Symantec Declares Anti-virus “Dead”

A recent report from the Wall Street Journal confirmed what many of us have already known for years now: endpoint single-user anti-virus is dead, and we have advanced malware tactics to thank for that.

According to several independent studies on the subject, commercially available anti-virus products only catch around half of all the attacks that hit a computer that sees regular use on any given month.

For a service that asks its users to cough up a hefty subscription fee every 30 days, or every 12 months, for the privilege to only be safe 50 percent of the time, it’s no wonder where the holes in the logic are.

“Symantec pioneered computer security with its antivirus software in the late 1980s. The technology keeps hackers out by checking against a list of malicious code spotted on computers. Think of it as an immune system for machines. But hackers increasingly use novel bugs. Symantec Senior President Brian Dye estimates antivirus now catches just 45% of cyberattacks.”

It’s not that Symantec or its chief competitor McAfee got ‘outsmarted’ necessarily, it’s just that like pretty much every war in the annals of history, it’s the side that thinks first and attacks second that always wins.

These companies didn’t have bad business models, they just put up a wall that was based on technology which hadn’t been subverted…yet.

The use of rootkits and motherboard-based cracks hadn’t proliferated beyond a few isolated cases until more recently, but once that conniving code took off there was no way to stop the train after it left the station.


This isn’t the only problem the pay-by-month platform faces either, with the market growing increasingly cluttered by the day with a glut of free or discounted options that scoff at the idea of $15 a month to provide a layer of standard safety and security.

On top of that, other big contenders like IBM have started to encroach on Symantec’s grip on the enterprise cybersecurity market, further loosening their foothold on the side of a cliff that keeps getting further from the ground after every quarterly earnings report.

Mr. Dye, who has spent more than a decade with Symantec as its Senior President, says it was galling to watch other security companies surge ahead.

“It’s one thing to sit there and get frustrated,” he says. “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.

That doesn’t mean all hope is lost, however. For very much the same reason AOL still has customers, you shouldn’t expect these companies to go quietly, peacefully, or gracefully into that forever night.

They’ll leech out every last account they can for all its worth while people remain blissfully unaware of the total lack in function their service provides, and continue to collect on the laurels of their name and brand for as long as the less-educated set will let them.

No one can say how long the death spiral of the business model will eventually take, but when the heads of cornerstone companies in the industry start blowing the conch of conceit, that’s when you know it’s probably a good time to start cashing out your chips and selling off some stock.

Symantec has been struggling to keep up with the rising availability of free anti-virus products from companies like AVG and Microsoft Security Essentials, both of which offer substantial suites that can provide a user with just about the best level of protection they could hope for given the dire circumstances of the war on cyber-crime as it stands today.

This doesn’t spell the end for the company who first made itself famous with Norton Security Suite, as they move into roles such as consulting companies who have just been hacked or had information stolen from their servers. This is a problem that plagues dozens of clients per day, providing a steady stream of income which should last.

It’s good to see a company that many people fondly remember as one of their very first anti-virus products is still finding new and innovative ways to keep themselves relevant as the landscape changes.