Moving up the Stack with AVG Technologies

The company formerly known as Grisoft discusses its plan to leverage technology from recently acquired Exploit Prevention Labs to expand its footprint.

What's in a name? A lot, if you ask the folks at AVG Technologies, formerly Grisoft.

Officials at the security company, based in the Czech Republic, said they hope that aligning the company's name with the title of its flagship product, AVG Anti-Virus, along with the recent acquisition of Exploit Prevention Labs, will be enough to push the company deeper into a market still dominated by larger vendors.

"Most [of] our focus this [year] will be on Web exploits and detecting Internet threats," said AVG Technologies CEO J.R. Smith. "[Exploit Prevention Labs'] LinkScanner Pro will help us with this and open up new opportunities in the channel to partner with search engines, ISPs and others."

Click here to read more about Grisoft's acquisition of Exploit Prevention Labs.

Though AVG remains a relatively small player in the anti-virus space dominated by the likes of Symantec and McAfee, the company's purchase of Exploit Prevention Labs, or ELP, is in keeping with aggressive moves by second-tier anti-virus vendors to gain market share. In 2007, some of these companies directly challenged the supremacy of the larger vendors. Notably, Sophos was able to beat out Symantec for a deal with General Electric.

AVG has sought to deepen its penetration of the market with a free version of its anti-virus software, an offering that according to Smith has approached the million-downloads-per-week mark a number of times in the past.

"We see ourselves as the good guys, offering free product to users who need it," Smith said.

Nick Selby, an analyst with The 451 Group, said the company is trying to leverage the brand awareness it has built with its free product, and that the acquisition of EPL shows the company has ambitions to expand its footprint.

"Their acquisition of EPL ... showed that they were very serious about dealing with new kinds of malware and newly evolving malware threats, moving up from the traditional anti-virus agent up into layered service provider and getting really thickly involved in the kernel and the TCP/IP stack," Selby said.

EPL's LinkScanner Pro provides automatic real-time analysis of network traffic and Web content. AVG was not the only anti-virus vendor to make a play in Web content analysis in 2007; McAfee bought ScanAlert for its ability to assess vulnerabilities in e-commerce sites. Smith said the integration of EPL's LinkScanner Pro into AVG's products will help the company compete, and the product integration should result in an offering by the end of February.

Before it can compete, however, AVG Technologies will need to show it can offer strong, simple-to-use central management for enterprise customers, Selby said.

"I always had an interesting time trying to write Grisoft [in reports] ... because everybody knows what AVG is and nobody knows what Grisoft is," he said. "I think [the name change] really does matter."