Avast is well known for its consumer Anti-Virus platform. It’s a popular choice to secure personal laptops and devices, and the company protects hundreds of millions of people online under the Avast and AVG brands.
Avast is also moving significantly into the business
security market. The company has recently launched a web filtering platform
which is informed by the wealth of data that Avast gathers from its consumer
platform. We spoke to the VP of SMB sales Erik Preisser to talk about the moves
the product is making into the business market and how Avast can help
businesses to secure their employees online.
Could you give us a background of the Avast platform?
Avast is a company
that was founded in 1988, just at the early, starting days of the internet. The
most recent big event in the company was in 2016, when Avast decided to acquire
AVG. That was a defining moment because at that point we became one of the
biggest security companies in the world. It also became an important way for us
to build and develop our security.
We now protect over 400
million users who collectively act as a sensor network which, with machine
learning and AI technologies, helps us to analyse and block threats in
real-time. Based on the fact that we operate in 59 countries worldwide with
millions of users in each, we can start to detect threats as soon as they
become apparent, before they go viral. Then every six or seven minutes we will
rewrite our software with information about these threats and send it to our
users. This means we can immediately start protecting our users on the new
emerging threats, and that feeds into our Secure Web Gateway as well.
When we’re building
our security we always talk about layered security. So, if you look at it from
a technical perspective, businesses have all of these different areas they need
to protect. They need to protect their Endpoints, data and applications. If
they don’t do this, it’s the biggest backdoor for cyber criminals to get into a
Tell us about Avast’s new Secure Web Gateway platform.
idea really leads onto Secure Web Gateway. If you look at how SMBs worked in
the past, they would have their endpoints protected with Anti-Virus and a small
appliance in the network for their security solution.
But now, SMBs are
moving into a situation where they would like to see the internet as their
corporate network because it’s easier to have multiple offices or remote
workers with an online network. But these businesses still need some filtering
for the internet so they can protect everything on their devices. That’s the
difficulty that small businesses are facing right now.
By offering Secure Web
Gateway we can actually protect them at all the different layers I just
discussed. It protects against all the different threats we find on our
consumer endpoint platform.
Who are the main customers for this product?
So, there’s two main
customers for this product. From an end user perspective, it’s companies with
more than 50 users, and that’s who we class as SMB customers. Those customers
are starting to think that they need some policies around Bring Your Own Device,
It’s also a popular
platform for MSPs due to the open stack nature of the platform which makes it
very easy to deploy.
What should customers be looking for in Secure Web Gateway?
Customers should be
looking for simplicity. It needs to be simple to install, it needs to be easy
to use and to manage. It needs to solve the issue of remote workers and how we
keep them in a secure working environment. It also needs to solve the issues of
the branch offices that each need to be secured as well.
All these are things
that our Secure Web Gateway does very well as a simplified enterprise-grade
Is the focus for Avast more on URL scanning, or Anti-Virus or user behaviour analysis?
It’s really a
combination. You can do both. We use a filter on the inside so that companies
can block the ‘no-go environments’ that they want the user to avoid going to. Then
we use these threat feeds that make sure that unknown sites can’t be accessed.
You mentioned the aspect of businesses needing protection for employees working from home, is that another focus of this platform?
Yeah definitely. If an
end user only has Anti-Virus and VPN on the endpoint device, they will not be
fully secure. We see a lot of remote workers who forget to use the VPN and just
go straight to the internet. Then before you know it, something gets into your
So, one of the things
we have is a security assessment tool which is very important. It means
businesses can identify where they have breaches or weaknesses in their
network. They can see which devices are breached or behind on their security. We’ve
done assessments of smaller customers and found that for people working
remotely, around 20% won’t have any Anti-Virus at all. That really goes back to
the importance of the Secure Web Gateway for small businesses.
You’ve talked about how you offer a multi-layered stack for security. How important is it for businesses to have a multi-layered security approach?
I think in these times
Anti-Virus itself is just not enough anymore. In a traditional set up you’d
just have an AV on the endpoint, but it’s just not enough.
attacks are so prevalent and it’s so easy for end users to click on something
malicious without any knowledge of what is happening. If you can’t control that
you will have big issues, and this is one of the biggest threats at the moment
coming from within the organisation.
If you want to protect
your network you need a solution that takes care of the users within your
network, who are not security aware.
Looking beyond web security, how else can Avast help to secure business communications?
We have Avast Business
Pro and Avast Business Pro Plus which we offer as both an on-premise solution
and a cloud solution. It starts with just simple Anti-Virus then goes up to VPN
and data protection in terms of online backup. We also have a filtering kind of
set up in the solution.
Going back to the ease
of use, everything can be deployed together, integrated and uses the same
management console and dashboard, meaning we have a single plane of glass
approach to security.
The Secure Web Gateway market is full of strong competition, with a tough market leader in the form of Webroot. How does your platform position itself against theirs?
There are some
differences between Webroot and Avast and it’s really dependent on the type of
solution that businesses want. You have Webroot, you have Zscaler, you have
companies with proprietary technology like Cisco Umbrella. Those are the
typical suppliers and every supplier does something different with security.
We have a completely
open stack approach. So, we are much more flexible, especially when SMBs want
to set it up. We can start building the security layer quickly, with a very
easy to install and very easy to maintain solution. SMBs want to move quickly
into a user environment, rather than building local, complex infrastructure
What I’m always
surprised about is where we are in terms of cyber criminality. $1.5 billion of
revenue is being made by cyber criminals every year. If cyber criminality was a
country, it would be the 13th biggest country in the world. This is
coming from data theft and ransomware.
SMBs are in such a vulnerable position in this context, because if they want the best cyber technology and a cyber specialist, it’s really expensive. That’s really the difficulty of the SMB customer. That’s why we’ve taken a holistic view with our Secure Web Gateway which makes it easier for small customers to implement.
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