While the growth in the consumer AV market was around 15 percent to 17 percent for the last couple of years, it has slowed down to 10 percent to 12 percent in 2013. However, there is a large opportunity to grab as still more than 80 percent of the PC consumers use free or downgraded versions or do not use protection at all. The need is to highlight the benefits that a branded full-version AV would offer compared to the free version.
“The complexity of threats has undergone sea change over the last few years. Cyber criminals write malware mostly for financial gains, so the criticality of protecting your network is vital. Hence, consumer AV market will certainly grow at higher rates,” says Ajay Kumar Joshi, Senior Manager, Channels, Kaspersky Lab South Asia.
At the same time, the drop in AV prices is also prompting consumers to buy AV software. “AV prices have fallen by as much as 50 percent in the home segment over the last two years,” notes Chennai based Sandeep Bagri of RS Computer. “This has encouraged more people to buy licensed versions rather that use a pirated copy or free version.”
Supports Sandeep Dhar, Senior Sales Manager, Security, Fortune Marketing, “Most of the consumers are now purchasing AV products when they buy desktops and notebooks. Hence, channel partners do carry at least one AV brand under their portfolio. It has now become a must-have category for better margins and up selling to customers.”
Most of the products available are 1-3 user licenses, available at an average price of Rs 500-1,200 for a single user license for a year. Some even have five-user licenses.
In the current market dynamics, increasing Web threats are driving the consumer AV market. According to McAfee, globally, 40,000-60,000 new malwares are hitting consumers everyday—and the number is rising daily.
Increasing consumer awareness over the last 2-3 years is another reason for AV growth. Consumers are realizing the importance of data protection, both personal and professional. With the increase in BYOD acceptance by corporates, many consumers need to protect their enterprise data on their personal PCs.
The increased penetration of the Internet in the hinterland is driving the demand for consumer AV in Class-B and -C cities. According to IAMAI, with 120 million users, India has the third largest Internet user base in the world; this number is expected to reach 350 million by 2015.
Gone are the days when a Web browser was used as a one-way tool to obtain information from the Internet; and interactive information was only exchanged via e-mail. Web browsers are now the bi-directional interface for a number of communication channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype, etc.
Online transactions have also increased over the years. According to a recent RBI report, from April 2011 to February 2012, online transactions using only debit cards at POS were worth Rs 480 billion. Consumers are now comfortable booking movie tickets, travel tickets and making online purchases.
This has also increased the threats. Online scams such as drive-by-downloads (links directing users to malicious Websites), phishing and spamming are commonly being used with sophistication and the intention to target specific segments of users. AV vendors are now busy writing codes to fight the menace.
While educating consumers on the benefits of AV and comprehensive security is still a big task to accomplish, major responsibility lies on vendors and partners.
Moreover, today malicious programs propagate so quickly that AV companies have to release updates as quickly as possible to minimize the exposure to the users. Unfortunately, many AV companies are unable to do this; users often receive updates once they are already infected.
Further, incompatibility between antivirus programs is an issue. In most of the cases, installing two AV programs from different vendors on a device (for increased protection) is technically impractical, as the two programs will disrupt each other’s functioning.
Changing threat landscape has made AV technology to evolve to the next level. Today, AV software does not mean a signature scanning tool; it has evolved into a full-fledged security suite. The AV market is moving to total protection which provides additional features such as parental control, firewall, anti-spyware and anti-phishing.
“Viruses are just a small subset of the malware that includes worms, trojans, rootkits and botnets. Additional protection is needed against adware, spyware, spam, Web-based risks and other malicious activities. Issues related to child abuse on the Internet, privacy and reputation loss for adults are also raising concerns,” avers Alok Gupta, MD, Unistal Systems.
Vendors are now more focused on selling total security products compared to AV alone. “AV does the basic job of protecting the computing device, but with the increasing threats consumers need a total protection suite that will not only protect from threats via external storage devices but also from the Internet and unauthorized logins,” explains Pankaj Jain, Director, Eset India (ESS Distribution).
“Now we are developing technologies which will neutralize growing threats and the problems that may arise in the near future. Rather than reacting to the threats, now the focus is to proactively identify and anticipate the future threats. This is the only way to break the vicious cycle of threats,” shares Joshi of Kaspersky Lab.
Mobile devices have become a new vector of infection. Cyber criminals are finding smartphones to be the new and easy way to reach out to users to steal their identity or sensitive data.
