Avira CEO: Smart Devices Creating an Exponential Increase in Online Security Threats

Malware continues to be the largest threat that users are facing today. This is according to Travis Witteveen, the CEO of Avira Antivirus, who kindly agreed to talk exclusively to PreciseSecurity.com.

He has also discussed which are the main challenges the industry is currently facing and how the cryptocurrency market became an investor vehicle today, among other things.

At the same time, he said that smart devices are creating an exponential increase in online security threats.

Considering internet privacy has been undermined during the last years, is the demand for privacy services such as password managers, VPNs increasing faster than the demand for antivirus solutions?

“Malware continues to be the largest threat vector that users are facing today. We do see a significant increase in complementary services based on protecting users’ privacy; password managers and VPNs. Our fastest-growing product (revenue and users) is “PRIME”, which is a combination of all our security, privacy and performance improvement tools.”

A few weeks ago, NordVPN and TorGurad unveiled their systems were hacked, also, security flaws were found in Bitdefender Antivirus Free 2020. Do you consider companies are focusing more on marketing rather than on improving their security? Do you consider companies are taking the necessary measures to protect users?

“As a security company, we have a large portion of our revenue re-invested in protecting our own infrastructure and software from hackers and ensuring a high-quality assurance. We even invest up to 20% of our revenue in a charity, which focuses on security education.

Protecting users’ security and privacy requires companies to address a very complex problem in an easy to manage solution for users. The size of the market and the technology requirements demand a high quality and security investment. The market is naturally growing very fast. It would be wrong if there are companies that are not investing in quality and security, but sadly it does occur.

Too often we see users only using a certain subset of applications, rather than a full suite or complete combination of products to keep them safe; anti-virus, software-updaters, VPNs, password managers, registry and trace cleaners, privacy settings managers, etc.”

The Avast antivirus network was also breached by hackers. Are these attacks to antivirus companies a worrying trend or isolated cases?

“Any company, which has a large enough user base is constantly under threat and attack from hackers. Whether they are operating system vendors (Microsoft, Apple, Google) or software applications vendors (Adobe, Avast, Avira, etc..). Important is to find a partner you trust. Measurement of that trust is when something happens; how fast are they able to detect and resolve it, how transparent are they about the threat, were there external parties effected, was negligence by the vendor a factor, and how were the support issues resolved to prevent a similar attack in the future.”

Which specific measures is Avira taking in order to increase users’ privacy and better protect their systems?

“We have a whole array of security and privacy audits as well as security and privacy tools to keep our infrastructure and applications safe; protecting the user from someone hacking us. We also have a “best in class” historical track record of protecting users against new and even unknown threats. We are always looking for new innovative technologies to improve both our internal as well as our services we deliver to our users. We are over 30 years in business and are servicing 100’s of millions of users through our own applications, but also selling our technology to other vendors for use in their products.”

Which are the main challenges the industry is currently experiencing and what is Avira doing to better face these issues?

“The main challenge of the industry is three-fold;

  1. The amount of threats is exponentially increasing.
  2. The number of “smart” devices the user has in their home is exponentially increasing.
  3. Enabling the user, without exposing them to the complexity of the solutions required, to enjoy and use the power of the internet to its fullest without fear.

We have therefore expanded our portfolio, while focusing on usability: we develop security and privacy suites for Windows, macOS, Android, & iOS. We also develop networking-based solutions, with companies like TP-Link, to protect the home against attacks on their smart devices (voice assistants, lighting & heating automation, smart TVs, smart speakers, etc..).”

A few weeks ago, you discovered that the PC530 Wireless Security Camera from Victure could be activated at any moment by a hacker and manipulate its functions. Should smart camera owners be worried about this danger or this is just an isolated case?

“The challenge is with many low-cost internet-connected devices, the vendors only have a certain investment time window, when they are actively developing or fixing issues before the “next” version is released. The older devices are there for unprotected after a certain period of time by the vendor. We approach the challenge by putting technology, similar to that what we have provided for PCs on your network routers. The partnership with TP-Link enables us to constantly monitor the health, security and privacy issues of all the devices a home might have. We have been protecting users for over 30 years and it is the business we are in.”

Individuals in the cryptocurrency industry have been searching for increased privacy while processing payments. Which is Avira’s stance on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin?

“While we have enabled cryptocurrency to be used to buy our products in some markets, we see this industry still in its infancy and not being used for daily purchases of goods and services. When the adoption of cryptocurrency grows, we will start to investigate how we can add value (security) to the ecosystem to enable our users to use it safely.”

It seems to be a trend that more people are endorsing Bitcoin. Even celebrities and known TV shows seem to be talking about Bitcoin. There are rumours of a specific tv show doing specials about cryptocurrencies. The Bitcoin Dragons Den episode seems to be one of those cases.

The cryptocurrency market has reached extraordinary levels in recent years. Do you consider Avira could benefit from it in the future by creating crypto-related services or products such as wallets?

“It’s an investor vehicle today, not a mass-market method to purchase goods and services. As we protect consumers, when this method becomes more widely adopted, we will address it. We have a lot of ideas, but we need to watch how the adoption rates and for what purpose the currency is being used.”

Considering hackers are more and more experienced, do you consider these attacks will ever be eliminated?

“Unfortunately, no. Hackers will continue to attack our online lives. What is changing is the types of devices that are vulnerable and the goals of the attackers. We see a lot more potential risks with smart IoT devices now. In addition, hackers are shifting from traditional malware attacks on an individual device to more sophisticated attacks targeting your activity data.”

Thank you, Travis, for the time and knowledge you have shared with us!

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