Web Security Powered By Data from Millions of Endpoints
Expert Insights speaks to Erik Preisser, VP of SMB sales at Avast Business, to talk about the unique capabilities of the Avast’s new web security platform
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 network.
Tell us about Avast’s new Secure Web Gateway platform.
That multi-layered 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, for example.
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 solution.
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 network.
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.
Social engineering 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 rules.
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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