just to crank
up the security. This can work for banks, shopping, social networks, you name it. It’s like creating a thousand passwords you can remember easily.

Every few months, you should change all of your passwords—everywhere. Even if you made a password that would take a few centuries to hack, you might have shared it with a co-worker or boyfriend or girlfriend, right? What happens when they become ex-coworkers or an ex-BF or ex-GF? Yeah, you can probably guess.

You could change your base (“Kr0yw3^”), which might be easy if you based it on an acronym for a longer phrase. Or you could change the appended letters by moving them to the front or even the middle (“Kr0y- FACw3^” for  Facebook). Perhaps switch to the last three in the service name (“OOK” for Facebook.) You could even stick in the date of the change. It’s your call.

You’ l l be most annoyed when you encounter those select few sites that only let you have a short password of four, six,
or even eight characters. What might have seemed easy before is going to soon become a vexing problem when you
embrace the might of a strong personal password paradigm.

The Right Advice is Wrong
Some experts will tell you to do a couple of things that go against conventional password wisdom. And the reasons are simple: productivity.

For example, I read a recent treatise on why you should write down your passwords, especially if you actually go the distance and use a unique string of characters for every log-in. The amount of time you could lose trying to remember each password whenever you have to type it may not be worth it. Just try to keep the list somewhere that’s not readily accessible, such as in your wallet. A desk drawer at work is not optimal for keeping out snooping co-workers.

Related advice f rom a Microsof t researcher says that having multiple passwords is also not worth the effort, or, more
specifically, the indirect costs of the effort of tracking them all. That’s right, that big list of passwords I just said to put in your pocket? Maybe it’s not worth it.

Tools of the Password Trade
What about password managers and other methods of entry-like biometrics? Well, of course. We’ll round up some of those for you soon, but first go pick a strong password for backup, just in case.

Posted August 27, 2011 by Anoop George Joseph in Uncategorized

Optimizing SEO for Video   Leave a comment

Most people prefer watching video to reading loads of text if they’re given the option, and it’s no surprise that YouTube is ranked as the third most popular site in the world by Alexa.

Anticipating the need to find great videos online, Google, Yahoo and Bing have created video search engines. These scour the internet for unique video content and publish it in their video sections.

The cool part about this is that, instead of posting normal text listings, the search engines publish thumbnail  screenshots of the videos on the search engine results page (SERP). The thumbnail enables searchers to see what kind of video they’re dealing with before viewing it.

Universal Search – a system that blends image, video, news, blog, local and traditional search to form a more complete experience for users – is now integral to all three major search engines. And listings that have video thumbnails next to them have been proven to receive a much higher click-through rate than traditional text listings.

It has been foundthat people are automatically attracted to video thumbnails on the SERP and even skip listings above and below them entirely.

This means that listings with video thumbnails not only get more attention but they even cause other surrounding  listings to be ignored by the user.

The benefits of having video on each search optimised page of a site are clear. Google, Yahoo and Bing all take video very seriously because they know that searchers prefer audio-visual content to simple text and images. Having video on a page definitely gives it a little spice. Reasons to optimise a site for video include both increased brand awareness on the SERP and higher click-through rates from existing search listings. If your page is already in position one for a keyword, that listing will earn a thumbnail once you’ve optimised it for video. You’ll also get increased time on site and page views, plus better user experience and increased conversion rates.

First, embed your web-friendly video on the page using any of the many video embed methods. For example, you could
use Flash, Windows Player, QuickTime and so on. Note: do not use YouTube, Vimeo or other video upload sites for this. The video must be unique to your website.

Create a thumbnail of the video for indexing, with a size of 80×60 pixels. Next, you need to create four meta tags for the video on the page,

<meta name=”medium”
content=”video” />
<meta name=”video_
type” content=
flash” />

Replace application/xshockwave- flash with the player you’re using.

<meta name=”video_
height” content=”280″

Replace 280 with the height of your video. Replace 460 with the width of your video.

<meta name=”video_
width” content=”460″

Create a video sitemap and submit it to the search engines. Google and Yahoo have clear instructions at and Bing doesn’t have a video submission process, so submit your sitemap directly to Bing ( and include the meta tags from step

Posted August 25, 2011 by Anoop George Joseph in Internet

Facebook ‘Liked’ products be top sellers   Leave a comment

With over 600 million members or “friends,” Facebook is the most powerful of the online social networks. Online
retailers are discovering new ways to harness this power not only to increase their sales, but also to infl uence buyers through the virtual word-of-mouth that the Facebook Like button enables.

The way it works is simple. Individuals, companies, or groups create Fan pages on Facebook where they can post updates. Facebook members can become a fan by simply clicking the Like button located on the fan page. Fans then receive updates posted by the page creator.

