Cyber warrior

This month Trend Micro reported on a mass web attack that has already been dubbed the 'Italian Job II'.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  May 7, 2008

Trend Micro is putting up a global fight against computer viruses. Chairman Steve Chang explains why 'cybercrime' is not going away.

Steve Chang has a personality that is as infectious as the computer viruses his company combats.

He looks younger than his 53 years wearing a Trend Micro t-shirt under his jacket, instead of the collar and tie favoured by the executives who sit alongside him in the very business-like lobby of Dubai's Emirates Towers hotel.

This month Trend Micro reported on another mass web attack that has already been dubbed the 'Italian Job II'.

The chairman of the world's largest internet security company wears a constant grin and exudes a boyish enthusiasm for the business of fighting cybercrime.

It's clear he has a lot of pent-up energy that likes to find an outlet beyond the world of work.

You are as likely to find him mixing cement on a housing project for the poor in the Philippines as delivering a speech to a regional leadership summit, which is where I come to meet him in Dubai before he is due to speak.

The closest he comes to appearing serious is when he talks about the explosion of viruses, trojans and spam that he believes isn't being taken seriously enough by the world's biggest corporations that form his company's client base.

"Internet security problems have become very bad over the last two quarters but the awareness among the big corporation in places like Japan and the US is very low. They still don't see the real threat," he says.

The extent of that deterioration becomes clear when Chang says that the number of known computer viruses has grown from less than 10,000 in 2006 to more than 5 million today.

Chang worked as a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard before starting his company in 1988 when he developed a software device that protected against pirating.

Two decades later Trend Micro generates global sales of about US$848m, with the greatest sales growth achieved in North America during 2007 where revenues advanced about 21%. It posted a 10% increase in first quarter net income which grew to US$43m.

That kind of growth may be hard to replicate during the rest of 2008 as the US slowdown hits computer sales, although Chang says there is always a lag before a decline in hardware sales is felt by the anti-virus software sector.

"The consumers are hit first. We already knew about six months ago that some IT budgets and headcounts were being frozen," he says.

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