Free Internet and Your Content Marketing Strategy: What Could Go Wrong?

October 17, 2016 Jonathan Crowl

content marketing strategy

Europe has bold plans to lead the rest of us into the future. Last month, the European Commission announced plans to make public spaces Wi-Fi enabled across the continent. That would mean free wireless internet to “every European village and every city” by 2020, according to European Union president Jean-Claude Juncker.

That’s a bold promise that represents a massive overhaul of the continent’s digital infrastructure, and it represents an exciting opportunity for your content marketing strategy (at least where content consumption is concerned): Free Wi-Fi would expand access to all types of branded content, and particularly media-rich content that saps mobile data usage.

The project is estimated to cost $134 million as localities throughout Europe—including parks, public squares, libraries, public buildings and other public-owned property—are equipped with free Wi-Fi that’s made available to every individual.

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It’s an optimistic venture, but one that will require plenty of oversight and observation. As The Next Web pointed out, Europe need look no further than New York City to find a case study of how free internet can go south in a major way: the city’s free internet kiosks have been plagued with reports of people using them to watch pornography.

But the risks of free Wi-Fi aren’t limited to the types of content consumed. With expanded Wi-Fi access comes the growing risk of security breaches. New security challenges, particularly in regards to mobile-enabled devices, create the need for new policies and greater awareness of the risks enterprise brands face.

That’s where content strategy plays an interesting role: through effective strategy, brands can use their content to support, and even improve, their security fronts.

What’s Content Got to Do with IT?

In a direct sense, content doesn’t have any positive influence on security. Your blog won’t deter hacks or defend against malware. In fact, the creation of content can be a liability to enterprise security, because it can open up potential breach points.

But where security support is concerned, your content marketing strategy has huge implications. Once IT puts its security policies and practices in place, content can play a valuable role in their upkeep.

“A solid approach to security is to rely on IT and security staff to implement reasonable technical controls to enforce security policies,” said Kevin Beaver, an independent consultant for Principle Logic. “Then, you can rely on content and training to get the messages out there on how information security is important to the enterprise. This will help fill in any gaps missed by technical controls and hopefully lead to an end result of eliminating the low-hanging fruit that gets so many organizations into trouble.”

Meanwhile, some experts believe that content creators should have input on certain IT elements that relate to branded content itself.

“Any content that makes use of computer systems should have some IT input for how it should be designed, delivered, and protected,” said security expert David Strom. “[It] just makes common sense.”

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Public Wi-Fi in the Midst of IoT’s Heyday

The rise of publicly accessible Wi-Fi is likely to parallel another significant trend in digital technology: the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). Already, mobile-enabled products are hitting the market and bringing smart technology to everyday objects inside your home. These innovations are designed to create better products and improved synergy, and they represent infinitely powerful platforms for marketing technology to deploy new innovative approaches.

But IoT also represents a significant security risk. A recent distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on a leading security blogger’s website brought the domain down by overwhelming it with traffic generated by as many as one million IoT devices. The botnet attack leveraged the IoT to build a network capable of launching massive attacks on websites, and no company is safe. As IoT technology proliferates, it does so with substandard security safeguards.

“Many of these devices have never been accounted for by IT workers, and most folks don’t even know of their existence,” said Strom. “Everything that is connected to the internet needs to be secured and maintained.”

Beaver agreed. “As network and internet complexity grows, so will the security threats, vulnerabilities, and risks,” he said. “Even with IoT in its infancy, I think we’re seeing the beginning of how grand a challenge security is going to be in the not-so-distant future.”

Does that mean IoT, and related marketing technology, is doomed for overwhelming security attacks? Not necessarily. Strom noted that “everything and everyone can be exploited, phished, compromised, or subverted.” Maximum security is a concept that simply doesn’t apply online. Instead, it’s about providing the best security front at a reasonable cost to the organization.

And that security front can be supported by the right kind of content presence.

Content, Communication, and the Power of the Public Forum

Your content marketing strategy can support better enterprise security through two simple objectives: raising awareness, and providing an education. Employees and users outside the IT sphere may not realize how simple security vulnerabilities can serve as entry points for crippling attacks. Once IT security practices are in place, brands should develop strategies that account for the need to educate both employees and the public.

“They should understand how the major systems that are exposed to the internet—such as blogs, databases, and mailing lists—are updated and secured,” Strom says. “Also, who has access to these systems, and what kind of password hygiene is followed to keep them secure?”

Content creators need to have a running dialogue with IT that improves communication and supports the possibility of collaboration.

“If you don’t have a consistent message that you are portraying not only to your users but to the public at large, you’re already behind the curve,” Beaver says. “People want to know what you’re doing to protect their information in your environment. You can’t be reactive.

“A good plan would be to not only integrate information security content into existing marketing and sales programs, but to also discuss it in public forums for everyone, including customers and business partners, to see.”

Does that synergistic relationship between content and IT departments make an enterprise immune to security threats? Of course not—there’s no such thing. But as the internet becomes more freely available, and as the network of web-connected devices grows exponentially, content marketers can take a more active role in shoring up defenses and enabling better enterprise security.

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