Companies have begun to integrate this feature into their own web sites, allowing them more exposure through this social network.  is is an efficient way for retailers and manufacturers to let their customers and Facebook fans know about new releases of products, events, and special off ers and coupons.  e added benefit to retailers is that anyone connected to the person who Liked the item will also be exposed to the product when they see the Facebook News Feed of the fan of the brand.

Up until a few months ago, retailers only went as far as allowing members to become fans of a brand as a whole. Lately, however, a new trend has emerged. Merchants such as Levi’s and Amazon now use the Like feature at a product level. How does this work and what does it mean for you as an online retailer? Let’s look at In the screenshot example below, Levi’s has integrated Facebook’s Like feature into the product information for each listed item.  e jeans maker also shows how many people have Liked each pair of jeans to the right of the Like button. By displaying the number of members who Like a pair of jeans, Levi’s is betting that consumers will be more influenced to look at and buy those jeans.

During an internal usability study conducted in May of 2010 with online shoppers across various age groups who had Facebook accounts, it was discovered that the Like feature did influence members’ shopping experience. Observations showed that jeans with a higher number of Likes got more views from these online shoppers than jeans with fewer Likes, at least initially.  While ultimately select a pair of jeans based on their personal style, they also spent time investigating the products with more Likes to find out why they were more popular.

In order to use this feature, Facebook members must allow Levi’s to use some of their Facebook information, such as:
their friends’ birthdays, th e display of their friends’ Facebook profile pictures on the Levi’s web site if they Like a product, and  Information posted on their Facebook Wall when they select to Like and/or comment on something.

By having access to this account information, Levi’s can alert its online shoppers about friends’ birthdays as a means to promote gift purchases.  And in hopes of influencing a shopper’s buying decision, it can also show shoppers images of their friends who have Liked or commented  on certain products.  is  where the true power of marketing through social media shines.

And when viewing a friend’s Facebook page or status update in News Feed, members can see if a friend has Liked or commented on something through the Levi’s web site. At the top of the next page is an example screenshot of what
would typically appear on a fan’s Facebook Wall if he had Liked and commented on a Levi’s product.

Members seeing a product on their Facebook Profile pages when they commented on a Liked product, as well as seeing a product they simply Liked.  These same consumers also said that if they saw a pair of jeans that a Facebook friend Liked or commented on, they would be more inclined to click on that product, driving them back to the Levi’s site.

 Consumers who may have never considered visiting the Levi’s web site are now exposed to and driven to the site
via a single product they saw on a friend’s Facebook profi le page or within the Facebook News Feed. If only 0.25% of Facebook’s 600 million friends visited the Levi’s site, that would still amount to an additional 1.5 million visits.

So what’s the downside?  at depends on what a consumer is comfortable with people knowing about her. In the case of Levi’s, the one drawback we heard from testers was that they may not necessarily want to display the types of clothes they Liked for fear of criticism.  The main deterrents when it came to announcing their clothing styles were body type and size, color and style.

Enter  In late July 2010, Amazon partnered with Facebook to create a personalized shopping experience for consumers based on their Facebook Likes and their friends’ Likes. Amazon accesses a customer’s Facebook account, with the customer’s permission, to gather information .

Once a customer has allowed Amazon to access this information, the retailer uses it to recommend products based on the customer’s Likes and her friends’ Likes. Aside from displaying the friends’ profile pictures for products they’ve liked, Amazon also shows friends with upcoming birthdays. Based on their Likes, Amazon provides gift suggestions for these friends.

This type of integration allows Amazon to gain key insights into how product sales relate to social recommendations—a metric which, up to this point, has not been easily measured. Based on this data retailers can build models to show how
fi nancially valuable it is to have members Like a product or brand and truly gauge the impact of social network marketing.

Overall, this marriage between social networks and online retailers has a bright future. As more people use Facebook to
keep up with friends, trends and gossip, Facebook’s potential as a commerce tool for online retailers will only continue
to grow. So consider how your retail site could benefi t from integrating Facebook’s Like feature and test the user experience before deploying it to make certain your customers understand and appreciate the feature. It could impact your site more than you think.

Apps Store Optimization   Leave a comment

There’s a new term Internet marketers need to become familiar with: ASO, or App Store Optimization. As apps have ushered in a new era of business on the Web, ASO will soon take its place alongside SEO as a key component of online success.

Consumers are quickly realizing that apps are increasingly abundant, providing solutions to problems, and  conveniences never before seen. But as the number of apps increases at a rapid pace consumers need a little help finding what they need. That’s where ASO steps in. And, just like SEO, ASO takes up-front planning to achieve top
rankings in the app stores.

Plan before you build

It pays to do your research. Apps are neither easy nor cheap to build — so it is critical that just as much care is given to ensure its adoption and help turn that app into a solid business investment. What’s more, under-developed apps can incur the wrath of poor user reviews, all but dooming its future. It’s easy to dream up the next great app but far more
difficult to fulfill an actual consumer need. Study the market.

