Symantec CEO John Thompson has had a busy week, with interviews at the Future in Review conference and Gartner Symposium. Last week was Symantec's annual Vision conference in San Francisco.
I caught up with Thompson at the Future in Review conference in San Diego on Monday, and recorded a podcastwith him. We mostly focused on Symantec's strategy, which he said, in general, is helping customers protect themselves in the digital era. It's about the process of security, he said,which involves not just anti-virus and firewalls, but vulnerability assessment, policy management, complicance, back up recovery and configuration managment.
"We are moving our product portfolio to deal with all the issues related around security," Thompson said. In other words, Symantec, like many other large software vendors, wants to have an end to end, integrated stack to manage infrastructure.
He also said he would likely partner to fill the identity management hole in Symantec's portfolio, but isn't averse to making an acquisition in the space. He acknowledged that over time service providers will have to "serve" security, which would Symantec more of security "utility," providing a broad range of services to ISPs, governments and corporations serving large populations of users. But, he also said having a more secure digital world will require that individuals develop a sixth sense, like we have in the physical world, in which we know where we should and should not go. "It's not about technology; it's about user training, awareness, education and us in technology making the technology simpler and easier to use."
During his interview with Jim Louberback of PC Magazine at the Future in Review, Thomspon said that the federal government hasn't done enough to combat cybersecurity ills. The war on Iraq has created budget challenges, and cybersecurity has fallen off the radar screen, he explained. "We are not where we had hoped we would be," he said.
Government can play a role in training, education and enforcement, but so far it hasn't stepped up enough to make much of a difference. "There is no set of uniform laws we can commit to in cyberspace. Unifrom laws would have to be well funded and enforced, country by country, and there isn't enough collective commitment around the world to do something about it yet," Thompson said. One area that he believes will allow security to reach more users is by having more services, preventative and remediating capabilities on servers and smaller footprints on clients. As a company, Thompson said, "We don't predict the future of attacks...that would be bad PR for the company...we anticipate the future of what they might look like.
Regarding Microsoft, Thompson said he worried about Microsoft in one area. "Our only concern is whether Microsoft will play fairly," Thompson said. "If they deliver their classic portfolio, we can compete. However, if do something unfair, itlwill be difficult to compete against them. We have other venues for making our point." Today, Symantec filed a suit charging Microsoft with misappropriating its intellectual property and with violating a license related to data storage technology.
We also have video of Thompson addressing several topics during an interview at Gartner Symposium: