Qihoo 360 has long had a reputation as one of China’s most aggressive companies when it comes to PR. If you say something negative about one of its products, you’d better be prepared for a response. The hackers at China’s recent GeekPwn conference learned that the hard way late last week. After it was announced that some competitors had found vulnerabilities in Qihoo’s child safety watch, which allows parents to track their kids via a smartphone app, Qihoo fired back with a salvo of Weibo posts on the product’s official account.
In the first, Qihoo proclaimed that its watch had not been cracked, and that Tencent (one of the event’s major sponsors), was trying to “maliciously defame” Qihoo. Follow-up posts were similarly harsh, “strongly condeming” Tencent for “allowing business competition to pollute the environment children grow up in,” among other things.
Yesterday, though, the company did an apparent 180, posting to its main Weibo account that although one hacker team at GeekPwn did fail to crack the device during the event, others apparently found two security holes that were subsequently presented to Qihoo in a report. Qihoo says it has already fixed the leaks, but it does not seem to have mentioned that the vulnerabilities ever existed on the safety watch’s Weibo account.
To me, the entire incident seems like a lesson in the downsides of Qihoo’s bombastic PR style. Attacking back at anything resembling criticism certainly may help to dissuade people from being publicly critical, but the company looks silly having made such a big stink about the ‘false accusations’ only to be forced to admit that GeekPwn did find security flaws after all.
Still, the end result is a good one: Qihoo’s watch is a bit safer now thanks to the work of the GeekPwn hackers, and more security for end users is never a bad thing.