'Security Is The Forefront Concern Of All Organizations'

Amit Nath, Head of Asia Pacific (Corporate Business), India & SAARC – F-Secure, shares his insights on how the security sector was impacted in 2017 and what will be the upcoming trends for 2018. Amit Nath in conversation with Sarabjeet Kaur. Excerpts:

Amit Nath, Head-APAC (Corporate Business), India & SAARC – F-Secure

BW CIO: How has the year 2017 been for F-Secure?

Amit Nath: It has been a great year. This year we have had very aggressive growth. We have probably beaten all the benchmarks, internal as well as external. We exceeded our internal expectations of growth. The security industry probably grows at a certain amount of percentage but we have managed to outdo huge multiples of that percentage. A record number of customers were acquired this year in every segments. We opened up our horizons to SME, SMB, and enterprise.

When we started about four years ago and now, by the end of 2017, we now have about 2000 customers in India. We have had phenomenal growth on a customer perspective, in top line, customer acquisition, and expansion. Initially, we used to operate only in a few cities or metros but now we are present in almost all the cities in India. There were only one or two products with a sense of selling anti-virus but now there is a very wide product portfolio. Now we have a really very wide product portfolio as well everything has actually extrapolated.

I recall 2017 as a great year because we have executed very well. We executed perfectly when it comes to taking care of our existing customers, we have done some good things for our partners because we are a channel company and our people have been very happy with the culture we have in India.

BW CIO: You must have faced a lot of challenges with the constant change in the threat landscape throughout the year. How did you manage to deal with them?

Amit Nath: Yes, there have been two challenges majorly. One is on the product side and second, on team expansion. We always want to be ahead of the market; to try and anticipate what is going to happen next. For instance, we have a great product of vulnerability assessment. We have not really made too much progress on the vulnerability assessment side because the product was launched probably just 6 months ago. So while I do understand that it takes time, I would like to see much higher adoption of it because one has to know the problem to fix it. A little bit more traction on the vulnerability assessment has been one of the challenges.

The other challenge is on the people side. We always feel that when you are building a team and you are expanding your team, it is about hiring the right people. However, getting the right people is not always easy. Since our business is all about people, we like to hire faster but there is always a talent crunch in the security industry. So we try and manage what best we have as challenges are also opportunities.

BW CIO: What are your top priorities for 2018?

Amit Nath: In 2018 we would like to go back to our customers and really become there security consultants by educating them on how the threat landscape has changed and how we can help them become more secured. This year there were a few global ransomware attacks but none of our customers were impacted. So we aim to continue being cutting edge when it comes to security protection. However, such threats are not going down anytime soon, rather, they will only increase. So we want to constantly update our partners and customers with the best security practices in the coming year. We want to share more information with them when it comes to the latest threat reports for the ongoing scenario in the industry.

This industry largely focuses on predicting something and preventing it at the same time. While prediction and prevention will continue, we believe that there is a need for all our customers to understand that breaches will continue to happen so they must know how to handle them. We will follow the four cycles with our customer, i.e., how to predict, prevent, detect and respond. A lot of technology changes will happen on the product side so we need something more than a simple anti-virus or even a cutting edge anti-virus. Everything has to be leveraged on the technology as well as the people’s side to be able to understand the hackers’ behavior, how they get into your systems, how you can be ahead of them and how you can respond if a breach happens. Our job is to educate our customers on these four pillars.  

F-Secure India would continue to launch more new product especially around endpoint protection and response.  we have always had antivirus and now we are coming up with more product which helps CIOs  with cyber breaches how do the deal with it how do you do a response with that and how do they make their organization much more secure so a lot of new launches now coming in India from f secure.

BW CIO: Do you see India growing in terms of understanding the value of data and the consequences of cyber threats?

Amit Nath: Oh yes, they are. Large enterprises have always been in the forefront of protection. Verticals such as telecom, manufacturing, and IT are very far ahead of others. There is a fair bit of adoption now in SMEs too. Of course when you have global ransomware attacks like Wanna-cry and Petya, awareness around cyber security threats is released automatically. But in general, security is at the forefront of all organizations.  We are now seeing more adoption coming out of this changing landscape. So yes, people are definitely much aware now.

Nonetheless, we continue to educate them. We constantly strive to keep on educating our customers by running campaigns with our partners or by sending out information to our customers. There is always a need to keep on educating because India is a big market and technology can solve major parts of problems. It is always constant education, retraining, and sharing of best practices which will make us even better.

BW CIO: India was one of the countries which received worst hit by Wanna-Cry ransomware. How did you face the mass attack?

Amit Nath: The job of a security company is to protect. The customers trust us with their money because they want to have the best protection. We have been doing really well on the protection side as when Wanna-Cry ransomware attacked, none of our customers got impacted. The basic promise of protection was handled really well as none of our customers got impacted by wan Wanna-Cry; not only in India but globally as well. Our products have been predicting against ransomware from even before Wanna-Cry actually hit us. That was a really huge achievement and the biggest vote of confidence one would feel in a security product. One of the reasons that our technology that we have been using for so many years is so cutting edge is that it kept us ahead of the hackers and was able to handle it very well.

BW CIO: Cyber security has high potential in India. What tech trends do you believe will impact India in 2018?

Amit Nath: I do not see the threat of ransomware going down anytime soon.  I really believe this is just the beginning.  So ransom will continue to play a big threat in 2108. I also think that companies will probably invest more in new technologies and this again suggests that data leakage will continue to lead. Some companies may look very strongly at how they use BYOD from that perspective and how that impacts security.

On the other hand, cloud security is going to gain more importance as more businesses will increase using it. Hence, more attention will get shifted towards making it secure. People are already moving very aggressively towards its use.

BW CIO: How does the Digital India program impact security of our nation? How are you participating in the program?

Amit Nath: Digital India program impacts all of us. It is interesting how with Digital India, more and more people are going online and doing things which they were not doing earlier. A small example on how this movement affect us all would be- the increase in digital payments means increase in usage of credit and debit cards. This means requirement of more backend security for those transactions. We are always there in the back protecting data centers which enable such transactions.

Digital India, in its own way has increased digital investments and thus, new data centers are coming up-whether physically or virtual; and they need security. That is one way of participating in the initiative. However, we continue to focus on our corporate business which is where we are protecting a lot of companies and trying to keep their businesses secure.

We also work a lot with the state governments as well as the central to make sure their data and infrastructure stays safe. We provide them with our solutions but it depends on what aspect of their overall project we collaborate with. The government vertical is very important for us. We have some of the biggest customers in India that come from the government vertical. That is our contribution to Digital India.

BW CIO: What differentiates F-Secure from other companies?

Amit Nath: I would not say that we are different but our biggest quality is we care for our customers and keep them as the center of our universe and channel partners at the center of our thinking. So that everything we do, we do only if it is important to them. You can apply this customer and partner centric approach in every decision that you take. Products need to be built on how it will benefit its customers. So when we design products, we take their feedback. Similarly, when we make policy for your channel partners, we take their feedback. I would like f-secure to be remembered as a great customer or partner focused company.


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