Kaspersky Lab Launches Malware News Site Threatpost

Randy Drawas, chief marketing officer at Moscow, Russia-based antivirus company Kaspersky Lab, shared some disturbing statistics with me earlier this week. In 2007, he said, Kaspersky’s researchers detected as much malicious software activity on the Internet as they had in the previous 11 years combined. In 2008, malware volume doubled yet again. And in 2009, the company estimates, more than 30 million unique malware programs will be found in circulation on the Internet, many of them targeting consumers.

In an effort to help Internet users learn about these threats and protect themselves, Kaspersky this month launched a security news site called Threatpost. Based out of Kaspersky’s US headquarters in Woburn, MA, and edited by journalists, the site is designed to provide objective news, analysis, and education about issues like worms and viruses, software vulnerabilities and patches, and spam and botnets.

Kaspersky will be the site’s sole sponsor and advertiser. While Drawas says the Threatpost’s editors won’t overtly hawk Kaspersky products as solutions to readers’ malware headaches, the site “provides us with unique marketing opportunities just the same.”

To lead Threatpost’s editorial operation, Kaspersky has hired two veteran technology journalists: Ryan Naraine and Dennis Fisher. Naraine is a former editor-at-large for security at enterprise technology weekly eWeek who also blogs about security for ZDNet; Fisher is the former executive editor of the Security Media Group at Needham, MA-based TechTarget and former news editor at eWeek.

Threatpost front pageNaraine and Fisher launched the site on March 9 to coincide with the SOURCE Boston security conference. The plan, according to Naraine, is to write roughly four original news stories every weekday and to link to six or seven security-related news stories published elsewhere on the Web. In that sense, the site is a conscious imitation of the Huffington Post and other outlets that consist in large part of information culled from other sites. “It’s mostly an aggregation model,” says Naraine. “We really believe in this send-them-away mode—because if we do it right, tomorrow they will come back and see what else we have.”

Personal blogs by both Naraine and Fisher, weekly podcasts, slide shows, guest editorials, and a “watchlist” of security-themed video clips are also part of the Threatpost recipe.

When I spoke with Naraine earlier this week, I was naturally curious about how he plans to maintain the site’s editorial independence, in light of the fact that his employer is in the security business. “Dennis and I are under no illusions about this tightrope we’re walking, being employees of Kaspersky and writing about security,” Naraine said. “Maintaining independence is absolutely critical if this thing is to work. Our big thing was having a full understanding with the company that they have to be hands-off. But what we also understand is that this is a Kaspersky project. They are investing heavily. So obviously, you are not going to see product news from Symantec or McAfee featured strongly—but neither are you going to see overt pimping of Kaspersky products.”

I was also curious about what balance Naraine wants to strike between “educational” content explaining security threats to readers and community discussion and other more collegial or peer-to-peer forms of communication. “Security is a different animal” from other forms of technology journalism, he responded. Most readers “are not looking for a deep journalistic piece about a business model. They come in looking to be educated—‘How do I find this patch, how do I disinfect my machine, what is a botnet, what should I be doing to keep my machine immune from falling into these types of attacks?’ Every time a reader comes to a story they must find some sort of information that helps them protect themselves.”

Drawas says Kaspersky will measure the success of Threatpost not simply by its traffic levels or whether it leads to increased sales of Kaspersky’s software, but by by the strength of the community it builds: “How many people join, how many people subscribe to our newsletter or our alerts….This is also an opportunity for [Kaspersky’s business partners] to promote what they are doing and provide them with an outlet if they feel that they have something meaningful to share.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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