Unpacking cyber security business

Just recently, ESET, a developer of security software, warned of fake apps after its researchers discovered first ever fake lockscreen app named Pokemon GO Ultimate and scareware apps on Google Play. The malwares, that resemble a version of the much-hyped game (Pokemon GO) but with a true malicious functionality, were all removed from the store thanks to ESET’s recommendation. Alistair Freeman, ESET East Africa CEO spoke to NBM’s Victor Adar on how they are helping people enjoy safer technology, giving wider perspective not only on cyber security but also changing business landscape, during a media cocktail held at DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi.

ESET has an experience of over 25 years helping people to enjoy safer technology. How has business been?

Globally ESET has grown to be the 4th largest endpoint security solution for business (by revenue) according to Gartner. We see consistent growth each year as we gain more global market share and now have a presence in over 180 countries with over 100 million endpoints being protected worldwide. Closer home however, the Kenyan and broader East African Zone has continued to grow year on year. The move to set up our office here was on the back of that growth and since we have immersed ourselves in the country we have seen a definite upturn in business.

Are you just targeted at corporates?

Certainly not, in fact, ESET business solutions are exceptionally well suited to the SME market – and that is a key focus area for development and sales worldwide. We have a range of antivirus products for the consumer as well, including a Mobile Security solution, which enables them to enjoy the Internet without worrying about security threats.

What are you doing for start-ups?

When it comes to start-ups for the most part, they really don’t have the skill-set and capacity to manage Internet security. They don’t have a CIO, CTO or head of security as an example. They want a product they can install and forget about and further they don’t want the software draining their system resources, as they are likely to have relatively older hardware. This is exactly ESET’s strength – incredibly easy to install and almost no impact on resources…. “Install and forget about it!”

Further, it is important to mention that we at ESET East Africa offer a much broader solution set than AV including Backup and Disaster Recovery, Encryption and Data Loss Prevention, to name a few. More than the actual software solutions though our approach is to fill that gap in expertise by being able to advise businesses on cyber security risks specific to them. Many times Internet security risks are not software related and rather require changes to processes and the awareness of staff. ESET want to be in a position to advise companies on this and build a sense of trust in our expertise before we look at solutions.

What is needed to ensure that businesses take up ICT security?

Simple – businesses need a solid understanding of the risks they are susceptible to, and the impact such threats can have on their day-to-day operations as well as the financial implications of things such as data loss. Further to my comments above we are looking to ensure we educate our clients on all the risks pertaining to cyber security and their business.

Since you set up base in Kenya (and East Africa), have you seen an increase in demand for your products?

Yes, we have noticed a dramatic increase in the sales of the product. I believe this is due to a better understanding of the unique business environment here, and the availability of local support staff in the region. Further, the market sees that we offer a broad range of products focused on cyber-security – they are starting to see us  as a “one-stop-shop” given we have a broad range of products but have the local technical expertise to provide solid advice at the same time.

How have you grown ESET East Africa?

It is important to understand the background to the ESET East Africa business. In the past all ESET business in sub-Saharan Africa was done through the ESET South Africa business based in Cape Town. The formation of a distinct new business to focus on EAST Africa was driven by the knowledge that we needed to be localized in the Kenyan Market with its own management structure as well as sales and technical support team. This new structure has been in place for over a year now and my focus has been to ensure we learn as much as we can about this market. Put simply we need to think and work like Kenyans, we need to ensure that when a Kenyan client needs support he can call someone in Nairobi for his support. This market has very distinct cyber security needs as well as a unique business environment– as long as we continue to embed ourselves fully in this market we foresee accelerated growth going forward.

Technology firms tend to forget about cellphones and only concentrate on securing desktop and laptop computers. Do you have something for smartphones, for example?

You are quite right. More than half of the Kenyan population access the Internet via their mobile devices and from my interactions with end-users I sense that the vast majority either have no antivirus on their device or are using a free version, which offers sub-standard protection. People need to see their devices as the laptops of the old. Laptops are always preloaded with some sort of antivirus even if it is a one-month trial. The same is not true for mobile phones where the level of Internet access is actually higher and none come with a preloaded antivirus. We offer a security solution specifically focused on mobile devices which includes the normal antivirus features but also features specific to mobile devices such as Application audits, security assessments, anti-phishing as well as functionality around locating lost or stolen devices and if need be remote wipe of those devices.  One of our key points of focus in the local market is education around the risks related to accessing the Internet using your mobile device.

What makes you different from your competitors like Kaspersky, Norton, McAfee and AVG?

We are present in the market, and aim to understand our customer needs more intimately. Our aim is to educate first around all aspects of cyber security and build trust around our local knowledge and expertise, after which we can start to look at solutions. We are the first to say that many risks cannot be addressed by software – you are not going to hear that often from a software vendor! Whilst I do not want to make a direct comparison to any of the vendors you mention, we see ourselves as a premium solution in the marketplace.

That combined with the “educate first” and “understand your client first”way we operate, and the resultant trust we build with our clients I firmly believe we are building a solid foundation for substantial growth in this region.

Do you have an advantage?

Again I do not want to be making direct comments about competing products but the key feedback we get from users is ease of use and low resource utilization, as well as our high level of support. For the past 10 years, we have also consistently won independently judged awards for malware detection rates and resource usages, amongst many other categories.

Is Kenya a hot market for technology products?

Absolutely, Kenya is well advanced in the technology space, we are only at the beginning of a technological revolution. Kenyans have embraced technology and we will see some world-changing technologies coming out of this region in the next few years, given considerable government support in ICT enablement.  I would go as far as saying that I see Kenya as the most exciting region in Africa in terms of the drive to access technology and the Internet more and more.

What is your view of safer technology in the market in the next two years or so?

As technology speeds ahead, there are going to be dramatic increases in the number of threats. As an example, we are seeing for the first time ever that mobile malware is one of the top 10-malware threats globally. Given the large uptake of mobile technology in Kenya we expect a high level of focus of cybercriminals on the local market focusing specifically on mobile devices.  Safer security is very much about education, not just about the hardware and software you purchase. One of the key risks is the ‘human element’, which essentially means the ability to breach a network via social engineering. We are looking to build up a reputation as a key player in addressing the local cyber security risks in Kenya.

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