Clario bids to de-fang security with consumer-friendly approach

A new company is taking a very different route to defending personal data.

The information security sector is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, to re-frame Winston Churchill's take on Russia. Based on unfathomably deep technology, we almost all struggle to keep up with it. What do we need? Which vendor is best-in-class? How do we use it? Can we trust it? A new venture is trying to address that tricky issue and answer those questions.

"Clario is a modern security and privacy product where we've completely changed the user experience so it's different to anything in the market," says Alun Baker, a software veteran who is now CEO at London-based Clario Tech, founded in 2019.

"If you look at traditional cybersecurity companies, most have roots in antivirus and they're complicated, technical and customers are not engaged. It's a spinning wheel looking for finding viruses that you have and fixing them. What people are doing in this market isn't working. Consumers are not being championed."

Security fears have created a vast market with IDC saying that spending is due to pass $133bn in 2022. It's hard enough for the world's largest corporates to understand what's going on, such is the blurring and morphing of activity, so what chance the poor consumer? Baker says he was attracted by the challenge and its toughness was part of that appeal.

"The security industry is so traditional," he adds, "and I love the opportunity to disrupt and pivot businesses and make a difference. This is about consumer protection and privacy and the impact of cyber becoming more sophisticated. AV is a piece of housekeeping, a necessity, and it was easy money for people because OEM models pre-loaded software on PCs and it became the focal point for the way most people defend themselves against cybercrime."

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(Re)building a brand

The background to Clario is indicative of the way the market has been. Before being invited to join Clario, Baker was at Kromtech, a company that had a popular product called MacKeeper. Clario has bought that technology and reversed the people and IP into the new company that has a staff of 800. Now, Clario has enhanced the product, reinventing the consumer experience and building a new brand with a new product due this year.

MacKeeper had been the vehicle for some hard-sell tactics, as has long been typical in a business that seems to have been born out of a philosophy of ‘scare them and then sell to them', together with lots of red warning signs and intrusive pop-ups.

"The original product had some real reputational challenges, so we need a massive rebranding programme," Baker says. "That was MacKeeper and almost every player in the market; MacKeeper was more aggressive than most but nobody didn't employ aggressive sales tactics."

Unhappy with this approach, Baker sought an alternative that would be gentler and more consumer-friendly. As a first step, he looked for some type of market regulator and settled on AppEsteem, a clearing house built by former Microsoft security engineers. It approves apps that are honest and "fights the bad guys" through identifying "clean" and "deceptive" apps.


Now for something completely different

The bigger part of the challenge is building a new product, Clario, developed in parallel and due for commercial availability in June. The new product aspires to the simplicity of an Apple or Google and is intended to be highly disruptive. Clario has worked with AppEsteem and says the result is an ethical, full-stack security suite covering protection for data, networks, devices, identity, browsing and finances for Mac, iOS, Android and, later, Windows.

"We want a different style and tone of voice where we're alerting people to challenges without scaring people. We're integrating 600 security technology experts into the app so, if you have a question, you can have a human talking to an end customer.

"The real focus is to be a consumer champion and the differentiator for so many brands today, from Airbnb to Uber, is the UX because with most security apps the level of engagement is so minimal."

Baker says messages will be personalised based on preferences. "We don't talk about VPN or technology terms only a tiny percentage of people understand. It will be a different experience in the same way that Apple or Dyson provided a new experience."

But will the tactic of embedding an army of security experts into the helpdesk function scale? Baker says they won't be the first point of contact, but he believes that rapid escalation to human contact is key.

"I don't know anybody who has had a great experience with chatbots or online chats where it takes you two hours to get something resolved," he argues. "They're handling lots of chats at the same time and you get transferred all the time."

One more differentiator: a foundation that supports victims of cybercrime will also be launched. So, quite a change from the usual security app and it will be well worth watching whether a world accustomed to the old world gets on board.