Czech security software company
Avast Software s.r.o. is a Czech multinationalcybersecurity software company headquartered in Prague, Czech Republic that researches and develops computer security software, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Avast has more than 435 million monthly active users and the second largest market share among anti-malware application vendors worldwide as of April 2020. The company has approximately 1,700 employees across its 25 offices worldwide.
Avast was founded by Pavel Baudiš and Eduard Kučera in 1988 as a cooperative. It had been a private company since 2010 and had its IPO in May 2018. In July 2016, Avast acquired competitor AVG Technologies for $1.3 billion. At the time, AVG was the third-ranked antivirus product. It is dual-listed on the Prague Stock Exchange and on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
The company's main product is the Avast Antivirus along with tools such as the Avast Secure Browser and the Avast SecureLine VPN.
Avast was founded by Eduard Kučera and Pavel Baudiš in 1988. The founders met each other at the Research Institute for Mathematical Machines in Czechoslovakia. They studied math and computer science, because the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia would require them to join the communist party to study physics. At the Institute, Pavel Baudiš discovered the Vienna virus on a floppy disk and developed the first program to remove it. Afterwards, he asked Eduard Kucera to join him in cofounding Avast as a cooperative. The cooperative was originally called Alwil and only the software was named Avast.
The cooperative was changed to a joint partnership in 1991, two years after the velvet revolution caused a regime change in Czechoslovakia. The new regime severed ties with the Soviet Union and reverted the country's economic system to a market economy. In 1995, Avast employee Ondřej Vlček wrote the first antivirus program for the Windows 95 operating system. In the 1990s security researchers at the Virus Bulletin, an IT security testing organization, gave the Avast an award in every category tested, increasing the popularity of the software. However, by the late 1990s, the company was struggling financially. Alwil rebuffed acquisition offers by McAfee, who was licensing the Avast antivirus engine.
By 2001, Alwil was experiencing financial difficulties, when it converted to a freemium model, offering a base Avast software product at no cost. As a result of the freemium model, the number of users of the software grew to one million by 2004 and 20 million by 2006. Former Symantec executive Vince Steckler was appointed CEO of Avast in 2009. In 2010, Alwil changed its name to Avast, adopting the name of the software, and raised $100 million in venture capital investments. The following December, Avast filed for an initial public offering, but withdrew its application the following July, citing changes in market conditions. In 2012, Avast fired its outsourced tech support service iYogi, after it was discovered that iYogi was using misleading sales tactics to persuade customers to buy unnecessary services. By 2013, Avast had 200 million users in 38 countries and had been translated into 43 languages. At the time, the company had 350 employees.
In 2014, CVC Capital bought an interest in Avast for an undisclosed sum. The purchase valued Avast at $1 billion. Later that year, Avast acquired mobile app developer Inmite in order to build Avast's mobile apps. Additionally, in 2014 Avast's online support forum was compromised, exposing 400,000 names, passwords, and email addresses. By 2015, Avast had the largest share of the market for antivirus software. In July 2016, Avast reached an agreement to buy AVG for $1.3 billion. AVG was a large IT security company that sold software for desktops and mobile devices. In July 2017, Avast acquired UK-based Piriform for an undisclosed sum. Piriform was the developer of CCleaner. Shortly afterwards it was disclosed that someone may have created a malicious version of CCleaner with a backdoor for hackers. Avast had its IPO on the London Stock Exchange in May 2018, which valued it at £2.4bn and was one of the UK’s biggest technology listings.
Ondrej Vlcek assumed the role of CEO and co-owner of Avast Plc in July 2019. A day later, he changed his annual pay to $1 and pledged his board director's compensation of $100,000 to charity. In October 2019 Jaya Baloo joined Avast as their Chief Information Security Officer.
In April 2020, Avast released a new secure, private mobile web browser for Android based on technology acquired from previously unreported acquisition of Tenta, a Seattle-based startup.
Avast develops and markets business and consumer IT security products for servers, desktops, and mobile devices. The company sells both the Avast product line and the acquired AVG-branded products. As of late 2017, the company had merged the AVG and Avast business product lines and were working to integrate the corporate departments from both companies. Additionally, Avast has developed utility software products to improve battery life on mobile devices, cleanup unnecessary files on a hard drive, find secure wireless networks or create a VPN connection to the internet.
Avast and AVG consumer security software are sold on a freemium model, where basic security features are free, but more advanced features require purchasing a premium version. The free version is also supported by ads. Additionally, all Avast users provide data about their PC or mobile device to Avast, which is used to identify new security threats. Antivirus scanning, browser cleanup, a secure browser, password management, and network security features are provided for free, while firewall, anti-spam, and online banking features have to be purchased. According to PC Pro, the software does not "nag" users about upgrading. About 3% of Avast's users pay for a premium version (10% in the US).
The Avast business product family includes features for endpoint protection, Wi-Fi security, antivirus, identity protection, password management, and data protection. For example, the desktop product will look for vulnerabilities in the wi-fi network and run applications suspect of having malicious hardware in an isolated sandbox. The Avast Business Managed Workplace monitors and manages desktops, and assesses on-site security protocols. The company also sells management software for IT administrators to deploy and manage Avast installations.
PC Magazine gave the Avast free antivirus software an overall score of 8.8 out of 10 and gave AVG a score of 8.4. The review said Avast gets good lab test results overall and has many features, but its password manager is a bit limited. In tests by the AV-TEST Institute, Avast 2017 received six out of six points for protection and usability, and 3.5 points for performance. A review in Tom's Guide said the free Avast antivirus product has "good malware protection" and has a small footprint on the system. The review said Avast has a competitive set of features for a free antivirus product, but the scans are slow and it pushes users to install the Google Chrome browser.
The Avast antivirus product for business users received 4 out of 5 by TechRadar in 2017. The review said the software had good features, protection, configuration, and an "excellent interface," but took up too much hard drive space and didn't cover mobile devices. According to Tom's Guide, the mobile version is inexpensive and feature-laden, but some features are unreliable or do not work as expected. PC Magazine said the mobile version "has just about every security feature you could want" but was difficult to use.
AVG, which was purchased by Avast in 2016, has also generally performed well in lab tests. AV-Test Institute gave AVG six out of six points for usability, 5.5 points for protection and 5.5 points for performance. However, AVG scored 81.05 in Virus Bulletin's lab tests, which is slightly below average. The software is "very good" at detecting malware, but "disappointing" in antiphishing screening. A review in Tom's Hardware gave the AVG software seven out of ten stars. The review highlighted that the software has a small system footprint and has good malware protection, but does not have a quick scan option and lacks many additional features.
On 27 January 2020 Motherboard reported "An Avast antivirus subsidiary sells 'Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site.' Its clients have included Home Depot, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, and McKinsey." The investigation showed that the Avast Antivirus and AVG AntiVirus programs collected data from the users' computers and that the Avast subsidiary Jumpshot repackaged and sold them. In response Avast announced on 30 January 2020 that Jumpshot would cease operations over the data privacy backlash.
On the basis of the information revealed, on 11 February 2020 the Czech Office for Personal Data Protection announced that it has initiated a preliminary investigation.
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