Symantec, a company that has made huge amounts of cash as the largest antivirus software vendor for the last quarter of a century, looks to be getting out of that business and into fixing hacking problems rather than stopping them.
"We don't think of antivirus as a moneymaker in any way," Brian Dye, Symantec's senior vice president for information security, told The Wall Street Journal, adding that antivirus was "dead."
Dye said that modern antivirus software only stops around 45 per cent of attack on computer systems and lets the rest through. That's a bit embarrassing for the firm's Norton team, who are still advertising the software as "secure and reliable," rather than "works less than half the time."
Before the Norton staff start reaching for pitchforks and flaming torches, however, Dye did take the time to say that the security suite for individual devices is still worth buying, as it blocks spam, manages passwords, and spots dodgy links in third-party websites. But given that endpoint software accounts for around 40 per cent of Symantec's revenues, it's still a worrying admission.
Symantec will now concentrate on providing business customers with security as a service – tracking intrusions as they occur, advising on the best way to protect data from collection, and finding out who is doing the attacking. It's an industry Dye acknowledged Symantec is coming to late.
"It's one thing to sit there and get frustrated," he said. "It's another thing to act on it, go get your act together and go play the game you should have been playing in the first place."
This kind of bespoke service business model is working well enough for many companies, but it's not as profitable for selling security software to the masses. Dye acknowledged this was the case, but said Symantec needed to concentrate on what will sell.
"If customers are shifting from protect to detect and respond, the growth is going to come from detect and respond," he said.
Symantec does certainly need to change its game plan. The company has seen profits rise slightly, thanks to a savage series of job cuts, but has fired two CEOs in as many years for failing to get the company growing again. Maybe a rethink is just what the company needs. ®