CAMPAIGN: Facebook Freddi fights online identity fraud

IT security firm Sophos helps companies prevent any unwanted activity on business computers. Johnson King developed an issues-based campaign to highlight the problems associated with employees having uncontrolled access to applications and websites.

Freddi Staur: Sophos' campaign creation
Freddi Staur: Sophos' campaign creation

Campaign: The Facebook Probe
Client: Sophos
PR team: Johnson King
Timescale: August - October 2007
Budget: Part of retainer - between £7,000 and £10,000

To position Sophos as a leading voice on the responsible use of social networking sites. To make people understand their personal information could be used by hackers and ID fraudsters.

Research by Sophos showed 41 per cent of Facebook users were divulging personal and corporate information to complete strangers, increasing their susceptibility to ID theft, phishing emails and corporate fraud.

A fictitious identity was created, based on a plastic frog named Freddi Staur - an anagram of 'ID Frauster'. 'Freddi' invited 200 random users to be his Facebook 'friend'.

Sophos found more than two in five users were happy to reveal information including their phone number and mother's maiden name. Sophos then sent a news release to the national media explaining these findings.

More than 6,000 people responded to an online poll that revealed 43 percent of workers were blocked from using Facebook by employers worried about productivity and security.

Sophos then focused on improving privacy settings, revealing that thousands of users were unwittingly giving away personal details simply by joining a geographic network.

A Facebook group was set up to inform users how to stay secure online.

The campaign got more than 200 pieces of coverage, with print mentions in The Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times and Daily Mail. It achieved 11 broadcast interviews with highlights including BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live, Channel 4 News and Sky News.

Maja Palmer, IT correspondent at the FT, said the story used media interest in Facebook to create a 'new twist on the old story of identity theft and privacy concerns'.

Unique visits to the Sophos website increased from 300 to 3,000 during the week after the first announcement.

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