Safety Detective’s Aviva Zacks learned all about how a young child, fascinated by computer viruses, became a cybersecurity superstar. Read our interview with Fabian Wosar, Emsisoft’s CTO.
Safety Detective: Tell me how you got into cybersecurity and what you love about it.
Fabian Wosar: I grew up in East Germany and in 1990, when I was six, the reunification of Germany happened. My dad lost his job and he started working at a school teaching people how to use computers to improve their chances of getting a new job. I visited him at school one day and that was the first time that I got to touch a computer. I was completely fascinated by it. I spent the next three years saving up money to buy my own PC, which I got when I was 10.
It didn’t take me long to get my first computer virus, which was Tequila-B. The idea of a computer virus fascinated me, so I went to the library, and read two or three books about computer viruses. I taught myself assembly when I was 11 and started writing my own antivirus tools for various viruses that I got from friends. I started collecting viruses and analyzing them.
I love cybersecurity because it’s a very dynamic field. There are always new puzzles—new challenges—to overcome. I love puzzles, so working in cybersecurity is like heaven to me.
SD: What are Emsisoft’s main tools for keeping us safe from cyberthreats?
FW: Our flagship product is Emsisoft Anti-Malware. We think that the best approach to security is a very layered approach, so we mix traditional technologies like signature-based detection and emulation together with machine learning as well as real-time analysis of application behavior and detection of malicious behavior.
SD: What industries would use your services and why?
FW: Most companies that use us are small to medium businesses. They like us because we are exceptionally good when it comes to customer support. Not only are our products effective, but we also have a very competent support team that supports our users, especially small or medium-sized businesses that don’t have a dedicated IT staff. Support becomes exceptionally important to them because it is hard for them to get a handle on highly complex security systems. Not only do we provide great protection for them, but we also provide exceptionally good customer support.
SD: What is today’s worst cyberthreat in your opinion?
FW: If you are a home user, the kind of threat landscape is very different from what companies are dealing with. For home users, I would say that adware and potentially unwanted programs are the biggest issues. When you download a free application and it comes bundled with things like browser extensions that are spying on you. Ransomware is also an issue for home users; however, we have seen that home users’ rate of ransomware attacks has gone down drastically, while for companies, the number of ransomware attacks has increased greatly.
SD: What’s the differentiation between them?
FW: First of all, home users often don’t really have a lot of valuable data. They usually have memories like photos, pictures, videos, etc. These are often stored on a mobile device and the mobile device is usually backed up to iCloud, Google Cloud, or Google Drive. If all their pictures and videos get encrypted on their system, they can just download it again. As a result, home users will never pay a ransom and they just move on if they can’t decrypt their files for free.
Companies, however, usually do have a lot of important data that they need to keep safe. They often also have cyber insurance because there may be certain regulations in their country or for their type of industry that requires them to have cyber insurance.
SD: Can you tell me about cyber insurance?
FW: There are two aspects to cyber insurance. Firstly, they cover your costs of getting hacked and asked for ransom. Secondly, they will also cover the loss of revenue. The problem is that cyber insurance companies have obligations to their shareholders. Their primary goal is to keep their own costs down, so if you are faced with either wasting two weeks to restore your backups or just paying the ransomware author, they will try to gently nudge you in the direction of paying the ransom because that is probably cheaper for them.
Cyber insurance companies are more likely to pay the ransom, which is why ransom prices have exploded in the last two years, in my opinion. As long as ransomware authors stay below the loss of revenue, cyber insurance will probably still pay, especially for a large company. They can ask for six or seven figures and get the ransom because that will still be cheaper to cyber insurance companies than the loss of work for two weeks.
SD: How do you see cybersecurity developing in the next five years or so?
FW: I think that IoT is going to be a big factor. The biggest issue with IoT is planned obsolescence and the fact that companies sell a toaster that has an Internet connection and when the security becomes obsolete, they completely abandon it. Many IoT devices are protected because they are behind a router and you can’t access them directly from the Internet because they don’t have a public IP address. The prevalence of IPV6 will change that, which is quite frightening in my opinion.