This trend is further strengthened by the use of mobile devices for online transactions such as utility bill payments, checking bank statements and other money transactions.
“Since most of the mobile devices like tablets and smartphones are still unprotected, it has become easier for cyber criminals to target these devices and do their job. Mobile threats are faster and can attack a wider user base as compared to traditional PCs. Hence, mobile security is gaining a lot of importance and will be the potential mainstay in the security products market,” says Sanjay Katkar, Co-Founder and CTO, Quick Heal.
“Mobile devices should be protected as they contain personal data and are vulnerable to malicious threats. Consumers often download infected applications while loading applications from the mobile apps stores. Hence, a robust mobile antivirus is essential,” says Ritesh Chopra, Country Manager India, Norton by Symantec.
“The AV market is gaining momentum with the mobile security products. While many of the consumers use free mobile security on their devices, discerning customers are now appreciating the benefits and robustness of branded mobile security products. In the long run, the consumer AV market will be led by mobile security,” says Alok Gupta, Director, Softmart Solutions.
Mobile security leading the way
Mobile security presents a good opportunity in India as the country has a huge mobile base of close to 900 million subscribers, out of whom 30 percent are smartphone users—and the number is growing. The proliferation of mobile devices is pushing AV growth because securing smartphones and tablets is a big concern.
“Now-a-days most customers are using multiple devices including smartphones and tablets for browsing, interacting and shopping online. These devices require full-fledged protection similar to the security installed on PCs. Looking at the current market scenario, customers are realizing the importance of having a unified security software product, which is compatible both on PCs as well as mobile devices,” explains Ajay Kumar Joshi, Senior Manager, Channels, Kaspersky Lab South Asia.
“While most of the smartphone and tablet users now ask for mobile security, we explain them the benefits and savings they can make by purchasing a comprehensive AV for multiple devices, including PC, smartphones and tablets,” shares Alok Gupta, Director, Softmart Solutions.
By purchasing a multi-device AV, consumers can save at least 20 percent compared to their separate purchases. This has led many consumers opting for multi-device AV solutions, he adds.
Moreover, mobile thefts are regular occurrences, which further make mobile security and multi-device AV highly essential. AV companies are offering specific mobile solutions that include remote wiping of data, parental lock and anti-theft functions. “Anti-theft features have now become the primary reason for customers opting for these solutions,” says Gupta of Softmart.
Free versus fee
Antivirus (AV) software is sold or distributed in many forms, from standalone AV scanners to complete Internet security suites that bundle antivirus with a firewall, privacy controls, and other adjunct security protection.
The top selling AV brands in the consumer segment including Quick Heal, Kaspersky, Norton, eScan, K7 and McAfee, do offer trail versions for free. However, few vendors like AVG, Avast and AntiVir offer downgraded versions of their AV software for free, for home usage.
“Yes, there are many AV software available for free but they are with limited features. It would not protect your system completely. Further, there are many free AV software which are bigger threats than actual viruses. Such AV products may leech data from user’s computer and would use them in an illegitimate way,” shares Pankaj Jain, Director, ESET India.
Seconds Ritesh Chopra, Country Manager, India & Saarc, Norton by Symantec, “It is essential for all consumers to consider using legitimate security software solutions as any other free/pirated version will not be robust and efficient. Cyber criminals often use free versions of security solutions as a bait to transfer malware unknown to the user resulting in a compromised device. We strongly recommend users to use a licensed antivirus product and stay away from free anti-virus offerings.”
While the vendors agree that free AV is not as robust as paid AV, a long-term software testing suggests that paid AV tend to demonstrate higher levels of prevention and virus removal than free AV software. On the flip side, free AV tend to be less feature-rich, thereby consuming fewer system resources which enables it run better on PCs with limited system capacity.
AV-as-a-service is an emerging trend in the consumer space. Many of the service providers are now offering AV as monthly subscription to their customers.
According to Quick Heal, managed services are going to be big in the next two years. “The industry is gradually moving toward managed AV even in the home segment. This will not only make the product cheaper but also increase penetration as more people can afford the services,” states Katkar of Quick Heal.
A leading mobile service provider is currently selling AV to its existing customers at Rs 25 per month. Something similar can be done by partners as well. Managed services will bring affordability and convenience.
“We believe that very soon Indian consumers will start adopting managed AV services and will depend on partners who can make a good profit from the business,” suggests Gupta of Unistal Systems.