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Interview with James Kok, marketing team leader for AVIRA

Q: One of the biggest issues faced by most security software developers is the ever-evolving nature of malware signatures, and the Zeus rootkit has been gaining a fair bit of popularity lately. With the Zeus rootkit boasting the capability to evade detection from most conventional software security methods by generating unique signatures for every machine it infects, how prepared is Avira's scanning engine in ensuring that consumers can adopt a 'set-up-and-forget-it' approach when using AntiVir?

A: This is only a problem if a simple digital finger-print of the Zeus bot would be used for detection. But nowadays it is usual to create more generic rules for detection, so that with a rule update a whole class of malware versions can be detected. This is a heuristic approach. The problem here is that these rules have to be adopted often in some cases as the malware programmers are releasing new hiding routines often. So it is possible to well protect our customers with regular updates.

Q: There are critics which claim that a free antivirus/anti-malware solution is more than sufficient to offer a robust line of defense against malware circulating around the Internet today. Just how 'sufficient' a line of defense do you think is suitable for networked PCs today, and are most free alternatives capable of providing 'sufficient' protection today?

A: This is a complicated question! “Sufficient” is dependent upon the users’ needs and the users’ skills. Using the free Avira AntiVir Personal is way better than using no anti-malware solution, no matter how computer- and network-savvy a user is. The free version will protect the user from many threats already. The user needs to watch out a little bit and think about the actions he/she plans. Contrary to that, the Premium or Suite version from Avira are monitoring more ways where malware could sneak in, thus reducing the necessity to always watch out. This means more comfort for the users.

Q: With regards to the above question, it seems that free alternatives such as AVG's and Avast!'s offerings are gaining popularity with users who want to secure their PCs without having to foot any additional costs. In addition, Microsoft, who is also the latest entrant to the free anti-malware scene, has been receiving a lot of praise for being reliable and light on resources. How does the free version of Avira AntiVir compare to the aforementioned alternatives, and what has Avira done to maintain the free version's appeal and competitiveness when stacked against the competition?

A: First of all, Avira AntiVir Personal has been and will be very light on resources, not slowing down the computer where it is running. Also, independent testing laboratories regularly attest great detection and protection levels for our free product. Of course, we always enhance the free Avira AntiVir Personal, too: It gets updates to the detection mechanisms as well. And it is easy to maintain, if at all necessary – the user doesn’t get confronted with overloaded user interfaces. We intend to add new features to the free version regularly in future, too – always keeping the goal of great protection and little resource usage in mind.


Q: There has been talk about 'outsourcing' the client in the way one will approach cloud computing. The theory is that by moving the scanning engine from the client to the server, the latter's resources will allow a client PC to go through the scanning process at much faster speeds, thus resulting in time saved. Are there any plans for a 'cloud' version of Avira AntiVir, and what other online services can Avira offer to consumers to add greater value to AntiVir?

A: We don’t talk about concrete plans currently, but of course we do research and development in that direction, too. By the way, in Avira case, the bottle neck isn’t the scan engine and the scanning process itself – it is the disk throughput.


Q: To add on to the previous question, how will the introduction of cloud computing affect key strategies such as user experience and Avira's business model? How does Avira plan to balance out both the advantages and costs of implementing cloud-based solutions in order to ensure that consumers will continue to find Avira AntiVir a compelling anti-malware solution?

A: Most of users are looking for perfect protection and don’t care that much if it is traditional or cloud-based system. We can provide our users both systems and without getting into details on next steps, we will continue to focus on satisfying our customers to the full.


Q: We have seen examples of how false positives such as the one which affected McAfee has the potential to cripple a large number of PCs, especially when an antivirus scanning engine flags out critical portions of an operating system as potential malware and 'fixes' them, thus resulting in the destruction of critical system files. What has Avira done to reduce the likelihood of such occurrences?

A: We have added some very effective safeguards so that this never happens with Avira AntiVir. The software doesn’t automatically remove any system relevant files. Tech-savvy users can get deeply into the software and remove such essential files though – but as they are tech-savvy, they know what they are doing and know how to recover their system properly. So the Avira users are protected from a false-positive alert ruining their systems.


Q: Last but definitely not least, what are some of Aurica's plans to further raise the awareness levels of cybersecurity in Singapore and Asia Pacific, along with that Avira's AntiVir products?

A: We will work very closely with Avira and to run more events to promote Awareness. At the same time, we are proud to have VR-Zone as our official media partner and we will be engaging with VR-Zone members pertaining to Avira. In time to come, there will be a lot of Avira related Activities for VR-Zone members to take part in.

We will also expand into mega stores (when time is right) to build up awareness for Avira. Most importantly, we are confident that Avira is a good product and we want our customers to be protected by one of the best Anti-Virus available in the market.


VR-Zone is a leading online technology news publication reporting on bleeding edge trends in PC and mobile gadgets, with in-depth reviews and commentaries.

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