Malware has the whole world on edge. We sought to find out from Bethwel Opil, Channel Sales Manager for East Africa for Kaspersky Lab how the company is helping the East African region handle this malevolent threat landscape
Briefly give us a general threat outlook for the East African region in 2014
With the growth of broadband and increased bandwidth in the region, the major challenges are in the areas of mobility as most of the users in the region access internet via smartphones and tablets. This poses a security challenge in being able to cover this data-on-move and people being able to access certain data outside the corporate environment. At Kaspersky we have sought to cover these areas through the 2013 versions of our products that are able to cover multiple consumer devices. With a single multi-device license, users can cover their Android devices as well as their laptops and desktops.
On the corporate side, the Kaspersky Endpoint Suite for Business covers all areas including data encryption, mobile device management as well as basic anti-virus. So Kaspersky has looked at the whole gamut of security issues facing users and tried to solve solving all these challenges through the new product range. The most critical aspect in the region though is to educate the public on these threats because we feel that most of the security issues we’ve faced this year are because of a lack of knowledge on the part of the public on these threats.
How is the uptake of Kaspersky’s 2014 security products vis-à-vis 2013?
We had projected a 50% increase in 2014 over last year but the uptake has been better than we had imagined. We’ve had to subsequently upwardly alter our forecast for this year. Our 2014 products have received good uptake mainly because of the multi-device protection application as well as the enhanced Safe Money feature which protects the user when they carry out their online financial transactions. In early 2013, much of the demand was on the basic anti-virus, but now with our new products, Internet Security is now starting to grow more popular.
Mobile is the default device for internet access in East Africa. Are mobile users aware of security threats in mobile devices and are they installing security software?
There has not been a major attack on mobile devices in the region, so the immediacy of the problems is not apparent. The public has tended to respond to real threats as we saw in Kenya around 2001 and 2002 during those year’s general elections. The emergence of malware associated with politics raised people’s awareness of security threats significantly. This inspired sales of anti-virus software across the board.
However, there has been a rise of attacks on data privacy through social media. This has led to people looking for other methods of protecting their information. And this is how we have been able to reach the public through the media.
Are online sales of Kaspersky solutions growing in the region or is it still the more traditional “box” sales with a lot of the customers
In the region, online sales are minimal. The public in the region still prefer a physical product in their hands. People also feel it’s easier to just buy and run the install the software through the CD rather than online download. Since last year though, people have started buying the box version through online sales after we appointed an online reseller. We have been pushing online sales through advertising on the web and on online stores.
On the corporate side, you have the security solutions base being managed by skilled systems administrators. What these require from us is a download of the software and they are able to go to the console and implement. We have done a number of training with our resellers on how to support our B2B solutions.
As East African regional economies grow rapidly, is it translating into increased threats in the region?
2013 experienced a lot of growth in the region in terms of broadband, internet penetration and growth of fibre optic cables being laid. Now whenever such growth occurs, the increase of internet users will tend to attract the cyber-criminal crowd. And with many new users to the internet, threats abound as they may not have not have a comprehensive understanding how to protect their businesses and they are thus more vulnerable to cyber criminals. You also tend to see increased growth in online banking, online shopping and this tends to be very lucrative for cyber criminals to try to get access to that data and gain financially from it. That threat is set to increase towards 2014. The director of public prosecutions in Kenya has recognized as much that cyber-crime is now a national security threat with key ICT infrastructure at the risk of attack and increased intrusion into peoples’ privacy. In social media in Kenya, a typical, and common, scam has criminals hacking into other people’s Facebook accounts and then look up people that the victim frequently interacts with. Then they will send them a message indicating that they are in trouble and they need them to be sent some cash through mobile money. The criminal then disappears with the money.
There were also a lot of reported cases of fraud last year after pin numbers were stolen and thieves were able to access and steal money from people’s accounts and steal money. So we expect these kinds of fraud to be a threat this year. Financial institutions, who have become major victims, tend to downplay the extent of hacking and the amount of cash involved. So if these institutions do not open up and work with security agencies and security software companies, this trend will continue.
How are your channel partners in East Africa empowered to handle the new global threat landscape
To be able to support our partners, we are engaging in many PR activities with major media firms within the region to try and educate the public on these threats. We are also holding major training workshops with our partners to be able to educate them on the current threat trends and to be able to build their product knowledge to be able to cover these threats that customers are facing. We are looking at this from two dimensions: raising awareness among the public and educating our partners on these threats.
Discuss the ratio of consumer vs B2B sales of Kaspersky products and which segment is showing greater growth
Consumer business is still dominant in the region but we are seeing a very strong uptake of our corporate products. The region still does not have big enterprises with most businesses being SMEs and SMBs. But we are seeing strong growth especially with the introduction of Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business last year. All in all Kaspersky runs the biggest accounts in East Africa with major clients such as Safaricom, KCB, University of Nairobi, the National University of Rwanda and many others. In East Africa, Kaspersky is leading in terms of having the biggest coverage in the region.
What are Kaspersky’s plans for the East African region in 2014 and beyond?
In 2014 we expect the corporate sector growth between 15-20%. On the consumer side we are looking towards 20-25% growth across our product lines.