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

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.
Written by Eeva Haaramo, Contributor

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.

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