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.”
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.