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Tech ARP Interviews Keith Martin Of F-Secure

Exclusive : Tech ARP Interviews Keith Martin Of F-Secure!

F-Secure Regional Director of APAC and Japan, Keith Martin, flew into Singapore to ink a major regional partnership agreement with ACE Pacific Group. Timothy Shim from Tech Barrista and I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Martin about cybersecurity trends in Asia Pacific and worldwide.

 

Tech ARP Interviews Keith Martin

Keith Martin is the Head of Asia Pacific Corporate Business, F-Secure. Here was our exclusive interview with Mr. Martin after he officially signed the APAC partnership agreement with ACE Pacific Group.

The Cybersecurity Business

Tech ARP : How has your long experience in Japan helped you with F-Secure’s business in Japan?

Keith Martin : Japan is one of the largest market for F-Secure, and we are trying to replicate that (success) in the APAC region.

Tech ARP : Are you still based in Japan?

Keith Martin : Yes, but I have now racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles.

Tech ARP : What are your thoughts on the cybersecurity market in the APJ (Asia Pacific and Japan) region?

Keith Martin : Japan is a large market, but the growth rates are relatively stable. We look at the Asia Pacific region (which includes India, Australia and New Zealand), as the next source of growth for F-Secure.

Tech ARP : What are your plans, and areas of focus, for the APJ region?

Keith Martin : Without question, Singapore is going to be a major focus for F-Secure, as well as Australia and New Zealand. We just signed a major partnership agreement with ACE Pacific, which will be a cornerstone of our strategy in coming years.

Cybersecurity Backdoors

Tech ARP : Chinese and Russian companies have been hit by accusations of cyber espionage and hacking, loose security and/or inserting backdoors into their products. Do you see this as a good opportunity to promote F-Secure’s products, or is this a poison pill for the entire industry?

Keith Martin : I don’t think it’s a poison pill for the entire industry. I have never seen any direct evidence that these go beyond mere accusations, but I understand the need to be cautious. One of the things that F-Secure is proud of is our policy that we will never add a backdoor into our products.

We are willing to walk away from any business if it means adding a backdoor. This is just the way we operate, because Finland has extremely tough privacy laws.

I think it’s absolutely an opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves (from the other cybersecurity companies) with our public pledge never to add backdoors in our software.

Tech ARP : Some countries like China and Russia are demanding access to encryption keys, and in some cases, requiring registration of VPN services. How do those tightening laws affect F-Secure products like Freedome VPN?

Keith Martin : F-Secure is very focused on maintaining the security of our products, so if those are the requirements, we will decline and get out of those markets. We would rather walk away from the potential business, than compromise the security of our products.

Government Interest

Tech Barrista : On the geopolitical implications of malware, do you feel that governments are increasingly more focused on cybersecurity on a national scale?

Keith Martin : For sure. We now see nation states attacking each other. There’s no denying that fact. Look at Stuxnet, that malware (which was targeted at Iran) got released into the wild and suddenly, people have the technology to use it elsewhere for nefarious purposes. I think that any country that does not pay attention to cybersecurity is sticking their heads into the sand.

Tech Barrista : Do you feel that this presents a greater opportunity for F-Secure?

Keith Martin : It represents opportunity, of course, but our mission as a company is to stop the spread of malware and cybersecurity attacks, wherever they happen. It’s a kind of Catch-22 situation, where we wish that nation states would not attack each other, but yes, we have the opportunity to help them protect themselves against such attacks.

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Transparency

Tech ARP : What is F-Secure doing to promote and enhance source code transparency? Like opening up transparency centers?

Keith Martin : At this point in time, there are no plans to do so. We have a very good reputation throughout our 30-year history of being straightforward and upfront. I have never seen any accusations against us of malicious activities.

Tech ARP : Does F-Secure allow corporations or countries with concerns to inspect their code?

Keith Martin : I don’t know of any specific situations in Asia Pacific where F-Secure has allowed this. It may have been allowed in other regions, where governments have specific concerns, but I’m not aware of those situations.

Malware Galore!

Tech ARP : Ransomware and phishing attacks are big problems these days. Can you detail how F-Secure can help users prevent or mitigate the risks of ransomware and/or phishing attacks.

Keith Martin : Third-party analysis of our software show that we are actually better at detecting these 0-day attacks than any other companies out there. We pride ourselves in detecting not just the malware we know about, but also the malware we don’t about, using technologies we have been developing over the last 20 years.

We have a multi-layered engine, where we use everything from the basic pattern matching technology, to heuristics, etc. so that if it doesn’t catch the malware on the first layer, it will catch the malware on the second or third or fourth layer.

Tech Barrista : Is malware-as-a-service now common?

Keith Martin : It is becoming more and more common. The entry barrier to launching a malware attack is now much lower due to the ability to outsource the creation of the malware.

Cybersecurity Risks Of IoT Devices

Tech Barrista : With cybercriminals leveraging the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, how much more complex do you see the cybersecurity landscape becoming?

Keith Martin : It’s becoming incredibly complex. Our Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen said, “Once you connect something to the Internet, it’s vulnerable“. Billions of devices connected to the Internet become potential attack vectors for cybercriminals.

Most IoT devices don’t have good security. If you can get into one of those devices, you can get into the network through them.

Tech ARP : Does F-Secure have any products to mitigate the risks of poorly-secured IoT devices?

