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01 Apr 2010

Sexy romances protect data by distracting hackers, Sophos research proves

Sophos appeals to community for help in writing blockbuster fiction, all in the name of protecting sensitive data

IT security firm Sophos today reveals important new research into a brand new method of protecting sensitive data on business networks. As well as including the technology, called "Protection through Distraction", into the next version of its software, Sophos will also begin to roll out the technology to select customers as soon as possible.

Data protection is a key security issue for many companies, and existing technologies, such as encryption, data loss prevention (DLP), firewalls and anti-spyware, do provide a good defence. However, SophosLabs tests have revealed that specific content can distract hackers from highly sensitive corporate information, the most successful at sidetracking hackers is romantic fiction.

Sophos research shows that by flooding networks with romantic literature, you can build an additional level of defence against hackers. Not only will they find it harder to uncover your confidential information, but they can also be distracted for over 1.4 hours, giving IT security teams the necessary time to identify the security breach and take the appropriate measures to protect sensitive data on the network.

"It was certainly a surprise to find that romantic fiction successfully distracts hackers from their purpose, but when we thought about it, all became clear," said Carole Theriault, senior security analyst at Sophos. "Basically, the security industry as a whole has missed a trick, and that is exploiting the Achilles' heel of hackers. They're human, just like the rest of us. And if you give them something titillating to peruse, they can't restrain themselves. It's a little like luring a mouse into a trap: they may sense the danger but cannot resist a little morsel of cheese."

Sophos have made available a YouTube video providing more information and insight into "Protection through Distraction":

(Enjoy this video? You can check out more on the SophosLabs YouTube channel and subscribe if you like)

Can you write romantic fiction? Join us in the fight against hackers

Analysts at SophosLabs have been tasked with writing romantic fiction alongside their regular anti-malware and anti-spam duties. However, there is a concern that hackers could create Anti-Romance Scanners to identify the work written by Sophos researchers, so the IT security leader is appealing for help from the online community.

"It's as though the good guys and bad guys have swapped sides - we are now trying to obfuscate our romantic fiction from their anti-romance scanners," continued Theriault. "With a wider variety of romantic plots and more people's imagination to pool, we will have a high level of content ready to roll across our customers' networks."

To help launch this appeal, Sophos has written the opening few paragraphs to a romantic story set in the IT market. The company is asking the online community to continue the story by sending up to 500 words to romance@sophos.com. All entries will be entered into the "Protection through Distraction" database, but Sophos judges will choose a favourite entry on 6 April and post it the Sophos website by Friday April 9. The winning contributor will also be sent a prize.

More information can be found at http://www.sophos.com/romance

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.