Symantec Executive Says Antivirus Is Dead

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 6 2014 12:25 PM

Symantec Executive Says Antivirus Is Dead

We live in a brave new world, not the good old days.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For consumers, antivirus has seemed like the same boring thing since the late ’80s. It runs in the background, downloads updates, and seems to make computers run slower and slower over time. It just feels like a necessary evil. But Symantec, the longtime maker of Norton Antivirus, is finally changing its strategy and doing something new.

Symantec's senior vice president for information security, Brian Dye, told the Wall Street Journal that antivirus "is dead." He is leading Symantec toward a new approach that focuses on spotting hackers within a system and minimizing damage from them instead of trying to keep them out. "We don't think of antivirus as a moneymaker in any way," he told the Journal.


This idea is part of a broader shift in the cybersecurity industry toward thinking of vulnerabilities and the hackers who exploit them as inevitable. If you assume that there are malicious threats compromising a system all the time, you defend it differently than you would if you were assuming that the system is intact. The old method of antivirus involved continuously updating a list of viruses and vulnerabilities and downloading updates to fix or defend them. With the new approach, the system doesn't hinge on keeping a customized yet exhaustive list on every individual's computer.

Like other companies, including FireEye and Juniper Networks, Norton will move in the next few months toward briefings for clients about the latest attacks, and scanning services that look for suspicious code on network servers or other networked devices. Symantec has seen its revenue fall in each of the last two quarters and is predicting another decline over last year for the quarter earnings it will release on Thursday. Changing approach will be crucial for Symantec to stay relevant.

Dye estimated for the Journal that antivirus like Norton catches only 45 percent of cyberattacks today. With numbers like that, Symantec definitely needs a turnaround. The company can still sell traditional antivirus as a first line of defense, but needs to supplement with novel services. Norton's reassuring all-clear after a scan of your system doesn't feel so comforting now, does it?

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.