Courting corporates

Kaspersky is turning the heat up on the Middle East market and has renewed its commitment to chasing after the region's enterprises. Nathan Statz caught up with Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and founder of the anti-malware vendor in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Tags: Cyber crimeKaspersky LabMalwareUnited Arab Emirates
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Courting corporates KASPERSKY: We’re going to pay more attention to the Middle East and increase our investment and partner network in the region.
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By  Nathan Statz Published  August 15, 2009

Taking aim at the enterprise market is a juicy plum for vendors who have successfully foraged through the consumer market and are looking for a bigger slice of the pie. In the case of Kaspersky, the anti-malware company made its intentions known just over a year ago before trudging further into the Middle Eastern market with a taste for growth.

That hunger lead to the opening of the Russian-based company's first office in the Middle East and a firm commitment to bringing more enterprises into the Kaspersky customer ecosystem.

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and founder of the company which bears his name explains that it is easier to increase market share in an emerging market because competitors aren't keeping as keen an eye on those regions as they do in their home markets.

"For example, in Latin America it is market number 18 for them, that is why our presence is more visible and that's why the local enterprises pay more attention to us and it is the same in the Middle East," he says.

Kaspersky has laid down plans for growth in the Middle East, with long-term aims to boost the company's existing partner network and presence in the region.

"We're going to pay more attention to [the Middle East] and we're investing in our office development and technical support, so we have localisation to the major languages. At a time of financial crisis, our competitors will pay more attention to their main market but the main market for them is their domestic segment in the United States," explains Kaspersky.

"These companies, they will pay attention to their domestic market and protect it so their other markets will be treated with less importance. Where for us it is the opposite because our domestic market, the Russian market, is not a major one for us so we're more diversified in other regions."

According to Kaspersky, the reason for going after Middle Eastern enterprises is because the consumer market is not as well developed and this is helped along by the trust afforded by companies from Eastern Europe's biggest fish.

"Our Russian origin also helps as they see Russian [companies] and they are quite accepted. You don't need to explain why Russian - there are no other questions. In Europe we have to explain why we are a Russian company - that was 15 years back and they were like ‘what are you doing here? Why do you think you will have success?"

While it is easy to say you are targeting enterprises, it is somewhat more challenging to actually pull the trigger and let your well-concocted strategy loose on the market, particularly in the security arena.

"If you buy any other product you just buy software and you don't need to trust the company. When you buy security solutions - doesn't matter if it is software, hardware, [or if] it's not IT - when talking about security that is trust," explains Kaspersky.

"If you don't trust the vendor, you won't buy security from them and that's why we're paying a lot of attention to this and a lot of resources on brand development. We are starting with the brand development, we are coming to the exhibitions, we are talking to press, we are just trying to prove that we're a transparent company, you may ask any question and we will provide answers," he adds.

As part of this ongoing initiative, Kaspersky recently hosted the 10th annual Virus Analyst Summit in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and confirmed the company is renewing its goal to bring in more enterprise business in the Middle East.

Delivering the keynote address, Roel Schouwenberg, senior regional researcher for the Americas and the global research and analytics team at Kaspersky, outlined the risks faced by failing to keep security programs up to date and operating systems adequately patched.

Schouwenberg also presented data on the most vulnerable applications, with Apple QuickTime taking up the first two slots, followed by Sun's Java JDK/SRE, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Word's Smart Tags.

The Russia-based company also revealed that the damage caused by malware is running at over US $100 billion per year, according to company spokesperson Timur Tsoriev, head of the technology PR group at Kaspersky.

During the summit, Kaspersky screened a presentation on the company's inner-workings at the head office in Moscow, where it was revealed that new instances and strains of malware are detected every two seconds.

Kaspersky was also quick to point out that the company's success in either the enterprise or consumer market depends heavily on the location, with regions where the anti-malware vendor has been present for many years having a 50-50 split between the two markets.

"In Russia we have about 50% of the consumer and 50% of the enterprise market," he continues. "In other regions we are more successful with the consumer, probably because in those markets, consumers are not loyal to their products and they find it easier to switch from product to product."

"With enterprises it takes years and when we enter the new region I don't wait for a fast result because it can take a year to sign the non-disclosure agreement and a couple of years to talk about the service level agreements and so on," continues Kaspersky.

The fight to keep a computer malware-free is never-ending and for security vendors it's an eternal battle against a multi-faceted hydra, with multitudes of threats being born out of the ashes of cured strains.

For Kaspersky's chief malware expert, Vitaly Kamluk, this is a battle the company is keeping up with, though it's not just thanks to human muscle.

"It was only a couple of years ago that the mountain of malware reached the top of the slope, and we could not process it manually anymore. We met that problem two years ago, the solution was to introduce an automated detection and analytic system and we invested and developed that technology which let us analyse a big number of files automatically and make a decision if it is malicious or not," says Kamluk.

There is still a place for the humans, however, as Kamluk explains that while the company processes around 5,000 malicious files per day, it is still not a universal solution for malware as there are some threats that require manual processing and analysis, which is also why virus analysts still have a job.

Jumping for justice

How often in your dealings with law enforcement do you encounter cybercriminal groups that are getting shut down and actually facing the justice system?
Vitaly Kamluk: We help law enforcement reach contacts as we are interested in collaboration, because I think this is the only way of stopping cybercriminals - only if law enforcement is working closely with security vendors. We can provide very broad expertise to the law enforcement [agencies] and they can provide us with the legal power of going and shutting down servers - something that we as a commercial company do not have.

Vitaly Kamluk is the chief malware researcher at Kaspersky.

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