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Targeting SMBs for next phase of growth in India: Symantec India’s Gaurav Agarwal

Targeting SMBs for next phase of growth in India: Symantec India’s Gaurav Agarwal
Gaurav Agarwal

When it comes to cyberattacks, India ranks third globally. The country’s vulnerability to such attacks rose from 5% in 2017 to 8% in 2018, a report by cybersecurity firm Symantec Corp stated.

In contrast, the US and China, which are ranked one and two, respectively, saw a decline in cyberattacks in 2018. The report also added that Internet of Things-related attacks were also high in 2018 and a new form of PowerShell attacks have also emerged.

The cybersecurity firm, which offers security services for email, cloud, endpoint and network, claims to be the largest in the segment both globally and in India in terms of revenue and market share.

According to Gaurav Agarwal, Symantec’s India and SAARC managing director, artificial intelligence is the best way to address these security issues.

In a conversation with TechCircle, Agarwal further talks about why the company is looking at small and medium businesses and the cloud for its next phase of growth. Edited excerpts:

What is the status of Symantec’s business in India and how do you plan to expand it?

Despite being the market leader, we continue to see a healthy growth rate in India every year. The bulk of our revenues come from the enterprise side of the business here, as compared to a more 50:50 ratio, globally. Our enterprise customers come mainly from the BFSI, IT/ITes and telecom segments. We are also working closely with different state governments, especially in smart cities projects.

Because we are so strong on the enterprise side, we are now looking to acquire more SMBs as customers to expand our business. One of things we have done in that regard is to partner with Airtel to provide our services.

We also want to expand our channel partner ecosystem geographically at a very local (Tier I and II) level so that we are able to reach more people. We also work with system integrators such as Wipro and IBM. We also plan to expand the length and breadth of our services in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, where we see a huge growth opportunity.

A recent report published by Symantec stated that India is one of the top three markets vulnerable to cyberattacks. Have the security budgets for enterprises changed?

There has been a rising awareness regarding cybersecurity in Indian enterprises and government offices. Typically, enterprises are seeing a 5-15% rise in budgets especially with the banking and the IT/ITes sector. For the government sector, or rather any project or deployment, at least 8-10% of the total budget is dedicated to cybersecurity.

The report paints a grim picture for India. What kind of attacks is the country likely to witness?

As India embarks on its digital transformation journey, enterprises and their employees will adopt digital strategies to increase productivity while at the same time saving costs. This will open up a lot of avenues for attackers to either try and attack employees individually or hold enterprises hostage.

Just to give you a few numbers – nearly one in ten targeted attack groups now use malware to destroy and disrupt business operations, which is a 25% rise from 2017; enterprise ransomware infections have jumped 12% in 2018 and is more likely to be the largest threat in 2019; and cloud resources are increasingly becoming easy targets with hackers stealing more than 70 million records from public cloud storage buckets.

Internet of Things devices, according to our data, face more than 5,200 attacks on an average. Also, newer kinds of attacks, such as those using PowerShell, have also risen in numbers. Symantec itself blocks at least 115,000 malicious PowerShell attacks each month.

Fighting or protecting against these kinds of attacks must be a challenge. How are you executing your strategy?

The best possible way to do this right now is artificial intelligence. Most of our products or services come with machine learning and intelligence built-in. We collect information from 9 million telemetric points or endpoints on what kind of attack-attempts each of one them is facing. We then drive them together into our data lakes to create a unified or common threat repository which has the intelligence built-in to read, classify and deploy into all our products to stop such attacks in the future.

We also have a security operations centre (SoC) in Chennai, our largest globally, that employs over 140 people to help us defend enterprises. An SoC can be described as a facility where enterprise information systems (websites, applications, databases, data centres and servers, networks, desktops and other endpoints) are monitored, assessed and defended.

What also helps us are the data lakes of US-based Blue Coat that we acquired in 2016. The company provided hardware, software and services designed for cybersecurity and network management.

Does cloud represent a big opportunity for Symantec in India?

Yes, it does in the coming years. Companies are slowly moving their workloads to the cloud and the first thing they are more likely to move is email. Symantec globally monitors more than two billion emails, which is approximately half of the global email traffic, and hence, we are better positioned to offer more protection against email attacks.

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