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Margrith Appleby is Kaspersky’s General Manager Australia and New Zealand. She joined the world of cybersecurity 18 months ago and spoke to GadgetGuy on the issues of the times.

Kaspersky ANZ headhunted Swiss-born Margrith Appleby in 2017 to be GM, Austalia and New Zealand. At that time, there was significant company upheaval as the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) targeted Russian-based Kaspersky as its ‘geopolitical’ poster boy.

Kaspersky saw in Margrith Appleby’s 30 years in IT, a person who focused on large, important issues. As her customers at HP and later, Lenovo would often say, “Don’t send me a salesperson – we want Margrith.”

Her passion that, “We must run to the fire, help put it out – not add fuel to it” describes her working for the Russian-based company. “Yes, DHS had concerns, and we have addressed them openly and honestly.”

Her genial, energetic, intelligent approach has worked – Kaspersky ranks in the top three ANZ cybersecurity providers and is doing exceptionally well.

GadgetGuy interviewed Margrith on her 18 month anniversary.

GG: Kaspersky stated in 1997 in Russia.

Eugene Kaspersky often says that was where the best hackers are bred although the debate is still raging over the quality of the hordes of hungry hackers from China and Asia.

HQ is in Russia, and home sales account for about 15% of revenue (Europe is 33%, USA 25%). Global HQ is in the UK, and it has facilities in Dubai, UAE; Istanbul, Turkey; London, Mexico; South Africa; Brazil; Switzerland, Singapore; the USA and here in Sydney and Melbourne.

And that does not count the 100+ companies that licence the Kaspersky engine and Whitelabel their solutions. We may have started there but we certainly did not stop there!

GG: Kaspersky is one of the last cybersecurity companies to bear and active founders name. Does that make a difference?

You know it is hard when the company name and the founder is one and the same – you take it personally. That is the main difference between our competitors and us – there is a real person at the top.

Many companies would adopt the foetal position when faced with an adversary like DHS. Kaspersky took it in his stride and did a magnificent job in establishing the Global Transparency Initiative (GTI) in Switzerland. It showed that we have nothing to hide. Eugene Kaspersky believes that GTI is the most critical way to gain trust and is proud to be the first to offer such transparency. There will be more GTI centres – we hope for one here!

Eugene Kaspersky

GG: What are your most significant successes over the past 18 months

I have seen that ‘magic moment’ where the conversation shifts from ‘Who are you and what’s the offer/price?’ to “We hear Kaspersky can help us to keep the bad guys out – let’s talk”.

GG: Kaspersky recently teamed up with comedian Joe White at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. What was that about?

This industry is known for selling by F.U.D (fear, uncertainty and deception). We felt it was necessary to use a fresh approach to get people to pay attention to cybersecurity.

Who hasn’t received a scam email? Who then, unfortunately, clicked on a dodgy link or opened a virus-ridden file? Unfortunately getting people to recognise these risks has proved difficult.

If you can make someone laugh about something serious, it tends to hold their attention. Our expertise is cybersecurity. Joe’s is to make people laugh at serious things – security is not a laughing matter.

GG: Can you tell us about GReAT (Global Research & Analysis Team)

These are Kaspersky’s best. The 40+ team are ridiculously smart, clever, and speak a language I can’t even begin to grasp. We are so lucky to have team member Noushin Shabab based here.

GReAT is a tremendous asset to help customers that have had security issues to understand what happened and why. For my part, I reach out to Noushin to help me understand the threat scene and what action we should proactively take in ANZ.

GReAT is the secret sauce that helps Kaspersky be a leader.

Noushin Shabab at INTERPOL World, Singapore
GReAT member for Australia and Senior Security Researcher Noushin Shabab at INTERPOL World, Singapore

GG: Where do you find cybersecurity staff in Australia

We recently recruited a cybersecurity professional for our Sydney team. International applicants inundated us but we wanted a local who could hit the ground running.

You know, it’s a shame that there is such a limited talent pool in Australia. We are trying to help tertiary institutions address that – but that is a whole other discussion. (See GadgetGuy’s ‘Fighting Cybercrime could be your future’).

GG: What is the most important customer lesson you have learned over the past 18 months?

We have three classes of customers – consumer, SMB and large enterprise.

Consumer

A consumer has three options

  • Do nothing, as too many do (especially those Mac users) – dangerous
  • Use a free product like Windows Defender or the many often adware-laced freemium products – basic endpoint protection only
  • Buy a paid subscription – and assume they all do the same job

Last year the TOP3 metric placed Kaspersky as number one – a position we have held for most of this decade (the big Green dot below is Kaspersky). That means we stop more nasties and identify more threats than most offerings.

