Wednesday 29 January 2020 3:24 pm

Shares in cyber firm Avast drop on data sale scandal

Shares in Avast fell as much as 9.5 per cent today after it emerged the cybersecurity firm had been selling its user data to firms such as IBM and Microsoft.

The antivirus software manufacturer tracked users’ clicks, collecting data on their searches on platforms such as Google and Linkedin, as well as their activity on porn websites.

Avast then passed the information to marketing subsidiary Jumpshot, which sold it on for millions of dollars, according to a joint investigation by PC Mag and Motherboard.

The revelations caused Avast’s shares to drop almost 10 per cent, before recovering to a fall of just under five per cent.

In a statement today, the Prague-based cyber firm did not deny the allegations, but said it ensured Jumpshot did not acquire personal information linked to the data.

“In December 2019, we acted quickly to meet browser store standards and are now compliant with browser extension requirements for our online security extensions,” it said.

“At the same time, we completely discontinued the practice of using any data from the browser extensions for any other purpose than the core security engine, including sharing with our subsidiary Jumpshot.”

Avast acquired US marketing firm Jumpshot in 2013, and now holds a 65 per cent stake after selling off a chunk of shares last year. The subsidiary is expected to pull in revenue of $36m (£27.7m) for the year to the end of December.

However, Avast today said it was “reviewing all options” in relation to Jumpshot. Analysts at Jefferies said the company was likely to dispose of its entire stake in the marketing firm in the near future.