First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19 Times?
Andreas Marx: Thanks for asking. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic so far has also been a burden for my family and me, even though in Germany, we have been hit less badly than other countries and their citizens. The government reacted quickly and, by taking sensible actions in time, prevented a lot of damage, at least so far. But I have to admit that my children also missed school and kindergarten as well as their playmates. Indeed, I would have liked to meet colleagues back at the company and our test labs sooner.
As an IT security company, and thus clearly as a digital company, the crisis has been much less threatening than for companies in other sectors. However, the current situation continues to be a burden on the private lives of our employees. As a responsible employer, we naturally do everything we can to make the situation as safe and tolerable as possible for our colleagues.
Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded or Joined AV-TEST
Andreas Marx: In the early 1990s, I researched on malware as part of my engineering studies in business informatics. At that time, the threat situation was, of course, completely different than it is now. Back then, I developed my virus scanner. With an increasing threat level, also due to the rapid development of the Internet, it became clear that caused by the explosion of malware samples, this task could not be accomplished alone.
Large providers with corresponding advertising budgets were already present on the market. Thus, the possibilities of placing their product on the market were not too promising. However, at that time, no one could meaningfully assess the quality of these security products. That was the birth of AV-TEST.
In 2004 my business partners and I founded AV-TEST. And together with my partners Guido Habicht and Maik Morgenstern and our excellent staff, we have been standing for innovative, state-of-the-art test procedures and transparent communication of test results ever since we were founded, which has brought us the trust of manufacturers, home users, businesses as well as governmental institutions. Naturally, we are proud of this.
How does your AV-TEST Innovate?
Andreas Marx: As an IT security institute, we are forced to innovate. As you know, IT security is a steady changing process; there is no status quo. For example, we focus on new techniques and tactics of the malware industry, which is constantly developing its malware and possibilities for hijacking and misusing foreign IT infrastructures. Of course, we follow this development very closely and permanently adapt our tests and analysis systems to the evolution of the cybercrime sector.
As a certified partner of almost all critical IT security manufacturers on the international market and in our function as security advisor to government agencies, authorities, associations and companies, we must uncover, analyze and detect all innovations of the digital mafia as quickly as possible. We have to recommend and advise on appropriate improvements of security products. Therefore, we are currently expanding our tests for corporate solutions against the threat of advanced attacks. When testing IoT devices, for example, in healthcare, knowledge of the latest attack methods is, of course, essential for effective protection measures.
How the Coronavirus Pandemic affects your Business, and how are you coping?
Andreas Marx: As part of the pandemic, many companies are forced to have their employees work from home. Depending on a company’s digital infrastructure, this also increases the digital threat situation, for example, by introducing ransomware or other malware into company networks. The suddenly forced digitalization of their work processes poses unimagined problems for medium-sized companies in particular. Often the failure of IT systems and, thus, production in an already tightened economic situation could lead to the end of a company.
There often is a lack of secure online access, information on the selection of VPN solutions and the security of IT protection solutions. We make such data available free of charge on our website as part of our regular tests. Thus our tests and information have become even more important for companies in the current situation than they already were before.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices and what are the Lessons Learned?
Andreas Marx: For us, the health and safety of our employees and their families has been an absolute priority right from the start. Accordingly, we had our colleagues work at home from the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the pandemic also led to the cancellation of our annual IT security awards at the end of March 2020. I know that our customers from all over the world also regret the cancellation of the event. But next year the AV-TEST Award ceremony for the best IT security products will hopefully be possible again and I am looking forward to it.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety, how do you Project yourself and AV-TEST in the Future?
Andreas Marx: First and foremost, it is vital for us to stay close to our employees. We listen to their fears and concerns and try to find solutions together. This ranges from the best possible protection at the workplace, which we take very seriously, to flexible working time solutions. For example, if the school is cancelled due to Coronavirus reports and colleagues have to promptly adjust their family situation.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Andreas Marx: We have no competitors in the true sense of the word. We have been successfully involved in the international testing and certification of IT security solutions for almost two decades, which is significantly longer than other test labs. We have the largest malware database in the research sector worldwide. Thanks to our own development and research department, we develop our own test systems, and are mainly independent of other software providers. Our customers also appreciate this.
Your Final Thoughts?
Andreas Marx: I hope that not only the situation of digital viruses can be brought under control in the near future, but also the biological threats. AV-TEST is making an important international contribution to the fight against digital viruses. In the case of biological threats, we can at least help ensure that essential systems in the digital logistics of the health system, public authorities and companies are as secure as possible.
The Coronavirus pandemic will certainly not be the last challenge we have to face around the globe. I would like us as humans to master such tasks together and stand together. This includes the honest exchange of information and the corresponding solidarity between nations. And of course, as with digital threats, good and jointly coordinated preparation. I think we can learn a lot from the current situation, and we should do so urgently.