David Lonardo doesn’t like to rely on fear as his primary selling tool. But let’s face it: when your product is security, a healthy dose of consumer paranoia doesn’t exactly hurt.
“You can show them how easy it is to listen to somebody who is using wireless,” Lonardo says. “You can show them that, and you can say, ‘Hey, we’re not trying to scare you, but there is a real vulnerability here.'”
As president of GoTrusted, Lonardo is counting on that vulnerability to help drive interest among laptop users looking for a safer experience while browsing in coffee shops, hotels and other public spaces.
While a number of companies provide a secure connection (using VPN tunnels) for those using public Wi-Fi, Lonardo says his offering differentiates itself by its ease of access. Rather than requiring the user to download software, GoTrusted asks only for an online sign-up. Once registered, a mobile user with Windows 2000/XP need only visit the GoTrusted Web site to launch a secure session, getting a 128-bit encrypted secure tunnel to the GoTrusted servers.
“There are other services out there, but we are the only one who does it without installing any software on the computer,” Lonardo says. That claim becomes a selling point when one envisions an enterprise customer with, say, 100 users. Without software, the IT department isn’t saddled with upgrades and maintenance for all those 100 users.
While most service providers will tout the security of their offerings, evidence suggests that public Wi-Fi leaves much to be desired. Take for instance a recent report by research house PandaLabs. Researchers found that almost 60 percent of networks had no security system at all. They noted too that the most effective protocols, such as WPA or WPA-PSK, are hardly used.
“When you’re at an airport, everything you send is in plain text,” Lonardo says. “You might be e-mailing something to somebody, and anyone in that airport can see it. If you are going to Web sites, someone can see exactly what you are doing.”
This may help to account for the growing number of companies offering laptop jockeys a means for safeguarding their surfing. Just for example:
- HotSpotVPN secures on the small scale, working even with devices running Windows Mobile, for $8.88 per month.
- AnchorFree offers free software called Hotspot Shield to create a VPN tunnel, which can be used by anyone.
Lonardo has come in with competitive pricing at $9.99 per month for an individual user or as low as $7.50 per person for larger groups. He says the growing number of competing brands has been a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, vigorous competition has helped draw consumer attention to the wireless security market. On the downside, he says, many potential buyers have already been tainted by ideas that may not pertain to his product.
“People might have run across something like this, but they see they have to configure all these things, and of course it stops them short in their tracks,” he says. “No one using a laptop wants to worry about what they need to configure.” In that case, making the sale depends largely on overcoming these bad first impressions.
As a matter of marketing strategy, Lonardo is looking vertical, with plans to pursue niches in areas such as education and health. He says he is looking for a perfect storm of volume, privacy and certain IT ineptitude. “These are the verticals where somebody may be less technically apt, maybe a hospital where residents have computers with a lot of patient information, or a law firm where lawyers have a lot of client information,” he says. Give those people laptops, and they are going to be prime candidates for a wireless security solution.
As the marketing plan gels, Lonardo is looking for the rising tide of consumer concern to lift all boats in the wireless security arena. “First, we want people to know there is a solution out there, so we don’t have to keep seeing the articles that say, ‘But is the network secure?’ — and they never tell you how to secure it,” he says.
As the market begins to acknowledge the presence of diverse solutions, Lonardo says, “Of course, we want them to know our name. We want to see our name appearing in publications as something that can be part of the solution.”