Anti-virus (AV) technology is generally considered an indispensable layer of defense in an organization's IT security stack. While most layers come with a cost, security vendor Avast is now offering its AV platform to businesses for free.

Luke Walling, general manager and vice president, SMB, told eSecurityPlanet that Avast for Business is different than Avast's existing consumer offering, which is also freely available.

"This is a true business-grade platform, and our cloud management console includes all of the alerting and reporting functionality that you'd expect to see in a paid offering," Walling said.

Policy management and controls over endpoints are key enablers for a business-grade offering, he added, as they provide management with centralized control and insight into what is going on with endpoints.

Walling said the company expects the majority of users will stick with the free version of the product. However, Avast offers tools such as anti-spam and firewall solutions for a fee. "We make money from indirect monetization," he said.

Virtualization Technology

Avast's AV technology goes beyond the basic signature-based approach that defined the first era of AV products.

"Last year we created a technology inside of our product that includes a virtualization engine that allows us to perform a full inspection of unknown files before they are allowed to execute," Walling said. "It gives us instant results locally and is supported by insights from our cloud."

On the end-points side, Avast's technology leverages hardware-assisted virtualization to create an isolated area where the initial analysis occurs. Walling explained that the Avast cloud is a massive database of threat intelligence that is gathered from 230 million active users.

A recent study from Damballa found that most AV products were not able to detect new zero-day malware. According to Damballa, 70 percent of malware was not detected by AV technologies in the first hour of submission, and after 24 hours 66 percent of malware was still not being detected by AV.

Walling said Avast's real-time engine can analyze potential zero-day threats in real-time.

"Our latest and greatest release does threat detection in real-time, with the signatures being updated later, typically within the same day," he said. "But we don't rely exclusively on a signature-based approach anymore."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eSecurityPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.