'Antivirus is dead? If you think that's news, you've been living in a different world'

'Antivirus is dead? If you think that's news, you've been living in a different world'

Summary: With the continuing rise of cloud services, security execs have been proclaiming the death of antivirus software. But according to F-Secure, the security is not so much dead as changed beyond all recognition.

TOPICS: Security, Cloud, EU

Symantec made headlines last week when a senior exec proclaimed antivirus software was "dead." It might seem a bold statement, but according to Finnish security company F-Secure, it's just a statement of fact, reflecting trends in an industry that's fast moving away from PCs.

"For years, signature-based antivirus detection has been only a fraction of what security companies have been offering," says Timo Laaksonen, VP of Content Cloud at F-Secure. "We have a huge arsenal of other tools. If someone thinks that antivirus being dead is news then we don't know in what world they have been living in for the past five to six years."

Declining PC sales and the rise of mobile devices have led to users wanting to access their files on all of their devices at all times. It's a shift that has spawned the cloud industry, which F-Secure see as new battleground for security. It's backed up by analysts Gartner which estimates that the cloud-based security services market will be worth $3.1bn by 2015.   

For F-Secure, realigning its strategy to match these trends has resulted in a number of new products. Launched last year, a consumer VPN product Freedome and a secure cloud storage service Younited led the way, and this week the company has added Younited for business, aimed at small and medium-sized businesses.

On the surface, it's similar to many cloud services. You can store and share files, use real-time collaboration, and choose from three storage options: 5GB, 100GB and 500GB, for which pricing will be announced later this week. Prices will be competitive with rivals such as Dropbox for Business ($795 per year, five-user minimum) but F-Secure is hoping to differentiate its service based on the level of security it applies.

"We scan all data uploaded to Younited for malware and we are the only company doing so," Laaksonen says. "[And] we haven’t built and won’t be building any backdoors to our products."

Another potential selling point for F-Secure is being Finnish. It's one of the few European companies offering this kind of service at a time when doubts are being raised about US businesses in the wake of the Snowden scandal. It doesn't hurt that Finland has strict privacy laws, all Younited data is stored in Finland, and Microsoft's latest security report places Finland among the countries with the lowest malware encounter rates.

Which brings us back to Symantec’s seemingly glib statement that antivirus is dead. Surely with ever more attacks on the cloud, the opposite is actually true? Not so.

"We haven't been fighting computer viruses in forever," says F-Secure security advisor Sean Sullivan. "[But] because people don't know the difference between a virus, a worm, or a Trojan, everything gets called a computer virus. The bulk of it is exploits which get hackers in the door and Trojans which people are tricked to install."

And this is just one aspect of re-education that Laaksonen believes consumers and businesses must undergo when it comes to security. The other is how their changing needs have transformed their security requirements and the companies that provide them.

"We aren't just protecting PCs these days, we're protecting people's identities and their privacy across every device they use," Laaksonen says.

Read more on cloud security

Topics: Security, Cloud, EU

Eeva Haaramo

About Eeva Haaramo

Eeva Haaramo has covered the Finnish startup and tech scene for the past seven years. As a freelance journalist, she enjoys writing about entrepreneurs, innovation and industry trends in the Nordic region.

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  • We expect idiocu from Symantec.

    The kind of idiocy that says "Post PC" when they really mean "Post Windows".

    It's simply functional illiteracy for the Tech World.

    These guys have grown up with Windows, their whole perspective is Windows, and they panic when reality finally hits them. There's some members here have the same problem.

    "I see Windows everywhere - and it doesn't know it's dead"
    • What has positioned itself to replace Windows?

      I guess it depends on what you consider a computer and what you do with it.

      If you live in the world of handheld's and don't do anything of importance then you'll probably never need see Windows again. This includes Apple.

      Linux? Really? Not in the foreseeable future.

      So what do you think will replace W?

      Rob Berman
      • Neither MS nor Apple own the realm of windows anymore

        I do most of my work & play on multi-windowed Android tablet and Linux PC, and have done so for years. The GUI is not dead and is still multi-tasking and windowed. The PC (as well as ALL personal computing devices) is NOT dead, but rather continues to ever evolve in size, shape, power, portability, functions, etc. since the electronic calculators of the early 1970s. Some suggest that computing is more "personal" than ever before.

        What the future truly needs and hopefully will receive, is perfected voice interfacing and eventually 3D holography for both GUI and data storage. Perhaps then windowing will start to vanish. However our PC devices will remain ever with us, if not within us. The term "post PC" is nothing more substantial than a marketroid mirage. Don't bite at it.
      • The Cloud

        The Cloud is replacing windows. You don't NEED Microsoft software like you did 10 years ago.

