October 24, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Newsmaker: Time to make security software a lot easierSee all Newsmakers
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SAN JOSE, Calif.--Internet security should be like a utility, according to Risto Siilasmaa.
Complex security software that people need to buy in a store or online, then install and manage, should be replaced with a simple shield delivered nearly invisibly with an Internet access account, argues Siilasmaa, the CEO of F-Secure.
The small Finnish security company--it recorded 61.8 million euros in revenue last year--specializes in security as a service. In Europe, it leads the market and provides security software to just over one-third of all broadband Internet users there, Siilasmaa said. That's twice as many as Symantec, the runner-up and the world's largest antivirus company, he noted.
Another of F-Secure's hobbyhorses is mobile phone security. The company was one of the first to sell security software for cellular handsets. That's not a coincidence: Nokia, the world's biggest cell phone maker, is also Finnish. But the threat to mobile phones may have been hyped a bit, Siilasmaa admits.
On a recent visit to F-Secure's U.S. headquarters here, Siilasmaa sat down with CNET News.com's Joris Evers.
Q: People might know the F-Secure name, but they might not know who you are or what it is that you do.
Risto Siilasmaa: F-Secure is an Internet security company, focused around transforming security from a product into a service and working with different types of service providers to significantly improve the convenience of using security.
A Harvard marketing professor said, 30 years back, that people don't want to buy quarter-inch drills; they want to buy quarter-inch holes. We'd like to transform security from the drill that people have to learn to use, to (their) actually being able to purchase the hole that they need.
So you want to make security something people don't have to think about, but is just there?
Siilasmaa: Yes, like water or electricity. It just comes from the wall.
We also believe that people should not have to be educated about what they cannot do online. We believe that technology should give them the freedom to try to do whatever they want. (But also,) the technology will prevent them from doing something or going somewhere they shouldn't go. That's convenience.
It's not convenient when you first have to figure out which product to buy, take it home, read the manual, install it and configure it. Then you buy a new game, and you have to reconfigure the firewall. It's not convenient, and security is becoming too important of an issue for it to be inconvenient.
How can you change that?
Siilasmaa: Security should be a process. It is based on software and hardware, obviously. You have to install something on your PC and your servers, but that should be enough.
In corporate environments, you need to have a level of management and you need to be able to outsource that management responsibility to a team of people that can actually do a better job than you can.
For example, 24/7 support is not available even in many Fortune 1000 companies. People can be called; but they are asleep, they are groggy after waking up, they have to go to a PC and then they have to log on, and then they have to see what's happening. And they may not be the security experts--they're just IT experts.
How does F-Secure stand out in the crowd of security companies?
Siilasmaa: There are obvious technical merits to what we do. But on the convenience side, we'd like people not to have to go to the store. We would like their service providers--the companies that they work with and trust and they have an ongoing billing relationship with--to provide them with an easy way?to subscribe to a security solution that is more than just the software. In that space we are the market leader, and that's what we're really focused on.
Competitors such as McAfee have a similar focus. McAfee has a deal with AOL to deliver security software free to its customers, for example. Is your strategy different?
Siilasmaa: McAfee has started to do a little bit of the same thing that we have done for the last six or seven years. Still, largely, for both McAfee and Symantec, their revenue comes from selling licenses, and the subscription business is a tiny fraction. It's a marketing tool for them. They give away free software, and they hope those users will upgrade from plain antivirus to a suite.
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