Avast Software CEO, Vince Steckler, announces the completion of the acquisition of a majority stake in AVG Technologies.
As many of you know, there are two security companies that often get confused: Avast and AVG. Shortly after I started as CEO almost 8 years ago, I remember giving a presentation to a large audience about Avast. About an hour later, a gentleman walked up to me and complimented me on how good the presentation was and how he enjoyed hearing about AVG. That was my first lesson in how easy the companies are to confuse.
This confusion is because the companies are so very similar. Both company names start with the letters “AV”. Both started in the late 1980s and were amongst the first few companies formed to fight the viruses and malware nearly 30 years ago. Both are historically Czech: Avast was founded in Prague and is still based there while AVG was historically in Brno, the two largest cities in the Czech Republic. Both pioneered the free distribution of top quality security products (although to be honest, I must admit that AVG was first and we followed). Both make great security products. Both are innovators with world class R&D teams. Both have most of their users outside of their home Czech market. Both have had similar user bases for many years: about 200M each. And most importantly, both treat their users with respect and consequently each has a large and loyal user base. One slight difference though is that while Avast is a private company, AVG is public and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
I’m glad to announce that we have acquired Remotium, a leader in virtual enterprise mobility, headquartered in Silicon Valley. Remotium’s award-winning and patent-pending technology, the Remotium Virtual Mobile Platform (VMP), provides enterprises with secure access to business-critical applications from anywhere and from any mobile or desktop device. With this product, corporate mobile users have all their personal data and apps resident on their mobile (iOS or Android) while all their corporate data and apps reside and execute on a server and are only displayed on the mobile. This is the perfect fit for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments.
For all of the Apple Watch fans, I’m excited to announce that Avast SecureMe will be available for the device soon. We will launch Avast SecureMe for iOS this summer and will then also expand its functionality for Apple Watch. We designed the app specifically for unsecured Wi-Fi networks, which are a low-hanging fruit for hackers looking to spy on people’s browsing activities and to re-route users to fake sites that collect logins, PINs and other personal information. A ubiquitous presence in cafes, hotels and airports, an alarming number of public Wi-Fi routers are poorly configured. In a study conducted in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, our researchers found out that more than half of routers aren’t set up in a secure way.
Did you know that Californians are obsessed with Selfie Sticks from Amazon.com? Or that people in Maine buy lots of coconut oil?
Thanks to Jumpshot, a marketing analytics company, you can find this information – as well as more useful information – by using the tools available at Jumpshot.com.
What may be most interesting to you is that Jumpshot is using Avast data to drive these unique insights. We provide Jumpshot with anonymized and aggregated data that we collect from scanning the 150 billion URLs our users visit each month. Using Jumpshot’s patent-pending algorithm, all of the personally identifiable information is removed from the data before it leaves Avast servers. Nothing can be used to identify or target individuals. Avast COO Ondřej Vlček explains the data stripping algorithm in an Avast forum topic.
Data security, of course, is very important to us. We go to great lengths to keep our users safe, and have never shared any data that can be used to identify them. We never have and never will.
The AVAST forum is currently offline and will remain so for a brief period. It was hacked over this past weekend and user nicknames, user names, email addresses and hashed (one-way encrypted) passwords were compromised. Even though the passwords were hashed, it could be possible for a sophisticated thief to derive many of the passwords. If you use the same password and user names to log into any other sites, please change those passwords immediately. Once our forum is back online, all users will be required to set new passwords as the compromised passwords will no longer work.
Starting this week, we have made most of our Avast antivirus products and solutions free for use by schools and libraries in the US. This is just the first step and if it is successful, we will extend it worldwide. We are doing this for a couple of reasons. First, even though schools need security products, in these tough budget times, they need the ability to focus their spending on teaching. A couple of us here at Avast used to run the government and education sales at Symantec some years ago. We know that schools spend a lot on security—money that could be better spent on teaching.
In a survey of 100,000 Avast users this past weekend, Avast users have shown just how close the upcoming Presidential Election is. The survey shows a narrow preference for Romney in the popular vote resulting in a large advantage for Romney in the Electoral College Vote. At the same time though, a clear majority believe that Obama will actually win:
- 48.9% of users who are registered voters said they will definitely vote for Romney, compared to 46.1% who will vote for Obama. Interpreted by electoral votes, this is 290 votes for Romney and 230 for Obama.
- As to who they think will actually win the election, however, 47.6% think Obama compared to 39.6% in Romney’s favor. Interpreted electorally, this gives 349 to Obama and only 189 to Romney.
- New Mexico and Virginia are dead heats—46.9% for each candidate in New Mexico and 47.6% in Virginia.
- The other tightly contested states in the survey are Florida with 49.2% for Romney and 47.5% for Obama; Ohio with 48.8% for Romney and 46.3% for Obama; and New Hampshire with 48.2% for Obama and 45.3% for Romney.
Of course, this has nothing to do with security, we don’t mix politics with business, and we have not taken any position on the election. Furthermore, we are based in the Czech Republic so any position we took would be meaningless anyways. But still, we have a large base of users in the USA—about 11 million—and we thought it could be insightful if their collective opinion could predict the election results as well as the professional polling firms.
For nearly the past two years Avast has used iYogi to provide free phone support to our users, primarily our free users. With over 150 million users around the world, we naturally have some users that desire phone support. Delivering free phone support to the users of free products is obviously a challenge. As such, the freemium support model used by iYogi and others was very useful. With this support, Avast users received free phone support for any issue to do with Avast. Then, after helping the user, the user would be offered an opportunity to upgrade to an annual iYogi remote support package for any issue with their computer.
Having over 100 million users has its downside—it means that users searching for Avast are also a prime target of scammers as well as legitimate companies trying to piggy-back on our name recognition. Every day we receive complaints from people that have been scammed. Some have been scammed into paying to download a free copy of Avast. Others have been tricked into buying a product they thought was Avast but was not. This happens in many different ways but at the core is the greatest scourge of the internet—socially engineered scams and deceptions. Thieves and even legitimate companies are masters at taking advantage of people's natural penchant to trust others. Some scams are quite blatant and most of us would consider them theft or cheating. Others are much less obvious and may even be considered zealous marketing and selling. One finds such deceptions in search results, on download sites, and even in internet domain names.