Anti-virus compay Norton has released a fascinating new documentary on the world of bulletproof hosting—providing server space to clients with little or no oversight on the content—and the hazards the practice can present to people online.
It's one of those cryptic technical subjects the average browser wouldn't normally consider, but which remains an important part of the Internet security ecosystem. Imagine a crop of unscrupulous middlemen who effectively facilitate and profit from cybercrime … without experiencing the same degree of pop-culture villainization afforded to hackers and scammers.
At some 22 minutes long, the surprisingly nuanced, news-style commercial is a real commitment for viewers, but a rewarding one. "The Most Dangerous Town on The Internet," the second episode in the brand's series, looks at how such services—which promise maximum privacy and protection—use various techniques to evade responsibility.
That might mean locating servers on an offshore platform in international waters, or storing data in theatrically secured nuclear bunkers in the Netherlands while splitting it across multiple legal jurisdictions … or disappearing from office space in Malaysia when complaints about the business stack up, and starting fresh elsewhere.
Bulletproof hosting services aren't intrinsically evil; legitimate entities need high-end security as well (for example, a facility that once famously served spammers is now home to a firm that counts governments among its clients, though which governments—and how benevolent they are—is unclear). And CloudFlare, a company that protects ISIS sites and Anonymous sites from cyber attacks, appears as one more dubious player in an environment defined by chaos and gray areas.
British journalist Heydon Prowse hosts the video, framed as an investigation, and brings the right amount of catty gravitas to the proceedings. One of the most incriminating, or at least revealing, moments comes when the team tries to penetrate Ecatel, a data haven located in the Hague, and an encounter with someone in the building becomes heated.
Director Daniel Junge, who won an Academy Award for his 2012 film Saving Face—about acid attacks on women in Pakistan—helms the camera deftly. References to, and spokespeople from, outfits like Wikileaks and Anonymous add broader touchpoints.
Created by Grey San Francisco, the series makes for a smart strategy. By tying the personal yet abstract threat of cyber attack to physical places and faces, Norton effectively communicates its understanding of these complex problems (and presumably how to help protect against them).
It's nice to see the "Most Dangerous" series find its stride after the first episode (below) launched last year, which was compelling but melodramatic: It focused on Râmnicu Vâlcea, a Romanian town known as "Hackerville" for its high concentration of cybercrime, and high-profile cyber criminals from the country, and was heavier on the sales pitch.
The root idea in the latest ad is still to peddle fear and moral outrage—but then again, this is also the case for many newscasts, so it really does fit right into the genre.
Client: Norton By Symantec
Spot: The Most Dangerous Town On The Internet
Agency: Grey San Francisco
Chief Creative Officer: Curt Detweiler
Creative Director: E Slody
Art Director: Nei Caetano, Bryan Evans, Tatum Cardillo
Copywriter: E Slody, Marcus Petterson
Agency Producer: Robert Lazarus
Production Company (location): HēLō (Los Angeles)
Director: Daniel Junge
Director of Photography A: Wolfgang Held
Director of Photography A: Jed Klemow
Editor (person & company): Blake Bogosian (Beast San Francisco)
Assistant Editor (person & company): Steve Greenberg (Beast San Francisco)
Music/Sound Design (person & company): Gunnard Doboze
Principal Talent: Heydon Prowse