Vulnerability Discovered – Why You Shouldn’t Use WhatsApp and Telegram on the Web

According to the Israeli security firm Check Point, even encrypted messenger apps like WhatsApp and Telegram can be penetrated by malware. Just this month, spokesperson Doros Hadjizenonos announced the firm had discovered a weakness in the web versions of these apps. The vulnerability allowed hackers to send a contaminated photo capable of infecting the entire account upon opening. Both companies have reacted immediately to patch the problem and users who have downloaded the latest version should be protected. However, security experts are still advising that high-risk individuals stick to the mobile version of WhatsApp and Telegram.

Encrypted Apps are the Secure Choice

Privacy and reputation go hand in hand. ReputationDefender clients include individuals and businesses working to build a positive web profile. A few personal details or a private message made public can quickly undo months of effort. With over 1 billion users, WhatsApp is the go-to messenger app and the announcement of ‘end-to-end encryption’ last year made it one of the more secure choices as well. A unique encryption key means no one but the intended receiver can unlock and read the message, not even WhatsApp itself. Meanwhile, the lesser known Telegram has been offering ‘Secret Chats’ that rely on a similar encryption key for several years.

What Went Wrong?

Unfortunately, in this case encryption created its own unique problem. Since the sender’s content was scrambled before upload, the app wasn’t always able to identify contaminated files. Hackers could conceal HTML code in a harmless-looking image and send it to an unsuspecting user. Opening the message in a web application would allow the malware to run immediately on the user’s browser, giving hackers access to the entire account: personal contacts, messages, images… everything.

Hadjizenonos has assured users that WhatsApp and Telegram both responded quickly and responsibly to Check Point’s warning. The input validation process has been improved to identify and block files containing malware on both web and mobile versions. As always, it’s important to download the latest updates immediately, since these often contain fixes for weaknesses and vulnerabilities that have just been discovered.

What’s Different with Web Apps?

The larger lesson is that the mobile versions of WhatsApp and Telegram are more secure than the web-based versions. Web apps use JavaScript which will input new code and overwrite functionality immediately. Mobile apps don’t support this ‘just-in-time’ compiling; changes much be downloaded and configured before installation. This means users are better protected from the type of vulnerability spotted by Check Point.

Although this particular risk has been eliminated, it won’t prevent hackers from discovering a new access point in the future. If your WhatsApp account contains data that could hurt you if it were made public, it’s best to avoid messaging on the web. Stick to mobile, where there’s an extra layer of security.

6 Tips for Better Business Blogging

Writing a business blog is an excellent way to build a positive online reputation. At ReputationDefender, we recommend blogging as a keystone strategy for all our business clients. Blog posts offer valuable information on issues related to your brand and let customers know why they should invest in your services. In addition to this, they help to build traffic to the company’s other pages, directing potential customers back to the official website and acting as fresh material to share across social media profiles.

How to Write an Effective Business Blog

So, how does one actually go about creating a business blog? What is the difference between this type of publication and a personal journal? What are the pitfalls to be avoided and how do you generate genuine readership?

Here are 6 tips that will help to answer these and other questions:

  • Brainstorm a List of Topics – Deciding what to write about can sometimes be the biggest challenge. Readers will be more interested if they feel you are invested personally, but at the same time it’s important to maintain a level of professionalism and stay focused on topics that are relevant to the industry. Write a list of questions about the company: What does it do? How did it start? What challenges do staff face on a typical day? What are your goals for the future? The answers to these questions will start to uncover a wealth of business-related blog topics.
  • Plan the Blog – Once you generate a list of possibilities, plan the first few months of posts in a way that will makes sense to readers. Include at least one company origin story that offers a window into your (or the founder’s) inspiration. A behind the scenes look at how staff serve customers on a daily basis is also helpful. From there, move on to more technical posts that focus on industry trends or specific products. If there are any special company events coming up, plan to cover them with a blog post. Stick to a regular update schedule, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly, so readers know when to look for new content.
  • Choose the Style – A business blog should let customers get to know you on a personal level, while at the same time remaining formal enough to generate a sense of professional authority in your field. The exact style depends on your personality, the company’s overall vibe and the type of reader you want to attract. It’s fine to employ one or several ghost writers who are able to match the style and tone you want, but make sure you personally double checks posts to avoid publishing mistakes that could cause reputation damage.
  • Create a Formula that Works – Not every blog post needs to look the same, but it helps to stick with a general formula so readers know what to expect. This will also make it easier and quicker to write the posts. Draw readers in with an engaging story. Lay-out the problem as well as how your company can fix it. Add a Call to Action sending customers to the page you want, whether it’s the company’s website or a special offer page. Add interesting details so customers don’t feel like the post is just an advertising gimmick. Numbered lists or bullet-points help to format content in a way that is easy to follow and has been proven to boost traffic.
  • Vary Post Length – Anywhere from 300-2,000 words can be an effective length for business blogging. Different readers will be attracted to different types of content, so it’s a good idea to vary length, but most typical posts should be between 500 and 750 words. Interesting content is more important than length.
  • Use Click Generating Titles – A viral headline is what will get a blog post to rank where customers will see it. Using a numbered list is one of the best ways to attract readers. Directly addressing the reader and offering a concrete promise (such as ‘how to improve your blogging ability’) has also been shown to be effective. Beyond this, using emotion-generating superlatives, like ‘amazing’, ‘inspiring’ or ‘unique’, helps to attract the reader’s attention. Don’t resort to click-baiting, since this won’t attract long-term readers and may even end up hurting the company’s reputation. Make sure the content follows through on the headline’s promise.

