Symantec creates havoc with unsigned Norton patch

Symantec released a diagnostic patch for some of its older Norton products on Monday night that did not identify its origin and thus triggered alerts on user firewalls, the company said Tuesday.

The patch for 2006 and 2007 versions of Norton Internet Security and Norton Antivirus, a program dubbed "PFST.exe," (Product Information Framework Trouble Shooter) was distributed to collect anonymous statistics on matters such as how many computers are using the products and what operating system they are running, Jeff Kyle, group product manager for Symantec consumer products, said Tuesday.

Because it was unsigned--a result of human … Read more

Symantec demos Project Guru at Demo 09

Are you sick of trying to diagnose your friends' computer problems over the phone?

Symantec is showing a demo on Tuesday at the Demo 2009 conference in Palm Desert, Calif., of a Web-based tool that allows tech savvy people to provide remote support to friends and family having computer problems.

Project Guru allows a user to connect remotely to another computer to troubleshoot and correct problems, with the connection secured using encryption and authentication. The tool offers diagnostic tools for network monitoring and identifying software installed on the remote computer.

The software uses that same internally developed technology as Symantec'… Read more

Attack exploits unpatched Excel security hole

Attackers are attempting to exploit an unpatched security hole in Excel that could allow someone to take control of a compromised computer, Microsoft said in a security advisory on Tuesday.

The attack exploiting the Excel Unspecified Remote Code Execution Vulnerability requires a computer user to open an attachment sent via e-mail that has a maliciously crafted Excel document, according to the advisory.

Microsoft said it is working on a security fix to plug the hole and will release it after it has completed testing. In the meantime, Windows users are urged to avoid opening Office files from untrusted sources or … Read more

Exiting workers taking confidential data with them

As layoffs continue apace, a survey released on Monday shows what many companies fear--exiting workers are taking a lot more with them than just their personal plants and paperweights.

Of about 950 people who said they had lost or left their jobs during the last 12 months, nearly 60 percent admitted to taking confidential company information with them, including customer contact lists and other data that could potentially end up in the hands of a competitor for the employee's next job stint.

"I don't think these people see themselves as being thieves or as stealing," said … Read more

Symantec debuts Norton Online Family

UPDATED: Corrected list of supported messaging protocols.

Known for its security software, Symantec on Tuesday launched a new program aimed at educating parents about their children's online usage. Norton Online Family, now available in beta, is a parental control suite with multiple levels of restriction and an emphasis on usage reporting.

Citing a Rochester Institute of Technology study that found a huge gap between the percentage of parents versus children who report no online supervision, Symantec says that Online Family is intended to bridge that gap by "fostering communication" between parents and their kids. According to the … Read more

Ask partners with Symantec on security ratings for Web searches

Search engine Ask is partnering with Symantec to offer Web surfers ratings on the safety level of sites in search results, the companies were set to announce on Tuesday.

Sites will be rated with a color-coded icon in one of four colors--green for safe, yellow for risky, red for unsafe, and gray for unknown, said Andrew Moers, president of Ask Partner Network. Moving the cursor over the icon will display more information about the rating.

Unsafe sites are ones that pretend to be something they are not and shopping sites that lack security or where the merchants aren't reputable, … Read more

Report: Symantec CEO is top commerce secretary candidate

Updated 4:25 p.m. PST with reaction from tech industry representatives in Washington, D.C.

John Thompson, outgoing chief executive of security company Symantec, is being considered for the post of secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, according to a news wire report on Tuesday.

"He (Thompson) is the leading candidate," Reuters quoted an unidentified senior Democratic source as saying. "He is still being vetted."

Thompson, who announced in November that he would step down in April, held several fund-raisers for Obama at his Silicon Valley home.

"John has always kept his … Read more

Symantec virtualization tech turns 1 PC into 3

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California -- Symantec is turning to virtualization and cloud computing to protect Web surfers and let them access Web-based applications from one site.

The company demonstrated the technologies, along with another one designed to block malware from getting into corporate networks, to reporters and briefed them on its research and development strategy at an event it dubbed "Innovation Showcase" on Wednesday.

Virtualization technology that essentially creates different machines on the same computer offers a good platform for securing PCs by providing different protected environments, said Joe Pasqua, vice president of research at Symantec Research Labs.

Taking advantage of this trend, … Read more

Symantec continues to bet on R&D

Everyone in the technology industry should be sure to read this recent article in BusinessWeek that discusses current problems with the Silicon Valley business model and ideas for improvement. The article suggests that VCs and many firms are too concerned with short-term financial exit strategies rather than real investment in R&D.

Just after I read this article, I happened to meet with Symantec about a new project coming out of its internal incubator called Go Everywhere. Go Everywhere is an online workspace that actually aggregates other services from Web sites like, Google, and Zoho. In other … Read more

The smartphone buzz in '09? It's not a product

There's already a lengthy wish list as users ponder the invention of the "ideal" smartphone in 2009. All well and good. But I submit that next year's most important technology development won't have anything to do with a new feature or application.

Instead, it's going to boil down to whether mobile device makers open smartphones as widely as the personal computer. Manufactures and carriers, scared to death about the possible security implications, may decide that it's wiser to instead keep their devices closed. How long they can ignore the pressure is unclear.

That'… Read more