        In the consumer realm the transition is pretty much complete. Use a chromebook, linux, mac, whatever... It doesn't matter because 99% of what normal people do is in the cloud already. Even big stuff like, fully featured development IDE's are going cloud based.

        For the average home user, what do they absolutely need windows for? I'm sure there are a few edge cases, but -needing- windows has become the exception rather than the rule.

        If you windows die-hards can't see that, then you're luddites.
        • Spackle is the luddite

          Spackle, what do you think many if not most people use on The Cloud? Microsoft Windows applications! I know very few serious users that rely on a Chromebook.
      • please go back to the 90s

        Considering the number of people using Apple and...yes....Linux OS computers, your statement is just ignorant.
    • Post PC

      No they mean post PC, they do not regard a smartphone or a tablet as a PC.
    • Windows is not dead

      Heenan73, Windows is not dead. Business users will continue to rely on Windows servers and PC's/Laptops/Tablets. The home consumer may not want or need Windows, since they primarily use Facebook, Google, Instagram, apps, etc, but not real applications. At home I rarely use Windows anymore, but it is in use on my desk 80% of the time at work. At home I use Android tablets and smartphones, no Apple devices.
  • antivirus is dead as a profit center to Symantec

    That's what he really said.

    Should you rush to uninstall your antivirus software? No
    Things are changing but just because you can't stop all pests is no reason to take the windows and screens out of your house.
    Security is now and has always been a journey of vigilance and persistency as new threats arise new guards with new techniques must be stationed at the watchtowers.

    Symantec didn't stop selling antivirus software and it will bring in profits to Symantec for years to come however like many things its declining and as such isn't the growth vehicle for Symantec... thus in that respect *its dead*. To a financial analyst if you or your market are not *growing* your stock will decline, especially if you underperform analyst expectations, so he's setting expectations accordingly... its dead Jim...
    • Correct

      Security is done by layers with different types of hardware/software handling specific threat classes. Anti-virus is not perfect and never has been but against known/very similar threats it does a good job. Also, many infections are not from 0-day exploits but on unprotected or unpatched systems.
  • Re: Antivirus is dead....

    Not exactly but the application of Security software has changed. Windows 8.1 comes with Antivirus software preinstalled. Other free Antivirus solutions such as Avast are excellent.

    Many consumers have woken up to the fact that software such as Norton and Mcafee are rip offs and do now more than slow a computer down as they are no more than bloat.

    And of course as a Mac user I never use Antivirus software although it is optional.
  • Anti-malware is the better term

    A very good point was made by the F-Secure guy: "People don't know the difference between a virus, a worm, or a Trojan, everything gets called a computer virus. The bulk of it is exploits which get hackers in the door and Trojans which people are tricked to install."

    The better botnet clients have very low detection rates by commonly used AV products, but obviously you have an unwanted program running on your PC and doing very much unwanted things, so just as obviously you have room for better detection methods, and old school signature-based methods are not going to cut it. Microsoft deserves much of the blame -- if any company should be able to come up with a way to detect out of place code running on a Windows OS and determining any odd behavior linked to that code, it should be Microsoft, but.... Their OS base code keeps getting larger and messier, and their own AV products keep getting more and more ineffective.
    • Bingo

      You nailed it mate.
    • Microsoft is the malware author's best friend

      It's not only that their code base is "large and messy" but they actually make it easy to deploy malware by allowing and encouraging users to run as administrators right out of the box.

      Buy a new PC and you're automatically an administrator when you first boot it up. How many people know enough to change that?

      If you log in as an admin user, the background should be bright red with a big warning.
      • That hasn't been the case...

        That hasn't been the case since Vista.
      • FUD

        Running Vista and newer Windows as Standard User with a basic AV and fully patched, you are as secure as with Linux or OSX, both of which need patching and limited user rights to be secure.
        Rann Xeroxx
        • This has been the case, actually

          According to *actual* gathered data from the NIST's National Vulnerability Database (as opposed to random, made-up data), the older the Windows OS -- or the greater the number of service packs for that matter -- the more secure it is. Currently this year to date, Win8.x is running well ahead of all the other versions in new vulnerabilities (ones that are publicly known about, that is), followed by Win7, and with Xp and Vista tied for 3rd.

          But if you have other data sources that contradict this, please feel free to share it with the class
  • "The Name's the Same"

    Timo Laaksonen? Tim of Finland!

  • Dr. Solomon runs Linux?

    The rumor on the Linux Action Show was that Alan Solomon, founder of the antivirus company, admitted that antivirus is dead, and now he runs Linux. Highly plausible but I can't find this in a news report.
  • Here's the report about Dr. Solomon