(Reuters) - Check Point Software Technologies Ltd is launching a free version of its anti-virus and firewall product, hoping to boost its presence in the consumer security market and taking on market leaders Norton and McAfee.
"The race is on to get to the leadership. That is our goal, to be as big as Norton, Mcafee," Bari Abdul, head of Check Point's consumer business, said in an interview.
Symantec Corp owns the popular Norton anti-virus software and chipmaker Intel Corp last year bought security software maker McAfee.
"The trend is that there are a lot of free anti-virus providers and consumers are adopting at a nice clip," Abdul said, adding that anti-virus software was not enough to fend off hackers, however.
"The bad news is that they have insufficient protection and a false sense of security."
Check Point's Zonealarm free anti-virus and firewall 2013 - launched on Tuesday - provides a multi-layered defense against hackers, spyware, viruses and other malware, he said
"Hackers have increased sophistication," Abdul said, adding that "initially it was about someone seeking notoriety in a garage, now it is more about making money."
Israel-based Check Point wants to eventually make money off its free offers by persuading customers to upgrade to paid-products.
"The way that we make money is that first we give it away for free to build brand awareness ... then convert customers to use paid for products."
Check Point, the world's biggest pure-play network security company, offers firewall products such as Zonealarm for PCs and its software blade architecture for enterprises, which are independent, modular software blocks that prevent network intrusion.
It also offers anti-bot software blade that finds bots, which are hard-to-detect pieces of software that invade networks and lets an attacker send emails, attack a website or steal information.
Check Point competes with Cisco Systems Inc and Juniper Networks Inc. According to its own calculations, Check Point has about 40 percent of the enterprise security market.
(Reporting By Nicola Leske in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)