Bitdefender CEO Florin Talpes: ‘The retail sector is vital to our business model’

With a number of recent appointments and territory expansions under its belt, Laura Barnes speaks to CEO Florin Talpes to find out more about Bitdefender’s plans for keeping businesses and consumers safe...
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Set to celebrate its 18th year in business in 2019, Romanian cybersecurity firm Bitdefender has spent those years helping consumers and businesses alike fight against the latest cyber threats.

With a worldwide network of 500 million machines, Bitdefender has the largest security delivery infrastructure in the world. Coupled with a strong portfolio of security software and a long tradition of trendsetting, the company has positioned itself as a trustworthy protector of families and corporations in over 150 countries.

With the Bitdefender BOX set to launch in the UK in the coming months, and the company working its way through a significant global expansion strategy, PCR caught up with the cybersecurity firm’s CEO, Florin Talpes, to find out how important the retail channel is to Bitdefender’s future plans, and innovations it has been working on:

How has business been in 2018?

Bitdefender has experienced a high growth trajectory for a few years in a row now. We estimate this to continue with an increase in revenues of 20% this year, especially due to our strong and varied portfolio.

Going into our 18th year of activity in the cybersecurity market, our focus has always been on the top performance of our products, as this brings significant value to our customers. That’s why our investments across the last three years have been geared towards the development of our unique technologies. These include solutions designed for workload security, running on software-defined, hyper-converged, and cloud infrastructures. In addition, we’ve also been aggressively investing in the development of our IoT security portfolio.

But, the most important resource that has enabled all our innovations has been the people. Bitdefender has tripled its talent pool in the past five years, to more than 1600, including 900 in the company’s headquarters in Bucharest.

“Our focus has always been on the top performance of our products”

From the beginning of 2018 to date, we’ve been consolidating our management and R&D teams, and also reinforcing our go-to-market execution power for our enterprise business through a series of strategic executive hires from leading companies. To accommodate our development plan, we are also in the process of relocating our Bucharest headquarters to the heart of the biggest technical university campus in Romania.

What’s the most interesting thing about security right now?

The most interesting thing about the security industry at the moment is that it’s asymmetric to the cybercrime industry. Security vendors have to constantly be able to defend clients and offer the best protection against any type of threat, all the time, for everyone. Attackers on the other hand have to breach security just once to be successful. This constant antithesis is all the more interesting as cybercrime groups become more structured, and behave like professional, knowledgeable businesses, driving security vendors to constantly innovate and develop new technologies to proactively counter even the most sophisticated threats. While this may sound like a daunting task for security vendors, it’s actually the catalyst that accelerates the innovation process.

Tell us about your current product line up.

Bitdefender’s product line covers both home users and businesses, with offerings and technologies to address threats for each segment. We offer security for traditional devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets, but also for connected homes, small businesses, hybrid infrastructures or enterprise data centers. While helping businesses navigate the complex threat landscape by securing their infrastructures is at the core of our offerings, our technologies are also built with performance in mind, in order to enable organisations to meet digitalisation demands and reap the associated benefits.

We’ve had a long tradition as trendsetters, and Bitdefender BOX is a perfect example of that. It was the first IoT security solution on the market that was developed to secure any internet-connected smart device from threats. Although IoT penetration in the market was not at its highest at the time, we saw not just how disruptive IoTs will become, but also how great of a security risk they would pose.

More than six years ago, we analysed the way infrastructures will evolve and concluded that virtualisation will play a vital role in cloud deployments, changing the way we think of data centers. This was the first step towards identifying how threats will evolve to address these changes, and enabled us to build a unique technology that could counter them.

Bitdefender Hypervisor Introspection is a revolutionary layer of security that’s built to take advantage of the benefits virtualisation offers, but at the same time move security outside the operating system so that it cannot be compromised, even when protecting against new or unknown vulnerabilities. We’ve always tried to build security technologies that not only safeguard against current threats, but most importantly, protect against future ones.

As expected, in the enterprise space, large organisations optimise their infrastructure ROI, capex and opex through modern on-premises data centers and public cloud deployments. However, this digital transformation journey is often hampered by traditional security, ill-equipped for new multi cloud architectures. As a result, these solutions often increase IT complexity and operational cost, and decrease control and visibility across hybrid environments.

Bitdefender BOX

Bitdefender BOX

At the same time, valuable company assets and corporate information may be exposed to the most sophisticated threats, or even to targeted attacks. This is the reason we built our GravityZone solutions from the ground up, for cloud and virtualisation, not only to meet strict security requirements but also to enhance agility, minimise operational costs and provide enterprises with full visibility into their deployments.

How important is the retail sector to Bitdefender?

At Bitdefender we consider the retail sector as being a vital part of our integrated customer-centric business model. Comprehensive information security within the retail space is essential, especially with so many touch-points available both online and off for today’s customers. Ten years ago customer purchasing behaviour evolved, from traditional

offline channels towards online, due to increased flexibility and cost savings. Now, we’re seeing a transformation of offline channels with the aim of providing more added value to the customer, such as having products bundled with certain installation and optimisation services. As such, we’ve seen a dramatic change from a linear purchase flow to a cycle, or even a web. Consumers move back and forth between the stages, influenced by both offline and online triggers across a variety of locations.

