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14 February 2006

Vodafone Public Relations in the Phone Tapping Storm

Security is hard... and sometimes expensive when it fails

The phone tapping scandal has been a public relations disaster on the scale of a nuclear bomb for Vodafone Greece. Vodafone has disappeared from the market. No TV spots any more (they used to be on all channels), no posters, no mention of their sponsorship for the Greek soccer team, pop star Sakis Rouvas, and others. They had started out well enough on the initial press conference, cooperating with the authorities. promising that they had done the right thing, that they had handed everything over. That changed soon enough...

The first accusations did not take long to come: Critics said that Vodafone should have left the spyware installation in place for proper forensics and even "wet" investigation of the "receiving" mobile phones. When the questions about the suicide of their employee started to turn hotter, that must have been the point when they totally closed up.

No more TV spots

Since then it's silence on the advertising media. Vodafone is perceived only through the news. And the journalists are not kind to them, especially Vodafone boss George Koronias is being quoted only in a defensive stance. I haven't seen him appear in person on TV, as if standing up and facing things wasn't bearable. Obviously Vodafone has decided to wait it out in silence. Makes me wonder: They're not just your average Greek company, they are a subsidiary of an international multi. Can't they hire some PR pros who know how to handle a crisis? Or did the pros tell them to shut it up completely?

The cost of no advertising

It must cost them a lot. It's not that existing customers are switching in drones. But starting out with a new contract or switching your contract to Vodafone (something often done to get a new phone or new services) isn't really regarded as the cool thing any more. Plus: they have to hype their new added value services. 3G, video calls, all the toys. That is the business that goes down without exposure. Let's face it, the usefulness of a video call is near zero in most cases. Nobody thinks about it if it doesn't get hyped.

Security is hard. Once you start to occupy yourself with the field, you learn that sentence. No matter how well you do your stuff, there might still be an exploit out there with the name of your code or OS on it. And if you are smart you learn fast that the golden bullets they sell just don't cut it.

Learn something... or shut it up too?

What we can learn from the Greek Vodafone phone tapping scandal is that we better stay alert. The cost of a security breech might just be in a category that exceeds all our wildest nightmares.

Some people talk about them expecting Vodafone Greece to close down. They believe that Vodafone won't recover from this bomb. I don't think so. They will wait it out and some day it will all be mostly forgotten. Pushed back by the next big media bang. Hopefully they learned something from it. The other players in the market sure did, but I don't know if it's the right thing they learned. They probably had a very good look at their installed software. But if they found anything, they would not be so stupid as to make it public now. That's something of a solution too.

Posted by betabug at 23:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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