Vocus adds PRWeb security to stop fraudulent releases

BELTSVILLE, MD: Vocus has produced security updates for its PRWeb press release distribution service months after it published a release about a fake Google acquisition.

BELTSVILLE, MD: Vocus has produced security updates for its PRWeb press release distribution service months after it published a release about a fake Google acquisition.

With this update, Vocus has automated the methods it implemented in December and January to verify a sender's identity. Previously, users submitting press releases had to manually confirm their phone number, email address, and website by communicating with PRWeb staffers through phone or email. The new automated verification process aims to help users save time, said You Mon Tsang, SVP of products and acting CMO at Vocus.

“We found that manual authentication efforts were putting a lot of strain on our customers, who, in this space, are probably rushing to get a release out quickly,” Mon Tsang said. “We wanted to make sure we focus on bringing new technologies to prevent fraud, but also not have the new editorial guidelines add much time for our clients.”

Vocus has also added social authentications to verify a sender's identity through his or her Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts.

“Things like email or phone are a little easier to fool you on than a Twitter handle. A Twitter handle with thousands of followers is very hard to fake,” Mon Tsang explained.

The changes follow PRWeb's publication last November of a fraudulent release claiming that Google had acquired wireless hotspot provider ICOA for $400 million. Several media outlets, including the Associated Press and TechCrunch, picked up the news.

Vocus later apologized for the error, and since then, the company has tightened its editorial review process, Mon Tsang said. Over the past five months, Vocus has nearly doubled its editorial team to 42 staffers who are responsible for reviewing press releases before they are published.

Vocus banned press releases from some industry categories, such as pay day loans, electronic cigarettes, and green coffee beans, which are often associated with fraud and spam. It also banned the words “free” and “buy” in release headlines.

“We wanted our releases to feel less promotional,” Mon Tsang said.

In December, the company started using technology that analyzes release content and assigns it a “risk score,” Mon Tsang said. The score is based on factors such as industry, number of links, and certain words. If a press release receives a high risk score, it is assigned to more senior editors, he added.

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