Keith Martin : On the consumer side, we have F-Secure Sense, which protects every device on your network.

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Keith Martin’s Professional Bio

Keith Martin has been Country Manager for F-Secure Japan for 2 years, before being promoted in February 2018 to oversee the entire Asia Pacific region.

Prior to joining F-Secure in 2015, he spent a decade in the telephony and contact center space, first working for four years in Avaya Japan as Director of Multinational Account Sales, followed by six years serving as Japan Country Manager for Interactive Intelligence, a pioneer in cloud contact center technology.

Before that, Keith also spent three years at internet startup ValueCommerce helping build their web hosting platform business before the company was acquired by Yahoo Japan. He got his start at global IT services provider EDS (now HP), delivering IT services to numerous financial industry accounts.

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Smart Home: IoT Adoption And Security Accountability

5 December 2016 – One day, everything will be buttonless. Nobody will ever need to grab the remote to turn on the television or hit a switch to kill the lights. These devices will just do what they’re supposed to, all by themselves, without any physical prompts from the user. They won’t be set off by claps, or voice commands, or hand gestures in the air. They will gain a certain level of independence that will diminish the need for human interaction. This is the very inevitable, very near, and very real future. Smart technology is here, and it’s only getting smarter.

Welcome to the Smart Home

Often, people talk about these technologies and the internet of things (IoT) as if automation were the only criteria for gadgets and infrastructure to be called smart. But it’s more than just that.

Firstly, for any device to fall under IoT, it needs to go beyond its original basic functions. It has to be able to receive, process, and transmit digital information the way a personal computer normally does. In order to do this, it should meet a second requirement—connectivity. The device should have the ability to connect to the internet or even communicate with other smart machines around it.

Think of it this way: A smart home fitted with automated blinds can have them immediately open once the sun rises. This triggers the smart lightbulbs inside the house to turn off. This relay of actions allows natural sunlight to come in, illuminating the house while saving on energy. Another example of devices communicating with each other is when a smart TV’s volume goes down every time a phone call comes in. This makes it easier for the user to notice the call.

Both automation and connectivity have helped push IoT forward, but, in the same way, they have also held it back.

The Inevitable Rise of Home IoT Adoption

For a number of years, the mass adoption of IoT has stalled. Users found smart devices impractical. The production of these one-off gadgets was very costly, thus driving up their prices. A few years ago, they were more of a luxury than a necessity. On top of this, not every country in the world has the kind of infrastructure needed to make internet access available to everyone. The early adopters were limited to enthusiasts who had the money to afford IoT devices and were based in regions that allowed them to optimally use their devices.

But the market has since shifted. People are clamoring for smarter things to either ease their daily lives or be a source of personal pleasure. And the industry is taking notice.

The market has since shifted. People are clamoring for smarter things to either ease their daily lives or be a source of personal pleasure. And the industry is taking notice.

Multi-billion dollar companies out of Silicon Valley are trying to one-up each other in terms of innovation, offering a very diverse collection of IoT devices to the public. Companies, regardless of size, that are not willing to acknowledge this shift will eventually get left behind. Some things that come to mind are those cellphone giants that did not respond to the shifting consumer demand for smarter phones. They eventually disappeared.

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Research and advisory firm Gartner even predicted that there will be over one billion connected devices in use by 2018, and that figure alone is just for smart homes. Another billion devices are projected to be used in smart commercial buildings. The remaining billion devices are divided accordingly to industries such as healthcare, transportation, and other organizations that make up fully functional smart cities.

Japan and Germany are two of the many countries whose urban areas are already embracing smart homes. In these places, IoT has become ingrained in people’s lives to the point of necessity.

In metropolitan Japan, where commuting takes a big toll, workers are able to save time and energy during their long rides from their office to their house through home automation. Apartments with smart cookers, for example, can churn out meals which should be ready by the time their owners step through the front door.

In Germany, where the elderly make up a significant portion of the population, a number of people have opted to use smart health-monitoring devices. In the event of an emergency, like a heart attack, the device can trigger a call for emergency assistance. These monitors can save people’s lives.

Holding Accountability for Home IoT Security

The rise of the home IoT adoption rate will ultimately increase the competition between several players in the market. But with no unified regulating body to instill functional and security standards on these devices’ manufacturers, this can lead to several security issues in the long run.

This then begs the question: Who should be responsible for IoT security?

The IoT landscape is continuously evolving. As IoT branches out from user homes and into the city, users become significantly more powerless.

Should it be the IoT users? At the moment, it seems to be the case. Users have the freedom to decide which IoT devices to introduce to their homes. They can opt to install a smart home entertainment system in their house knowing what kind of information they could be sending back to the device manufacturer every time they use it. It’s an ongoing tradeoff, with users weighing their personal privacy and safety against their personal comfort and satisfaction.

But the IoT landscape is continuously evolving. As IoT branches out from user homes and into the city, users become significantly more powerless.

A good illustration would be new smart condominium units already being fitted with IoT devices like security cameras or emergency sensors. People who will be moving into these spaces will have no other choice but to opt in to that level of surveillance. Just imagine if all future building developments, both private and public, were required to have these IoT devices in place.

Once smart technologies get broadly used for public utility buildings or vehicles, users will have no reign over their privacy and personal security. The brunt of that responsibility ultimately shifts from the users to the IoT manufacturers. What risks should manufacturers foresee to protect both their users and their organizations from potential disaster?

 

 

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