FORTUNE -- One of the first decisions Gary Kovacs had to make after he was appointed CEO of the cybersecurity firm AVG was whether to keep a $100 million toolbar business that most people hated. The former Mozilla CEO bit the bullet and jettisoned the longstanding project -- "It was the right thing to do," he says -- and has since moved on to figuring out how to solve an as-yet-unsolved problem: Computer security for consumers.
During a recent visit to Fortune's New York offices, Kovacs explained why the future of computer security rests as much in the hands of regular people as it does the technologists that works for the world's largest enterprises.
It's the second in an occasional series we're tentatively calling "Five Minutes on the Future." (You can read our first, with Thrillist Media Group CEO Ben Lerer, here.) Here's what Kovacs had to say.
The future of security is much broader than the history of security. And security means peace of mind as we're doing things. The example I use is, I want to keep my credit card secure and so I take my credit card and I put it in my safe at home, but then I can't use it. It's effectively useless, but it's secure.
What people care much more about is the use of something being secure. Security is moving from a reactive to a proactive [approach]. In that, it has to become an order of magnitude simpler, and less scary. As a result, if we can take something that is the universal security -- security on the device, security about your data, security about you as a person through these devices -- make it really, really simple as you start to use those devices to do more, then we've cracked the code.
The challenges are simplicity. I love the Mark Twain quote, "I wrote you a long letter; I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn't have the time." Security and simplicity are really, really difficult problems to solve. And they don't come from just making good technologies. They come from making good technologies really simply. So I think the future of security just happens in the background. It has to. Five billion people coming online are not going to accept their data and their privacy going to be compromised. And we don't have to think about it. We don't want to think about it. I don't want to open up a big piece of software and it looks like Mission Control. I want to know what's happening, and it will send me an alert proactively.
So the big trend is, how do we enable this algorithmically so that it's proactive? So that it only sends me something when something happens? I don't have to worry about it when nothing happens. And that it's comprehensive and simple enough that I can trust that it's happening.
We're all hacked already, just like we've all been victims of crime. But that doesn't stop us from trying to secure our property the best we can, to the limits of practicality. We monitor on a regular basis the research that's going on in the black hat [hacker] world, and the majority of research now is how to hack into mobile phones. So that's a leading indicator of what's to come. They're selling holes in products and holes in technologies that they can exploit for lots of money, and they've been selling them for years. So they're only selling a hole because somebody's hacked somebody. It's a vibrant economy out there.
You know, the best metaphor for a consumer that I've thought of is, my car has glass windows, so it's easy to break into if somebody wants to. But putting metal around it and covering it in chains and never taking it out in the open is not a practical solution. So I'm going to park it in the parking lot at a shopping center, but I'm just going to make sure there are no valuables in plain sight. I'm going to put them in the trunk. That's what security needs to be. Just put it in the trunk! Just get it out of the way as a practical matter. We've all been hacked! We're going to be hacked, our cards are going to be broken into. It's just the way of the world. Don't leave your valuable stuff sitting out in the open.
The business collaboration company Huddle serves some of the world's largest companies. It's also a success story for London's growing tech startup scene.
By Jonathan Weinberg
FORTUNE -- The startup Huddle has a Silicon Valley-style name, is used by several branches of the U.S. government and has offices in San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C.. But look a bit closer, and you might be surprised to discover that the cloud-based MOREMar 11, 2014 11:33 AM ET
On personalizing data, making it easier to be healthy, and the best way to learn entrepreneurship.
FORTUNE -- When Mike Lee decided he wanted to get in shape for his beach wedding, he turned to a trainer for guidance. After telling Lee that he would have to count calories to lose weight, his trainer handed him a thick, heavy book that listed only 3,000 foods and their nutritional value.
As a self-identifying MOREChanelle Bessette - Mar 11, 2014 9:41 AM ET
"I don't merely disagree with Apple but am rather wondering whether it has lost its mind."
FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) for several years has had a loyal supporter in Florian Mueller.
Nobody followed the company's myriad patent disputes more closely. Or criticized more sharply the claims made against Apple by Samsung and Motorola/Google for their so-called standard-essential patents.
But this time, he writes in his FOSS Patents blog, Apple has gone too far.
Having read the transcript MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 11, 2014 8:58 AM ET
But Pandora, with a 31% market share, still dominates Internet music streaming.
FORTUNE -- Less than six months after Apple (AAPL) launched its music streaming and recommendation service, iTunes Radio has taken the No. 3 spot in the crowded U.S. market, according to Edison's monthly radio report.
Pandora (P), with 80 million U.S. users and a 31% share, still dominates the field, and iHeart Radio, with a 9% share, is No. 2. But Apple's entry, with MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 11, 2014 6:05 AM ET
The Microsoft-exclusive shooter, created by key developers behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, is expected to sell 10 million copies worldwide.
By John Gaudiosi
FORTUNE -- Titanfall is one of the most anticipated games of 2014. By the end of 2013, the game already had 200,000 pre-orders. That's good news for publisher Electronic Arts (EA) and startup developer Respawn Entertainment. It's also great news for Microsoft (MSFT), which has the exclusive MOREMar 10, 2014 11:24 AM ET
The Aether Cone is smarter than your average smart device.
FORTUNE -- Duncan Lamb has a mission. He wants to put a dent in our smartphone addictions and allow us, the screen-obsessed people of the web, to look up from those devices a little more. As a former creative director of Nokia, that's a slightly confusing mission.
But Lamb is hardly the first to rail against dependance on devices. With new technology MOREErin Griffith - Mar 10, 2014 10:03 AM ET
Benedict Evans views the mobile Internet from 30,000 feet.
FORTUNE -- On Feb. 5, one week before he joined the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz as an in-house consultant, Benedict Evans gave the keynote presentation at a fledgling San Francisco conference called InContext 2014.
It was a variation on his "Mobile Is Eating the World" talk -- a high-level PowerPoint show you usually have to pay good money to see. But this version MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 10, 2014 7:56 AM ET
The enormous size of the electric automaker's planned facility will give it leverage in future negotiations with partnering manufacturers.
By Kirsten Korosec
FORTUNE -- Tesla Motors, the innovative electric car company, wants to be a bigtime automaker. To achieve that, it needs to produce hundreds of thousands of vehicles more than the 22,300 electric vehicles it made in 2013.
Which means it's going to need a bigger battery factory. A much, much MOREMar 10, 2014 5:00 AM ET
"It's the fundamental direction and the fundamental opportunity we're going after."
FORTUNE -- eBay has started to go on the offensive.
The e-commerce giant began taking swings of its own following the recent activity of billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, who owns 2% of eBay (EBAY) shares. In late January, Icahn called for a PayPal spin-off and nominated two of his employees to eBay's board of directors. Then in an open letter to shareholders MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Mar 10, 2014 5:00 AM ET
|Why casino workers hate Obamacare|
|Five predictions for the World Wide Web that were way, way, way off|
|Netflix faster on Comcast, following deal|
|Men's Wearhouse to buy Jos. A. Bank for $1.8 billion|
|Big Gay Ice Cream's business secrets|