Why This Company Thinks Music Videos (and Cowboy Hats) Can Teach Online Safety

Tobac, CEO and co-founder of SocialProof Security, spends a lot of time thinking about how to educate people about the importance of protecting their digital data. At the time, she said, sea shanties were trending on TikTok, so the genre seemed appropriate; she tweeted her video thinking it would be fun (and possibly helpful) for others.

She soon realized she had tapped into something bigger: corporate training sessions, whether delivered in person or via video, are often boring and hard to remember. And dozens of companies contacted her following her tweet, asking if they could use it as part of their security awareness training. She said of course, offering it for free, and about half of those who used it later told her that the song made it easier for employees to sign up for password managers and enforce use of the multi-factor authentication. They asked him to do more music.

Now what started as a fun side project is a real product that SocialProof Security, which educates company employees on information security topics through workshops, trainings and hacking demos, is selling to its customers. . The company makes well-packaged music videos, like a country western song about how to spot a phishing scam.

Tobac published a trailer showcasing the music videos on Twitter in early August, including a song called “Don’t Get Hacked,” which has an 80s pop vibe. Within two days, 140 companies requested demos of his company’s music video approach in information security, and a number have already signed up as customers. (Tobac did not name specific companies that signed up for the music video product, but in general, SocialProof Security customers include a wide range of large companies such as Google, Meta, Lululemon and Prudential, as well as the ‘US Air Force and some universities.)

“I think it really shows that a lot of different companies, not just in tech, are looking for something a lot less boring,” she said.

To make the videos, Tobac came up with a list of topics to cover — ranging from social media security and password management to malware and ransomware — and gave the songwriters a list of details that each song should include, along with lyric ideas.

Tobac said he explained to the songwriters, “That’s the kind of content I try to create: like ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ but a bit more modern and in different genres.”
Watching SocialProof’s music video on how to avoid phishing scams shows the results: it’s cheesy, with its country-western tune, lead singer wearing a cowboy hat and boots, and choreographed line dancing in an office. But it’s also fun and sometimes catchy (and yes, it includes some basic facts to avoid falling for a phishing scam).

Johnathan Yerby, an associate professor at Mercer University who studies cybersecurity, thinks it’s a great idea to use music videos to communicate about information security. He cautioned that it may not be possible to include (or for viewers to absorb) all of the relevant information in a single video, particularly if it’s playing quickly while people are line dancing.

The biggest challenge in training employees on this particular topic, he said, is simply getting them to care. He hopes music videos can make it more accessible.

And while many people may find information security music videos amusing (or at least more amusing than watching a typical corporate training video or listening to a presentation), Tobac knows they don’t. are not for everyone. She conducted research before creating the videos and found that about 20% of people are really not interested in learning about digital security issues while singing and dancing. For this audience, it has a more stable solution in spoken word videos that cover the same topics.

Tobac, who in 2019 used his social engineering skills to hack data from CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, said the company has so far completed the “Don’t Get Hacked” and phishing clips. He plans to film a video for a song about password security (whose audio sounds like a 90s alt-style track) and a track about the dangers of oversharing on social media (a contemporary pop confection ) in the coming weeks. . Her company plans to release more songs every quarter, and eventually she hopes to have a collection of 12 videos representing various genres of music and information security topics.

“There are so many other topics we can cover,” she said.

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