TOP3

The hardest consumer message is to equate price with value/features. Our staff (about 30 here) and marketing budgets are minor compared to the other two main players. But we take pride that most consumers renew each year – an impressive benchmark. We just need to get the word out that we are a top-three, innovative and safe choice.

Kaspersky Home

SMB (from 1-999 employees)

SMB has traditionally been all about endpoint protection. It needs much more now as SMB moves more services to the cloud and has an increasingly mobile or telecommuting workforce.

Our original focus on ‘in-office’ Kaspersky Small Office Security – ‘install and forget’ and ‘no system administrator needed’ is changing. With the increasing use of cloud email and storage, cloud-hosted e-commerce apps and databases, ransomware and socially engineered spear-phishing, we see a move to Kaspersky Cloud where we can manage most security for you.

We train our channel partners (everyone from the neighbourhood computer guru to the huge managed IT services companies) in what is best for each SMB’s circumstance – it is not one size fits all. But ransomware or a data breach could put an SMB out of business, so we focus on overall ‘set and forget’ protection.

Kaspersky SMB

Enterprise (1000+ employees)

We don’t get embroiled in feature-for-feature comparisons with the two other leading ‘endpoint’ security players. We believe that no single cybersecurity provider can meet the entire corporate needs. We do not suggest ‘rip and replace’ (remove the competitor’s products) but focus on areas that we can work cooperatively with other solutions to help improve overall security.

In the end-point space (protecting computers, smartphones and tablets) we all do similar things. We all have some form of security based on our user’s experience in the wild.

Our major success is in paving over the cracks between existing products and being responsive to individual needs. We find that system administrators and CTOs tend to know what cybersecurity vendors are best at what aspects and over time, settle on a tight range of products.

We find that geeks drive Kaspersky purchases, and that is our best recommendation.

We have specialist offerings for Government, Fintech, Transport, Telecom, Industrial control, Healthcare and Retail. You begin to develop a reputation for being the best niche alternative.

Our channel partners drive most of our sales here. They know their client’s needs – it is not a piecemeal approach.

Kaspersky Enterprise

GG: What would you buy if you wanted home family security?

I have been in the IT industry for a long time, so I know that I need something. Over that time, I have bought the best known – over the counter at JB Hi-Fi or the local computer store. But you know what? I never really looked in detail at what it does – just prayed it did – and I never really saw any difference between the top two players.

Two things are now more evident from working at Kaspersky.

One, there are differences in protection levels, and you only get what you pay for. If you only buy the lowest cost white-list-based, Anti-virus/Malware/Ransomware solution, then that will not protect you against spear phishing, IoT (security and baby cameras and speakers), poisoned websites and network hijacking.

Second, and I say this with proof and humility – Kaspersky has been the Winx of the cybersecurity race for over a decade. We are a safe bet and perhaps one day, the favourite.

Our next-generation and best overall protection is Kaspersky Security Cloud for Family – antivirus; anti-ransomware; mobile security; password management; VPN; parental controls; privacy tools; data leak detection; Home Wi-Fi security; payment protection – all easy to manage for $115 for 20 devices (Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, and iPadOS).

Kaspersky family

Yes, it is a ‘kitchen sink’ approach, but we think that the wild-west of the internet needs that now – a new adaptive security cloud that lets you share security with your family and their devices as they need it.

GG: Margrith Appleby – any last words?

Thirty years at HP and later, Lenovo was a solid proving ground for my corporate and business transformation skills. It also gave me an intimate understanding of all IT markets – consumer, SMB, corporate, enterprise, government, military, utilities – the lot.

When Kaspersky came knocking, I very quickly knew that this was a good fit. An ethical and innovative company, a leader in its field and part of one of the most significant social and business issues ever – privacy and security online.

I now realise that cybersecurity is so much more and as yet have not found a single client that we could not help.

Our big challenge in Australia is to quickly breed the next generation of cybersecurity experts or risk enterprise, state and even personal data used against us. We are the lucky country, and we need to protect that.

To that end, we are doing a lot with Universities and TAFEs to help breed the next generation of cybersecurity experts and run the annual SecureIT Cup to promote more student awareness.

Margrith Appleby and Tacy Tan
Tracy Tan (L) and Kaspersky Australia CEO Margrith Appleby (R)

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