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Sophos sorry for blog comment spam campaign

Marketing agency gets up to mischief

Sophos has apologised after a third-party marketing agency hired by the anti-virus and anti-spam specialist sprayed link spam on the blog of security expert Gunter Ollmann.

Multiple auto-generated comments submitted to Ollmann's technicalinfo.net blog containing hyperlinks to the anti-malware portal on the Sophos website. The posts were made by tools designed to automate spam and SEO attacks. The blog spam tactic was an attempt to boost the search engine ranking of the Sophos site.

Although Ollmann caught the messages before they made it onto his site he was understandably unimpressed by the ruse. "I find this a pretty unsavory tactic, especially if it's initiated by a security company looking to be trusted by its customers", Ollmann, CTO of security firm Damballa and who previously worked in IBM's ISS security tools division, wrote on Thursday.

"Sophos - if you're listening - stop your comment spam campaign and end your SEO attacks. It's unprofessional."

Sophos distanced itself from the blog spamming tactics. The approach was the idea of a marketing agency hired by Sophos, which the security firm promised will be taken to task over its tactics.

"I am mortified, as is everyone in our marketing team, that this has happened," a Sophos spokesman told El Reg. "The messages were not posted on that guy's blog by an employee of Sophos, but by a worker at an external company hired by our marketing department."

Sophos has offered an apology to Ollmann, who has accepted it, and promised a review of its processes to make sure the incident does not get repeated.

"We have called the [marketing] company concerned in for a meeting today, and will be reading the riot act to them," Sophos explained in a statement. "Furthermore, we will be ensuring that this kind of activity stops immediately, as it runs counter to everything we believe in as a computer security company."

"There's enough junk on the internet already - we don't need firms representing computer security companies adding to the problem with such inane and unprofessional posts," it added.

Ollmann is far from alone among security bloggers in facing the irksome chore of fending off blog comment spam. Similar comment spam also hit the anti-virus-rants blog but in that case the comment spam promoted both Sophos and rival Kaspersky Lab. One of these comments actually made it onto the site of Canadian blogger Kurt Wismer. ®

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