Therefore, it’s more important than ever before that organisations are taking steps to not only recognise and embrace this multi-channel strategy, but also ensure that they are doing everything within their control to safeguard and protect customer information as it moves across their infrastructures.

Bitdefender has recently announced a significant expansion strategy, how will this affect your position in the market?

The most important market for Bitdefender in terms of revenue has been the US, which now accounts for more than 40% of our global business. Besides expanding our reach in North America with our data center offering, Bitdefender’s growth strategy also focuses on expanding into new territories. As part of that plan we are currently enhancing our presence in Northern Europe, where we recently opened an office in Sweden, consolidating our presence in Western Europe, and expanding into the APAC region. Last year we acquired a partner in France – a team of 50 sales and marketing professionals and a French-speaking support organisation – that will help Bitdefender grow its share of the French enterprise and consumer markets.

“We consider the retail sector as being a vital part of our integrated customer-centric business model”

We also just finalised the acquisition of the Bitdefender business line from our long-standing Australian partner, SMS eTech, establishing a direct, official presence in the Australia and New Zealand market. From this new base in Melbourne, the Bitdefender Australia office will serve as a local springboard to accelerate Bitdefender’s growth across the region, with an eye to consolidating channel relationships, online sales, and expanding into retail across the ANZ market. We will continue this strategy in the coming months, aiming to further strengthen our direct presence in Europe and the Far East.

You’ve also made some recent appointments to the management team. How will these benefit the business?

Three years ago we started developing our enterprise hub in Santa Clara, California, enforcing our go-to-market execution power for our enterprise business through a series of strategic executive hires. Just this year, Andy Philpott joined the London office as VP of Enterprise Sales EMEA, Joe Sykora is the new VP of Worldwide Channel Development based in Santa Clara, Michael Gable has been leading the Data Center Sales team since April, and Monika Goldberg joined this September as VP of Corporate Marketing. We believe that this combined experience will enable Bitdefender’s accelerated double digit growth within the enterprise segment.

What security innovations have you been working on for business users?

Businesses face many unique challenges in terms of threats, especially since infrastructures and data centers have embraced virtualisation because of its obvious performance and cost benefits. However, traditional security is not an enabler for this transformation, as it wasn’t built to factor in these benefits, or the sophistication of threats that would target these environments. Vulnerabilities, known or unknown, are a major concern for organisations.

Traditional infosec solutions are mostly focused on detecting malware payloads that have already landed inside the operating system (OS), trying to subvert the capabilities of the security solution, or the OS. With Hypervisor Introspection, we changed the security paradigm by focusing on detecting the attack techniques that threat actors use to deliver malware, and placed the security outside the operating system. This unique approach makes Hypervisor Introspection an extremely effective new security layer that’s impossible to compromise, by even the most sophisticated threats. All the while enabling maximum infrastructure utilisation with no performance penalties.

While defending against threats and attacks is a vital component for businesses, visibility into how those threats operate within infrastructures has become both critical and mandatory. Regulations, such as GDPR, require businesses to provide a complete and comprehensive security report when detecting a data breach, in order to prevent future similar incidents from occurring. With infrastructures becoming increasingly complex – on-premise, in the cloud, hybrid, virtual, and physical – one of the biggest challenges for large deployments is that IT and security personnel are usually overburdened and overworked, which means they’re constantly fighting alert fatigue.

"For the consumer segment we’re going to focus on bringing Bitdefender BOX into people’s homes"

We’re helping organisations fight alert fatigue as well as prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to threats, by expanding the capabilities of traditional security solutions with automatic alert triage and incident analysis visualisation.

Time is the most valuable resource that organisations cannot afford to overspend, which is why our solutions have automatic detection capabilities coupled with advanced incident alerts, to provide a toolset that’s focused only on relevant security incidents. We’re giving organisations all the analysis and incident response solutions they need to investigate and respond to advanced threats today, and into the future.

What can consumers expect to see from Bitdefender in the near future?

For the consumer segment we’re going to focus on bringing Bitdefender BOX into people’s homes, including the UK when its released in the next couple of months. The fast-paced adoption of IoT devices requires a new approach towards security, as most of them have been proven to be vulnerable and lack even basic defense capabilities.

Bitdefender has addressed these security challenges with the first iteration of the Bitdefender BOX, and now we’re bringing the second generation to market, with lots of additional functionality, both in terms of security and hardware. Securing connected homes is no longer optional, as most devices – from smart TVs to smart thermostats and internet-connected cameras – can be hacked, controlled, and potentially used to threaten your privacy or data. Our mission is to protect users from all that, regardless of what devices they have, or how many. 

PCR's Sector Spotlight on Security - in association with BullGuard - is running throughout October - click here for more articles.

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