• What do the top 100 ranking apps in your category have in common?

• What features do the top apps overall have in common?

• What are consumers searching for (services or features) that could give your app an edge?

Try to identify what users are searching for and use those keywords when developing and promoting your app; starting with the title and description and possibly even using the developer name. Words like “easy,” “fun,” “fast,” and  “exciting” are highly searched and enticing to the consumer. Your mission is to build app that has mass appeal and easy-to-understand benefits.

Naming Description

The name of the app must feature a strong keyword. This will have a major impact on your app store ranking and, of course, helps consumers discover your app through search. Take care in researching keywords that are appropriate to the app and its functions before settling on a name.

When it comes to app descriptions, clearly outline the benefits but be strong and concise — enough to grab the consumer’s attention and convince them why they should install your app. Avoid using special characters in your title as this will have a negative effect on how the name appears in the app’s URL. Also, include “Free” or “Lite”, if appropriate. Another strategy is to build your app dependent on a popular platform such as Facebook, and use that name in your copy. If building on a third party platform, however, engineer a user notification when that third party has an outage so that your app does not get blamed and slapped with a low rating. Remember that every good piece of copywriting includes a strong call to action.


Included in the research phase of app planning is pricing. App prices will vary but should stay in line with similar apps or functionalities. Price an app too high and it will quickly fall out of favor — meaning lost ratings and reviews and the possibility that cheaper alternatives dominate the app stores. Pricing too low can add a “cheap” feel to the app and also result in being overlooked.

More than 80 percent of the traffic in the Apple App Store is directed to free apps. So, one pricing strategy is to use the “freemium” model — that is, offering a free version of the app while outlining the benefits of the paid model both in descriptions and in the app itself. Review your options, such as inapp purchasing to monetize on engaged users. Half of the top-grossing App Store apps are now free with in-app purchasing, and this percentage has been increasing rapidly. Paid apps should stay under the $4.99 price point, as consumers still expect to pay very little even for high-quality apps.
Should you decide to charge for your app consider using price promotions. For example, offering a $4.99 app for $.99 for a limited time can create a sense of urgency on the part of consumers and garner media attention.

Create High Quality Images

Create quality images to showcase your app and its benefits and label the images with strong keywords. The app’s icon must also be of high quality, and make sure it “pops” off of the page.

Plan the Preview

Search for an app and you will quickly see app store page results. Many times, the iTunes Web Preview is listed higher
than your app’s home page as they are very search engine friendly. These preview pages are critical to building organic traffic and attracting links — these pages must be optimized.

Use keywords and be sure to maximize the use of copy before the “More…” button, seen on Apple App Store previews, for example. You are limited to three lines here; each made up of 120 characters before word-wrapping. The URL, page title, meta description, meta keywords and the H1 tag should all be loaded with the app name and keywords. Currently, the iTunes preview page use a “no follow” attribute for links to the app’s home page so there is no benefit to the developer. Again, do your research — it will pay off with more downloads and higher rankings in the App Store.

Pre-launch tactics

Before officially launching an app, it is important to build some buzz. • Launch a website for your app. • Promote the app on social sites, and start networking with app review sites and other online communities, like LinkedIn Groups.
• Leverage your social network by integrating Facebook Connect into your app and request user ratings.
• Create a video featuring the “value” the app offers the user. Consider creating a professional screencast in high definition to demonstrate the quality of your app. Post on YouTube and use the links in  press releases and requests to app  reviewers.
• Demo the app at mobile industry shows — you never know when someone from Apple is watching (or reading) and it
could land the elusive App Store featured app.

Launch Advertising

Most Web marketers are familiar with display ads and, therefore, attempt to buy mobile display ads first. The problem is that mobile display ads are not very effective at growing traffic. Most marketers of free apps report that it costs between $1.50 and $3.00 (or more) to acquire an installation using mobile display ads, and that mobile display ad campaigns do not scale very well. Since it now requires approximately 50,000 U.S. installs in a single day to place in the top 25 in the U.S. App Store free rankings, explore lower cost alternatives such as “cost per install” networks, which provide cost per
install campaigns below $1.00 and at the high volumes required to break into the top of the App Store rankings.
Apps that rank in the top of app stores and retain that position do not achieve that status by sheer luck. It takes  planning and careful execution to land in the Top 25. But the effort will be handsomely rewarded with higher revenue and user engagement.

Sneakware   Leave a comment

When we install a program and end up with one or more unexpected apps, this is sneakware. These are not malware, they don’t replicate like viruses or report sensitive data back to some remote hacker. Sneakware are apps pushed by vendors searching for a bigger audience. Sneakware do a lot of good for the vendor and do less for you.

