Korean security vendor eyes mobile virus market

AhnLab also appoints a Singaporean representative as the distributor of its products in Southeast Asia.

SINGAPORE--Never mind the naysayers who dismiss mobile viruses as pure hogwash. Korean security solutions provider AhnLab firmly believes such threats could cripple mobile device users in the near future, and has prepared its arsenal in anticipation of this insurgence.

AhnLab developed its first mobile antivirus solution in 2002 when such viruses had not even existed, said Charles Kim, the company's president and CEO. "At that time, we did our demonstration on a virus that we created. We started with the PDA (personal digital assistant) and mobile phone," he told ZDNet Asia in an interview.

He disagreed with those who view mobile threats as hype, saying: "Today, we have more than 100 cases of viruses [invading] multiple mobile operating systems. Threats from mobile viruses, hackers and spam will grow. There will soon be a big market in that area."

Kim also cited research from IDC which predicted that the global secure content management market will be worth nearly US$500 million by 2008, from less than US$100 million in 2005. According to IDC, this market includes antivirus and anti-spyware solutions for mobile devices such as cellular phones, PDAs and smart phones.

AhnLab was set up in 1995, and it currently offers range of security products including antivirus software for desktops and servers, and network security management applications. The company employs 370 staff in Korea and it presently has 20 staff each in China and Japan.

The company this week appointed Singapore-based Pan iMx as AhnLab's key distributor for its products in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

Kim sees potential in the mobile virus markets in Singapore and Malaysia, as mobile device users in these countries are on the rise. AhnLab however, does not sell its mobile security products directly in the retail market, and instead works "closely with network operators" to provide its solutions, he said. For instance, AhnLab co-developed an antivirus engine for the Symbian mobile platform together with Korean network operator SK Telecom for the operator's subscribers.

AhnLab is currently in talks with some mobile operators in the Southeast Asia region, but Kim said it is "too premature" at this time to make any official announcements.

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