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On the front lines of cybersecurity: Behind the scenes with Avira Protection Labs

As the spread of the new novel coronavirus increased, Avira acted fast, deciding to have all employees work from home starting from early March. What could have been a huge challenge for a company of its size wound up a rather seamless undertaking as its international teams were already accustomed to the tech and tools needed to work remotely. A skill set even more important to the Avira Protection Labs whose day-to-day responsibilities include thwarting cybersecurity attacks and keeping hackers out of people’s inboxes and bank accounts. 

To learn how the team continues to safeguard people’s online activitieswe got to virtually sit down with Alexander Vukcevic (Director of Avira Protection Labs), Mihai Grigorescu (Senior Threat Researcher) and Amr Elkhawas (Specialist Threat Researcher)  

Here’s what they had to share about working from home. 


Was the Avira Protection Labs prepared to work from home? 

Alexander VukcevicWell, as a multi-national team with people located in different countries the Avira Protection Labsin a way, was already working remotely. So, from a technical standpoint – and in terms of the company culture – moving the Threat Researchers to a working from home situation wasn’t a challenge 

Mihai GrigorescuYeah, we are already very comfortable having video-conference meetings, staying in touch via chat and email, and sharing documentation and updating tasks in collaboration tools.  

Amr ElkhawasBesides working mostly in cloud-based tools, we were very well prepared even before the pandemic with VPN access to all our systems and analysis machines in order to respond to any urgent threat that might occur when on-call during non-working hours.  


How has your daily routine changed? 

AVWhat changed from day one was the coordination of the team. We now have daily morning meeting via video chat to go over our upcoming tasks. It’s been nice way to share some virtual “good mornings” and helps replicate the feeling of arriving at the office.  


What’s most challenging about working from home? 

AV: For most of us, the most challenging aspect is not being able to have face-to-face conversations to discuss ideas, step into a running discussion and share constructive feedback or gather information to develop new ideas. We are compensating with ad-hoc video-conference meetings and occasional phone calls, but it’s not completely the same.  


Have you observed an increase in the number of cybersecurity issues and online scams since the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic?  

MG: We are seeing an increased risk of attacks of all kinds, from phishing and datastealing websites to ransomware and carefully crafted android malware. The reality is, we are dealing with intelligent cybercriminals who are opportunistic and have no moral impedimentso during this pandemic, we’ve even seen hospitals attacked by ransomware that locked computers, delaying surgery and coronavirus test results. 


How have you been able to react quickly to new threats? 

AV: In terms of our work, we are operating the same as always. Working from home does not affect our reaction time, our ability to work together as a team or the high quality of our work. We continue to do our very best each day to keep our customers safe. 

AE: I agree, but I have also noticed that as I’m spending more time online as a regular user, I’ve been able to spot attacks in the wild and immediately react to them with all our systems at my disposal remotely.  


Has working from home brought you closer to the consumer-side experience of cybersecurity issues? Has it changed or broadened your perspective on the work you do and who it serves? 

 MGFor me, not really. I’d say working in this field it’s very hard to lose perspective. We all have family and friends who are vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks and we are always aware of the importance of the work we do. One single detection can make the difference between someone’s normal life and their bank account being emptied. Protecting our customers is our top priority and a huge responsibility. 

AEIt has absolutely brought me closer to the consumer-side. Seeing friends and family propagating phishing links through social media platforms that claim to have the cure or remedy to the virus has definitely raised my perspective on how much people need us to keep them safe in the connected world. 


What are your tips for working from home? Any advice on staying focused and effective? 

MGI believe having a morning routine is important as it gets your day started on the right path. The other piece of advice I can give is to set ground rules with the others in your home about your workday needs, like if they are allowed into your workspace or to establish times when you can’t be interrupted.   


With the resources most people have at home, how can the average person make sure they are not compromising their cybersecurity?

AV: The best advice I can give is to use our award-winning software, and best of all it’s just a few clicks away. Trust us to protect your digital life, it is our mission and we work with care and dedication to keep you safe. 

AEI would advise people working from home to always be skeptical when clicking on any link and to raise their security awareness with online resources. I also strongly recommend installing antivirus software so even if you let your guard down there will always be someone watching your back. 


Take the advice of the Avira Protection Labs experts and protect yourself while working from home with Avira Free Security.  

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