Sneakware generally is not malicious in nature and usually is software that a number of users may choose to install. There’s no great secret to how sneakware gets onto your system. Consider the classic sneak play involved in a Nexus Radio installation. After executing the downloaded installation file, the user sees a buxom bass player, perfect for  distracting the attention and getting a quick hit of the Next button, which is already pre-selected. All the user has to do
is hit Enter another six times and the program is installed. Is anyone still paying attention by the sixth screen? Nexus Radio hopes not, because hitting Enter here will result in acceptance of the license, installation of the Ask toolbar, and making Ask the browser’s default search provider.

Nobody downloads Nexus Radio looking for the Ask toolbar, but the unwary will end up with it anyway. Only  unchecking the two Ask option boxes will prevent the sneakware installation.

In most cases, sneakware is not malicious. One arguable exception is software that persuades someone to install it through devious or misleading means, even though that software ostensibly has no malicious impact. The classic example of this is the antivirus warning message that pops up during a Web browsing session, warning the viewer that his system is in danger and that a scan for threats is urgently needed. Most of us think of a “scan” as something that runs from a remote location and doesn’t install anything locally. In this case, that belief is wrong. Clicking anywhere in the message, perhaps even clicking the red X in the corner, launches a background download and installation of some sort
of antimalware software.

This fits the strict definition of sneakware because the antimalware application (a) installs through a sort of unwitting assent and (b) doesn’t cause damage, steal anything, or sacrifice system security. You didn’t want it, but it’s there anyway, and getting rid of it could be every bit as difficult as expunging a virus. Still, sneakware is not malware, and companies such as Symantec and Trend Micro are unlikely to ever treat it as such because users inevitably give some form of permission when installing it. Thus the burden of caution stays with users, whether they want it or not.

For better or worse, it’s common for people in the Internet age to assume that everything digital either is or should be free. Isn’t this the basis of freeware and things like Wikipedia? Free, however, is not usually the case. Inevitably, money has to enter into the equation in order to keep electricity flowing and food on people’s tables.

In the case of a small software vendor trying to carve out a name and market presence through freeware, it’s hard to  begrudge some application bundling as long as the sneakware is fairly marked and the uninstallation process is  straightforward. These  companies have to make money somehow, and it’s obviously not happening from retail purchases.

On the other hand, some might object to receiving the same (or worse) handling from a company such as AOL, which generated nearly $2.5 billion in 2010 revenue. AOL’s famously popular Winamp media player not only features  sponsored ads in the main UI of the free Standard version, but it also runs the user through sneakware pages for AOL Search, eMusic, and DriverHive, which users might assume was needed for Winamp since it is “recommended.”


Posted August 17, 2011 by Anoop George Joseph in Uncategorized

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Secure Web Browsing   Leave a comment

These days, most of us spend an incredible amount of time online using a Web browser. The Web browser, and the activities performed using them, is a favorite attack vector for cybercriminals. Here are some tips on how to browse securely and keep the bad guys away.

Recent version of browser

Although most popular Web browsers today have proven to be fairly secure, bear in mind that you should always use the latest version of the browser and make sure that it’s up-to-date and patched. Those security patches are there for a
reason, and older versions of browsers are far more vulnerable to attacks than updated ones.


We use a lot of Web sites and services these days. Because keeping track of potentially dozens of passwords is a difficult task, many people use the same password (or some slight variant of the same password) for everything, which is a terrible
idea. Not every site is created equal in terms of security. For example, the authentication and encryption on your bank’s Web site may be stellar, but that forum for moped riders that you joined may not be.

If someone found or figured out your password on the moped forum and you used it for your other accounts, a hacker can figure out how to access your financial and personal data, not to mention your various email and social networking accounts, pretty quickly.

Further, make sure any and all passwords you use are strong—that is, make sure they’re hard for someone else to guess. A strong password will contain a mix of upper- and lower-case letters as well as numbers. Don’t use familiar names or the birthdays of family members, or anything that someone could easily find out about you.

You should have a different password for every account you have. Because it’s so tough to remember all those passwords, you should develop a code, such as including the first letter of the service somewhere in the password or something equally random that you can still remember, or use password management software.

Web site encryption

One letter can make a world of difference. You’ve no doubt noticed the “HTTP” before Web addresses, but a site with “HTTPS” before the address is one that employs some kind of encryption, such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). You’ll frequently see HTTPS on financial sites or online payment portals, for example. This prevents others from “eavesdropping” on your  browsing and helps keep your sensitive information shrouded from online view.


It’s important to remember where you’re accessing the Internet from. For example, if you’re browsing from your company’s network, chances are that the IT department has business-level encryption, malware detection, and firewalls in place to keep your communications secure and to keep the bad stuff out.

However, if you’re accessing the Internet on an unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspot, assume that anyone who’s interested can see what you’re doing on the network. Never, ever, conduct sensitive business over an unsecured network.

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