Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The cybersecurity community is reckoning with influencer culture for the first time after several popular figures ran paid advertisements on their social media accounts.

The big picture: For years, the world of cybersecurity experts has operated more like a scientific community than a commercial one — and, until very recently, more like a counterculture than a service. The paid posts provided a glimpse of a corporate sponsor-driven future for security specialists surprised to find out that corporations knew who they were.

Driving the news: Several follower-rich cybersecurity Twitter accounts ran individualized promotions for Lenovo's secure line of products and security services, ThinkShield (all tagged "#ad #thinkshield"), sparking immediate pushback from the wider community.

  • The influencer marketer VizSense, not Lenovo, reached out to influencers. It's not clear how much Lenovo was aware of the plan.
  • The influencers who were contacted included a reporter, well-known researchers, a former intelligence operative, executives, a financial tech expert, an AI guru and others. All had more than 10,000 Twitter followers.
  • No one who ran the ads has confirmed being part of this campaign; however, several Twitter personalities posted using those hashtags.
  • VizSense, Lenovo and seven people who appear to have run Lenovo ads related to this campaign — one of whom ran ads in multiple languages — did not respond for requests for comment.

The campaign prompted immediate criticism online, with several security luminaries seeking out and posting screenshots of paid posts.

Between the lines: On Instagram, YouTube and other platforms, influencers with large followers routinely take cash to promote products, often in the fashion industry or entertainment. But this appears to be the first time personality-driven advertisements have been used in cybersecurity.

Several of the influencers who turned down the ads told Codebook that companies could use established, less-controversial methods if they wanted researchers to help increase awareness of security products and initiatives.

  • Researchers are often paid to conduct third-party evaluations of products. They can be brought in to assist in relevant research projects or speak at branded events and webcasts on research topics.
  • "There's nothing wrong with compensated reviews," said Chris Wysopal, co-founder and CTO of Veracode, who noted that VizSense couched an offer to him in terms of paid evaluations of Lenovo wares. "But it didn't look like the tweets people put out were reviews."
  • Wysopal and Jake Williams of Rendition Infosec, who both declined VizSense's offer, noted that they were asked to review Lenovo's ThinkShield based on an information sheet, not a product. Neither felt like they could have evaluated a full product in the time frame VizSense offered.

Zack Whittaker, the security editor for TechCrunch, told Codebook that VizSense approached him over LinkedIn — implying they were at least somewhat aware of his role as a journalist.

  • "It's particularly unethical for a company to actively approach journalists, of all people — ergo, to ask them to violate their ethics — to promote something in exchange for payment," he said, via electronic message.

The irony, said Wysopal, is that the backlash might obscure real progress Lenovo has made since the Superfish incident.

  • "There's a lot of good to ThinkShield, according to what they sent me," he said, pointing to supply chain protections that could fight future Superfish-style problems. "They didn't need to go with this approach."

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

3 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."