Symantec: Antivirus is dead – long live security-as-a-service!

binary-139839_640Antivirus software maker and web security firm Symantec has hinted at plans to get out of its main line of business. Rather than fixing security problems, Symantec wants to stop them from happening in the first place, adding that the concept of antivirus software was on its last legs.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Brian Dye, Symantec’s senior vice president for information security, said “We don’t think of antivirus as a moneymaker in any way”, adding that antivirus was effectively “dead”.

According to Dye, most modern antivirus programs don’t really do that great a job, only blocking around 45 percent of attacks. The rest of the malware, spyware, Trojans and virus slip through the net. Naturally, we don’t expect his comments will go down too well with whoever’s in charge of Symantec’s Norton Antivirus team. That particular product is still being advertised as “secure and reliable”, rather than “only able to stop less than half of all viruses infecting your PC”.

However, Dye did say that Norton’s products are still worth buying, noting the software is also able to manage passwords, identify suspect links and block spam, among other things. Even so, given that Symantec derives around 40 percent of its revenue from antivirus software, it’s quite startling that Dye admits its all but useless blocking infections themselves.

Where’s the business in security?


So if antivirus is dead and buried, how does Symantec plan to stay in business? Simple, it plans to focus on enterprise security, offering security-as-a-service, which means tracking attacks as they take place, mitigating them, giving advice and investigating who’s doing the attacking. Dye acknowledged Symantec is something of a late-comer in this game, but that hasn’t put it off trying.

“It’s one thing to sit there and get frustrated,” said Dye. “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.”

Quite a few companies have opted for this kind of bespoke security service in recent years, but Dye acknowledges it’s not so profitable as business as simply flogging off-the-shelf antivirus software. Even so, he said the company needs to embrace the future.

“If customers are shifting from protect to detect and respond, the growth is going to come from detect and respond,” he insisted.

It’ll be interesting to see if this strategic change is enough to turn around Symantec’s fortunes. While its profits have risen slightly in recent months, that’s only because it’s laid off dozens of staff to cut costs. It’s also sacked two CEOs in the last couple of years, and now clearly seems to think that more drastic measures are needed to get back on its feet.

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