Symantec has admitted the anti-virus (AV) industry on which it made its fortune is "dead" and "not a money-maker in any way".
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Brian Dye, Symantec's senior vice president of information security, estimated that AV now catches just 45 per cent of cyberattacks.
Dye also outlined how Symantec – which has led the anti-virus market for 25 years – is reinventing itself to reflect the shift in emphasis in the industry from protect to detect and respond.
Start-up competitors have been calling the death of AV for years as traditional signature-based defences became increasingly powerless in the face of new strains of malware.
Symantec, which fired its second chief executive in as many years in March and has lost out to upstart rivals such as FireEye in the battle to please Wall Street investors, now also seems ready to admit AV's shortcomings.
Dye said Symantec is this week creating a response team to help hacked businesses in recognition that the industry is now about minimising the damage done by hackers once they are in. He admitted it was painful to watch rival firms surge ahead.
"It's one thing to sit there and get frustrated," he told WSJ. "It's another thing to act on it, go get your act together and go play the game you should have been playing in the first place."
Symantec still draws 40 per cent of its sales from endpoint security and tempered its message by stressing its Norton security suite has evolved beyond AV to include functions such as a spam blocker and password manager. The company has no plans to abandon Norton, Dye said, but "if customers are shifting from protect to detect and respond, the growth is going to come from detect and respond".
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