Antivirus is not dead, Avast Security CEO says as Australia targeted in small-biz, IoT security push

A focus on securing Wi-Fi networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) will join a growing rogue's gallery of targeted threats as security vendor Avast Security exploits online and mobile channels to boost its penetration in the Australian market, the company's CEO has said.

Despite a “massive” presence in non English-speaking countries, CSO Vince Steckler told CSO Australia that Avast still had a relatively low penetration in the ultra-competitive antivirus markets in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and other countries,

In those countries “we have between a 10 to 15 percent market share,” he said, “and we are trying to significantly increase that.”

The Australian market had for many years been characterised by an over-reliance on boxed product and bundling deals, Steckler said, noting that it was only in the past few years that the Internet-distribution model had gained enough weight to allow new players to rapidly stake out stronger market positions.

“The whole point of free was to go around all the very expensive brands,” he explained, “and go directly to the consumer.”

Market evolution had address some of these problems, with the proliferation of smartphones meaning that users were now used to downloading security and other applications through online channels.

The shift to direct mobile channels would be “a big challenge for retailers,” Steckler said. “As the software ecosystem really moves to mobile, they're not going to be able to make that extra profit selling the software on devices like they did with PCs.”

Avast, which recently began offering its Avast for Business small business-focused security products for free, has been working to expand the scope of its solutions and replicating the traditionally consumer-focused free-antivirus market.

Australian users, he said, lead the world – by a margin of 12 percent to 3 percent globally – in terms of the proportion of Avast users that paid to upgrade from introductory free versions of the company's software.

Steckler dismissed recently expressed notions that antivirus software was dead, noting that it was “a dramatic way of explaining that antivirus doesn't solve things like targeted attacks and advanced persistent threats.”

It was more accurate to say that signature-based scanning had become just one part of an overall security-tools pantheon that now offers “broad-spectrum protection” despite retaining the Antivirus moniker.

“Consumers aren't really subjected to target attacks,” he explained, “and consumer antivirus is only called that because that's what users know it as; the products are now far more sophisticated than that. Antivirus is great for consumers and it's needed by enterprises.”

The rapid shift of security tools into cloud-based delivery models had made for thinner and lighter client applications, which in turn had paved the way for better performance on mobiles and easier delivery of tools for new threat such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Recent concerns around the security of home routers have brought IoT security to the forefront of many people's minds; recent Avast analysis suggested that 32 percent of Australian homes use easily-guessed passwords on their home Wi-Fi connections. Earlier this year, Avast addressed this growing market with the release of Avast SecureMe, a free VPN tool that focuses on boosting the security of connections over public and private Wi-Fi networks.

As well as working to boost its presence in Australia, a key priority for Avast will be “protecting the whole Internet of Things,” Steckler said. “Home routers have become the single weakest link in the chain today.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

Tags antivirusWi-Fi networksIoTSecureMEInternet of Things (IoT)CSO AustraliaVince StecklerAvast Security

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