Symantec aims for faster installation, scanning

Next-gen security products will be Internet-centric, faster and smaller

Installs fast, runs fast, and downloads fast. These will be the characteristics of Symantec Corporation's next-generation security products for consumers, an executive said Monday.

In a meeting with Asian journalists, Tom Powledge, vice president of product management for the consumer products division of Symantec said the primary complaints Symantec hears from consumers boil down to security products being confusing, eating up a lot of storage space, and slowing down the PC. "Security technology does not have to be big, fat, and slow," he said as he gave reporters a sneak preview of the features that will be built into Norton products, Symantec's brand of consumer security software. "We are setting on a mission to provide zero-impact on the performance of your computers."

Powledge said that while computing has become Internet-centric, security is still PC-centric. "Hackers are changing their tactics; they're using legitimate sites to attack your computer." He pointed out that the rising use of social networking sites make Internet-centric security software more relevant.

Another issue the Symantec executive raised is that most consumers -- who are digitally connected but who can be categorized either as technical or nontechnical -- find security products confusing. "Since most consumers are not technical, they find security confusing because it's in a language they don't understand, "Powledge said.

Premium security software

With the concerns of the consumer in mind, Symantec aims to be the premium supplier of consumer security software established upon three pillars: technology leadership, customer value, and best customer experience.

"Under technology leadership, we are re-engineering hundreds of pieces of our software because we intend to bust this myth that security software slows down your PC," said Powledge. He explained that security software slows down the PC because it is always scanning files in the background. "Scanning will only be done during idle times -- when the user is out for lunch, for example," he noted.

He added that scanning will also be based on the reputation of the software and the behavioral patterns of the user. He said Symantec is developing technology that would allow the scanner to skip certain trust files in order to speed up the overall scan.

Another target, according to Powledge, is to reduce the overall size of Symantec's programs to no more than 100M bytes. Meanwhile, installation times now range from eight to 10 minutes, he said. The new goal is to reduce this to one minute or less. Symantec's latest consumer suite, Norton 360 Version 2.0, takes between 20 to 30 seconds to load up after a PC is started. Symantec would like to trim that to 10 seconds or less, he noted.

To add customer value to its security products, Symantec has acquired SwapDrive Inc., a company that develops back-up software, so back-up features can be incorporated in its Norton security products. "We also intend to protect PC users from identity theft--we are going to manage and secure personal information and digital content stored in your PC," Powledge said.

Another service that is expected to add value to Symantec's Norton products is a website -- the Norton Incubator -- that will showcase upcoming technologies and feature blogs and forums.

Meanwhile, for the "best customer experience," Symantec intends to beef up its support system by providing online PC tune-up and diagnostic services. "Helping customers makes them happier and more loyal," Powledge said.

The improvements and features Powledge discussed will be worked into the next versions of Norton security products that are targeted for release in 2009.

Symantec's Norton products are the Norton Internet Security, Norton AntiVirus, Norton SystemWorks, Norton Confidential,Norton Save & Restore, and Norton 360. According to Powledge, the Norton 360 is Symantec's most successful product to date.

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Melba-Jean V. Bernad

Computerworld
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