Symantec is looking to expand its lead in the network security arena with the release of AntiVirus 5.0 at a time when the security threat to networks has never been greater. Enrique Salem, Symantec's chief technical officer, and vice president of Security & Assistance, recently spoke with IDG's Matthew Nelson about why network security is such a hot - and complex - topicIDG: How is the antivirus market changing?
Salem: In 1995, no one knew what a macro virus was. We were all worried about floppy-based infections and things of that nature, and today probably more than 40 to 50 per cent of all virus infections come from macros. So I actually believe that there are probably going to be different types of threats. Now, will they be only in the virus form? Or will they actually branch out and potentially be through ActiveX threats or other malicious code?
Are ActiveX and Java the next big threat?
I think that's what the industry is focused on. The question is how big a threat is it really? Because it's complex to write this threatening code - not many people are capable of doing it. And that's what made macros so widespread - a 12-year-old could write it. To write an ActiveX or Java control, it really takes someone who understands programming.
People need to be prepared and be thinking about this problem, but I'm not convinced it's going to be the biggest threat.
Which is more important - the client-side or the server-side for security?
Ultimately, they're both important because we know that threats come from multiple locations. We are seeing a shift, though: attacks are coming more through groupware than e-mail. What that says is you really want to have protection everywhere you can get an infection.
Other than identifying new forms of viruses, what other trends are driving the industry?
The next generation of our security system is what we're calling the Digital Immune System - which is really modelled after the human immune system - and the idea is to make it fully automatic.
We got a lot of the technology from IBM, including copyrights and patents for the Digital Immune System. We're going to jointly commercialise it.
And this is where we think we're going to change the name of the game: while our competitors are still in scan and repair, we're going to take it to the next level.
The biggest differentiator is we're going to be highly automatic.
That's where we're going, whether it's in viruses or anything else.
Will consolidation in the security market continue?
I think that by the end of '99, there will only be a couple of companies left standing. That's probably going to be Network Associates and Symantec. All the other players will become completely marginalised and probably won't exist.