Symantec wants another chance

Computer security firm Symantec this week claimed 300 changes in the new versions of Norton InternetSecurity and Antivirus would address past performance problems.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Computer security firm Symantec this week claimed 300 changes in the new versions of Norton Internet Security and Antivirus would address past performance problems.

"This year we decided that if customers knew Norton for anything, it would be that it is the fastest in the industry," Symantec's VP of consumer engineering, Rowan Trollope told ZDNet.com.au this week, referring to upcoming "2009" versions of the company's software.

It's the same claim that Symantec has made in previous years, which to many consumers was never delivered, and drew criticism from those who bought what Trollope admitted was the "highest price" security software on the market.

"This really is targeted at the 'recommending segment' of the industry: the people that are posting on your site: those are the people we're trying to win back. A lot of folks will say I've given [Symantec] a chance, but I'd certainly ask everyone to give us another chance," said Trollope.

Symantec is hoping that by admitting past errors and making its software more transparent it will win back jaded consumers.

Trollope said he recognised the company "had a lot of work to do to win back the trust of our customer base" when he joined the Norton division in 2007.

"We had had some quality issues in previous releases, especially around performance and basic quality and getting up and running and so forth," said Trollope.

Whitelists and "silent mode"
One method the company hopes to use to reduce the impact on system resources is by creating a "whitelist" of commonly trusted files and applications, such as Microsoft Word, to identify which files do not require scanning. The move is also an attempt to address the challenge of sending out an increasing number of signature updates: Symantec issued 1.2 million last year.

McAfee's CEO earlier this year also flagged whitelists as a way to address the "architectural limitations" of sending out signature updates for malware which is doubling every year.

"Most of the files on the systems people have are common files that other people have too: common applications such as Microsoft Word, Office, the operating system, Adobe Reader, or your Firefox browser. Yet security products treat those files indiscriminately and scan them on people's computers," Trollope said.

Symantec's tests indicated it should reduce scanning requirements by 80 per cent, however, the demonstration to ZDNet.com.au this week showed a reduction of 65 per cent.

Norton 2009's user interface is aimed at gaining trust, with it giving users a dashboard to view what level of system resources it consumes.

"We wanted to shine a harsh light on ourselves," Trollope said. "We wanted to be very transparent about what we're doing on your system at all times... Security products aren't that obvious about what they're doing on a system."

Norton 2009's so-called "Silent Mode" is also aimed to placate gamers annoyed by receiving re-subscription and software update notifications mid-game, or while watching a DVD.

Trollope said Symantec would not increase its prices for Australian consumers as a result of the weak US dollar, unlike some other software firms like Citrix and VMWare.

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