Even the most interesting, well-written, relatable content won’t attract readers by itself, so it’s important to promote the blog once it’s written. Run a marketing campaign across all channels including the website, social media profiles, email signature and physical location if there is one. Promote the blog at all events so it really becomes part of the company’s personae. Once you generate a regular readership, posts will rank higher and they will be seen by more people. Popular posts can generate traffic over an extended period of time, so it’s well worth the initial effort to get the ball rolling.

Online Reputation – Don’t Forget to Manage Your Review Responses

Reputation management has a lot of similarities to online marketing, but it doesn’t stop there. Building a professional website, writing blog articles, and running an advertisement campaign are all important aspects of ORM. Yet beyond this, companies need a structured plan for building lasting relationships through online customer interaction.

Reviews Are Important

At ReputationDefender, we assist clients with generating and ranking positive content, but unfortunately, a few negative reviews can quickly undo all your hard work. Today’s customers are looking for more than brand generated content. They also want to see what kind of experience past customers have had. Studies have shown that 90 percent of customers read online reviews before trying a business for the first time, while 88 percent will trust these reviews the same as an in-person or word-of-mouth recommendation. This can translate directly into profits; businesses that receive predominately positive reviews see a 31 percent increase over those that don’t, while just one negative review can cost a company about 30 customers.

It’s Hard to Control What People Say

It’s hard to control who writes reviews on the internet, which can leave business leaders feeling somewhat helpless. Customers who’ve had a very memorable experience, either positive or negative, are more likely to take to the internet to express their feelings, and since many people tend to notice negative experiences more often than positive ones, online reviews don’t often represent a good cross-section of a business’s customers.

You can change this, as we mentioned in an earlier post, by generating more reviews. If every customer writes an honest critique, you’ll likely get a lot of positive comments (assuming the business is doing a good job overall) as well as a few pointers about where to improve. But even with the best review campaign, the majority of people visiting the site will still be there to read what others say, not to contribute.

Company Responses Make a Difference

This makes it very important for businesses to participate in the conversation taking place on review sites. Responses posted directly to this page will be read by everyone. Even if you don’t change the mind of the person who originally gave your business a negative rating, you can show other customers that you take feedback seriously and are sincerely trying to do a good job. Professional responses can often make you appear the more reasonable party.

Any serious ORM campaign needs to include a strategy to manage reviews, especially the company’s responses to reviews. The wrong response can generate more negative attention than the original comment, yet the right one offers a way to undo a lot of the damage and build a better, more honest relationship with customers. Managing reviews isn’t a job to be delegated to a college intern who happens to be handy on the web. It needs to be handled by a professional, preferably someone with real experience and standing in the company.

Planning a Response Strategy

Managing reviews is just like managing other aspects of your reputation. It needs a well thought-out plan, good writing and online communication skills, and of course technical tools to avoid missing content. Your response strategy will need to answer these four questions:

  • How do you keep track of reviews? – There are a lot of review sites on the internet and even with a full-time team it’s impossible to keep track of them all. It’s easy to set up a Google Alert for the brand name and any other relevant keywords. Other software is available with more complex capabilities that will let you monitor social media sites as well.
  • Which reviews are you responding to? – Don’t just respond to negative reviews. It’s important that people who write positive feedback feel their comments are also important to you. You should aim to respond to about 99 percent of reviews, even if it’s just a simple thank you.
  • Who writes responses? – Designate a person or a team to write responses. It helps if a high ranking executive or manager responds to at least some comments so it’s obvious the entire organisation is taking part in the feedback effort. Given time constraints, it may not be possible for this person to write every response, but make sure all team members have clear instructions about the style and content expected so the responses have a similar tone.
  • How will you respond to customers who are dissatisfied? – It’s never a question of if you will get a negative review, but when. It’s important to take these comments as constructive criticism and not react defensively. Some customers may bring up real areas where the company could improve, while others may be hard to please in any circumstances. Either way, write a short polite response within a few days. Take ownership of the problem. Explain what happened, and also what action has been taken to prevent to the issue from occurring again. Compensation can be appropriate in some cases if the customer experienced a loss of time and/or money.

If you stick to your response strategy, you’ll be able to build on positive reviews and avoid sustaining too much reputational damage from negative ones.

Knowing you have the ability to dilute the effect of hurtful comments just by how you respond makes online feedback feel far less threatening.

New Interface for Google Maps Android App

If you regularly use Google Maps on Android, you’ll be happy to know the latest update makes it easier than ever to find what you need. Now, instead of entering locations in a search format, you can just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to find ETA’s for home and work, as well as an organised list of the closest restaurants and cafés.

Google has a well-earned reputation for easy to use apps and user-friendly interfaces, and the current update proves this yet again. Google Maps is already one of the most comprehensive web mapping resources on the internet, with few errors given its scope. It’s already easy to find a location or plug in a regular route, but the latest changes mean you can pull up most of the information you need with one hand.

Is there a Privacy Risk with Google Maps?

Google is known for collecting information on users and sometimes sharing anonymous data with third parties. At ReputationDefender, we caution clients that anything on the internet has the potential to become public through hacking, and this applies to locations entered or searched on Google Maps. The risk is minimal as long as your Google account remains secure, but the new design will require you to save your work and home addresses if you have not already done so.

How Does the New Feature Benefit Users?

On the Android platform, Google Maps users can now swipe to pull up three new tabs on the bottom of the home screen. The Places tab on the left will show a list of the restaurants closest to your current location with categories for Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch, Coffee and Drinks. Scrolling down the page lets you find the closest Petrol Station, ATM or Post Office. You’ll also see the most popular photos posted by other Google Maps users.

The Driving tab in the middle will automatically give the current driving time to your work or home as long as you have these locations saved. It also shows various routes and traffic problems which could extend your travel-time. The Transit tab on the right provides similar information for bus and train services near you. It tells you where to find the nearest stop and how long it will take to get where you want to go.

This isn’t a huge change from Google Map’s previous system, but instead of entering a location to search, users can swipe up the tab to see all the information for saved locations. For now, this update is only available to Android users, but it’s expected to be released on iOS and other platforms soon.

6 Tips to Improve Customer Feedback

Does your business have a hard time attracting positive attention on the internet? If so, you’re not alone. Studies show that as many as 90 percent of customers read online reviews before buying a product or service, yet the number of people who regularly leave this kind of feedback is much lower.

What previous customers write about your company online is important. People not only read comments, they trust this content more than what you post about yourself. At ReputationDefender we assist our clients with building a positive online profile through a variety of different avenues. Ranking brand-generated material and blog articles on the SERP is extremely important, but it’s not a match for genuine testimonials from real customers.

It’s Important to Encourage Reviews

The number of people who write reviews varies a lot depending on the type of business and the amount of effort leaders put into generating feedback. The 1/9/90 Rule is a general guideline for what you are likely to see without a strong campaign: about 1 percent will comment or review products, about 9 percent will respond or share the material, while about 90 percent will read comments but not take part in the discussion.

Many companies prefer not to attract attention online for fear of generating negative comments. This is understandable since, with only about 1 percent of customers writing reviews, most are likely to be written by people who were upset or unhappy with their service. However, every company will get negative feedback at some point; the best way to deal with the problem of negativity is to get more reviews. Assuming your business gives good service, most customers will be happy to leave positive feedback, but they won’t necessarily think to unless you go out of your way to ask them.

Honest Feedback Can Be an Asset

It’s not necessary for every review to be a glowing five star rating. It fact, customers tend not to trust reviews if all of them are uniformly positive. An honest critique can actually be more helpful than a generic “Good Job” or “No Problems” since it can show target areas that need improvement, as well as give you the opportunity to respond in a public setting.

As a business owner, it is important to generate reviews and to encourage people to write useful detailed comments that let others know what to expect when they use your product or service. This is the kind of feedback that will draw people in and make them think it’s worth giving your business a try.

6 Ways to Get Useful Reviews

Asking for reviews isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Different tactics will reach different customers and attract different types of reviews, so the best strategy is to combine a number of separate strategies.

  • Ask In Person – Depending on the type of business, traditional, personal contact can be the most effective way of generating positive feedback. If you have long-term customers who are known personally to you or some of your staff, ask them if they would be interested in sharing their experiences online. You won’t get many reviews this way, but you will likely get some of your most valuable testimonials.
  • Ask via Email – This isn’t as personal, but it can be easier, especially if most of your transactions take place online. An automatic email, such as a survey or a form that is easy to fill out will help to reach more customers and remind them that their feedback is important to you. You can also choose to select customers who you believe had a positive experience and send them a more personalised email from someone they worked with.
  • Use Software – Several different types of software, such as Grade.us and BrightLocal, will assist with reputation management by sending customers directly to the review sites that are most important to you. This helps to encourage responses from people who don’t typically write reviews, as well as giving a place for customers who are unhappy to contact you and have their grievances dealt with.
  • Offer Guidelines – Don’t assume customers know what you want in a review. Write an article on your blog, or include a brief paragraph in the review request that explains how important reviews are to your company. Offer guidelines or questions that will help customers describe their experience in a useful way.
  • Give Incentives – This can help generate higher numbers of reviews, but it should be used carefully. Most review sites will accept incentives as long as there’s no requirement that the review be positive. However, it’s a good idea to check the site rules first. A monthly prize draw for review writers can be a cost-effective way to provide an incentive without any hint of buying positive reviews.
  • Employee Tips – This strategy can work well in situations where the customer works with a specific agent. Include a line in the review request specifying that the employee will receive a small tip for positive reviews that mention their name. This helps to encourage customers to write a positive review and feel good about helping others at the same time.

Start to use one or more of these tactics regularly and you’ll soon see an improvement in the volume and quality of your reviews.