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Q&A: ESET CEO on Sophos problem, state of antivirus and ESET resellers

In this Q&A, Richard Marko, CEO of ESET, talks about antivirus products, ESET’s reseller strategy, and the criticism recently aimed at Sophos.

Founded in Slovakia 20 years ago, ESET now sells its antimalware, antivirus, antispam and firewall products through ESET resellers in 180 countries around the world. While the vendor has a large consumer base, its business segment accounts for more than half its revenue in many geographies, including North America. recently interviewed Richard Marko, CEO of ESET, to find out his perspective on the state of firewall and antimalware technologies, and his reaction to the recent criticism leveled at Sophos during Black Hat 2011. 

From a technology perspective, it seems some of your key technologies -- firewalls and antimalware -- are fading in importance compared to other types of security technologies. How do you see the role of ESET’s technologies in your partners’ portfolios going forward?

Richard Marko: I don’t believe the technologies are fading out. The important thing is we never saw these technologies existing as separate technologies. They are all combined in one product. They are all providing their part of the information to the whole system. It’s not like we had an antivirus product 20 years ago and it’s the same thing now. It’s evolving all the time. All the latest available technologies are in our product.

Why would a channel partner choose to partner with ESET instead of, for example, Symantec or McAfee for their security offerings?

Marko: Many of our exclusive partners in the world grew with ESET. They were small when we were small. Now they are bigger. It’s the strategy we have. We work mainly with exclusive partners so they can really focus on ESET. ESET is usually 90% of their sales. They do not have to fight with other partners for the same territory. The reason why they selected ESET in the first place is because they believe we have a good technology and they can be successful in the market.

Sophos’ antivirus technology was criticized at the 2011 Black Hat conference. Are you concerned ESET’s technology may be scrutinized in the same way? What are you doing to prepare for this?

Marko: Antivirus products and antivirus vendors have been under attack from the cybercriminals for years. Talking about this particular incident, part of the hype [about this incident] was a little bit overrated. In the end, its significance for security is probably lower than it might seem at first. One part, which was interesting to me, was the way Sophos was creating its signatures. That’s the part that can be a problem -- if the signatures are, from a statistical point of view, not precise enough. But every vendor has its own way of doing these things. This can not be generalized for other vendors and it’s certainly not applicable for ESET.

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