Rich Ruddie, Profile Defenders: “cyber bullies and online trolls are everywhere. A strong offense and tactical defense can protect you"
A strong online presence often defines the success of a business. However, it also exposes the company to cyber dangers, such as malware, ransomware, and phishing, among others.
Threat actors are actively impersonating well-known brands in order to build a sense of inherent trust with the victim. But such email campaigns might not only lead to financial losses for users, but also to reputational damages for the company.
What has your journey been like since your launch? How did the idea of Profile Defenders originate?
Like a lot of businesses, you accidentally fall into something by following your efforts. In 2010 and 2011, I was one of the best SEO and digital marketing specialists in the world. There was no keyword that I couldn’t rank for, so I utilized those superpowers to help those who were wrongfully defamed or attacked online. It came about when a friend of a friend asked to fix old college rumors and content online from a local gossip site in Long Island, New York. After fixing that problem, the idea of Profile Defenders was developed, and we were off to the races. One thing to note is that we also looked into Facebook marketing ideas, such as selling Facebook wishes and other offerings the platform was promoting at the time.
Can you introduce us to what you do? What technology do you use to detect and remove negative listings?
We have proprietary monitoring software that we've built. It looks at where and how you are being talked about online. Also, we use a combination of other software and ad networks to build out successful campaigns. Our range of services varies from reputation monitoring to downright removal and fixing up unwanted negative search results.
Brand protection is receiving more recognition but might still cause confusion for non-tech-savvy users. Which brand assets can be taken advantage of for malicious purposes?
Twitter is a prime example. We had a client whose name was used to create a fake account and spread hate, defamation, and other bigotry comments. Also, that account was used to create negative news articles on that Twitter channel. Luckily, with our services and work, we were able to recover that Twitter account for the client. We’ve also done similar services for hacked Instagram accounts.
How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?
If you meant the war in Ukraine, then that is devastating to me. Part of my family immigrated from Western Ukraine, the Lviv region. We had a campaign for a large Fortune 1000 client of ours that was focused on building out a presence in Russia. Since the war broke out, we agreed with the client to pull our assets out of Russia and focus elsewhere.
What are some of the worst mistakes companies make when building their online presence?
They don’t register all of their brand assets. I’ve said it numerous times on a podcast or speaking at SXSW to a crowd in Austin. It’s always one of the most simple things you can do but provides you with such valuable protection. Also, it lowers your exposure to an expensive bill in the future trying to buy those assets.
Why do you think certain companies are unaware of the risks they are exposed to?
When you’re running a company, you are so focused on the here and now, plus the growth. You’re not thinking about how my brand is perceived and how I can help protect against a potential problem that hasn’t even happened yet. All problems in the ORM world are reactive rather than proactive. We even see it running day-to-day operations – our focus isn’t on our branding but rather on protecting our clients' reputations and brand image.
In your opinion, what kind of threats should organizations be prepared to tackle in the next few years? Which security measures are essential in combating these threats?
Today, ransomware is a huge threat, and it's going to persist in the future. The new insurance companies that offer cyber risk insurance have seen their premiums explode, and payouts are getting to be trickier. If you invest in good protocols and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), you can avoid the likelihood of ransomware attacks. Additionally, some companies can show you where potential phishing emails from outside your network are coming from and that is a big tool to stop fake invoices that come from scammers. You can’t sue and litigate cybercriminals who aren’t identified, so your only option is a great defense in place.
Can you share some tips for businesses looking to improve their reputation and build stronger relationships with their customers?
Firstly, find your niche and promote yourself as a leader in that industry. For example, let's say you are in the tennis industry and want to get more clients for your academy. Then, it would make sense to find local tennis associations and share free tips and videos online for the community to showcase what you know. Soon after, you should start to see both a search referral benefit, as well as rankings in the search results. This is similar to the services we offer for our clients, where we help brand themselves as experts in their industry. Additionally, we protect their reputation and make them more money, so it’s a big win for them.
Tell us, what’s next for Profile Defenders?
During the past 11 years, we’ve faced some adversity and have grown stronger through it all. Even though we've had over 10,000 grateful clients, it's still important to continue and focus our efforts on changing the world for the better.