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Symantec Fires CEO Steve Bennett 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the moving-on dept.
wiredmikey (1824622) writes "Symantec on Thursday announced that CEO Steve Bennett was terminated by the security company and has been replaced by Michael Brown as interim president and CEO. Bennett, who also resigned from Symantec's board of directors, took the top position at Symantec in July 2012, after former president and CEO Enrique Salem was pushed out by the Board of Directors. In April 2013, Bennett, told attendees at its own Vision Conference, that the company was changing, and acknowledged that Symantec 'lacked strategy' when it came to dealing with acquisitions. His plan was to move the company forward slowly, but consistently and make Symantec easier to do business with. That strategy, or at least the execution of it, hasn't impressed the board of directors, it seems."
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Symantec Fires CEO Steve Bennett

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ah, but how much was his severance package worth?

     

    And has he received new offers already?

    • by kav2k (1545689)

      What severance package?

      "...was terminated by the security company..."

      Golden casket, I guess. Man, corporate politics those days.

      • "What severance package?"

        $14 million, apparently. See this WSJ article: Symantec Fires CEO Steve Bennett [wsj.com]. How will he live? Should we donate some money to keep him off the street?

        Have you called Symantec in the last 2 years? Or gotten emails from Symantec support? My experience was that everyone with whom I talked was amazingly disfunctional. That's what the Symantec CEO meant when he said [computerworld.com], "Our system is just broken".

        Symantec has contracts with the U.S. government. People in the U.S. government don't seem to me to understand much about the technology. I'm guessing the contracts are a waste of tax money.
        • by jrumney (197329)

          Have you called Symantec in the last 2 years? Or gotten emails from Symantec support? My experience was that everyone with whom I talked was amazingly disfunctional. That's what the Symantec CEO meant when he said, "Our system is just broken".

          It's good that he can see the problem, but a CEO's job is to take action, not to just complain about it or initiate pointless reorgs that don't really fix anything.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @06:49PM (#46539493)

    Have them make a product worth buying.

    To quote a former boss of mine, "We don't say anything bad about the competition. so we say 'Symantec has really nice looking boxes'."

    • by mlts (1038732) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:24PM (#46539707)

      They have products worth buying. Namely, the whole PGP desktop/mobile IP.

      If Symantec sold the desktop version with more features and with a hardware crypto token, all for a reasonable price, virtually every geek would buy it, if only for a place to store the mandatory private key, even if it never gets used.

      Backup Exec and NetBackup, similar. They need to take a page from Tolis's BRU and allow complete installation of their software for restores without needing serial numbers. That way, people don't have the catch 22 of needing info stored on a backup to unlock the backup program to restore... Making a version that can compete with Retrospect would be useful for SMBs as well. Heck, just make a smaller version of the NetBackup Appliance and sell that for $599.

      Symantec has a lot of cool stuff (heck, they used to be the main compiler maker for Mac until the PowerPC days.) They just need to start bringing it out and consider going for volume. A couple thousand people paying $20 for PGP desktop for personal use/security will make more money than 1-2 people paying $250 for the same program.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:51PM (#46539851) Journal
        Unfortunately, Symantec seems to have a bit of the reverse Midas touch going on: they aquire a formerly promising company, it turns to shit, much less any attempts at internal development.

        PGP: is it cool? Definitely, noble lineage, strong encryption for the masses, etc. Has Symantec done anything worth mentioning, aside from (perhaps, this is Symantec here) compatibility updates since they bought it? Crickets. (And, as for the hardware token, fully integrated USB ones are nice; but smartcards are pretty much 100% commodified, and designed to securely store private keys, so even a hardware token would bring little more than convenience to the table). Backup Exec is fiddly, undistinguished, and nontrivially expensive, and just isn't looking any better with age. The Altiris acquisition, while minor in the grand scheme of their operations, they utterly fucked up(take a formerly relatively niche product; but a niche product with a niche, and turn it into a shitty attempt at being a competitor to MS SMS? What could go wrong?).

        Honestly, the only surprising thing about Symantec's 'strategy' is that it isn't hurting them more. They haven't developed anything worth buying out of the bargain bin in god-knows-how-long, and they manage to impart nontrivial negative value to anybody they buy almost immediately. Take them out back, shoot them, and give the money back to the shareholders...
        • by krammit (540755)
          Reverse Midas touch? I believe you mean the Ballmer squirt.


          I'll let myself out.
          • At least Ballmer has the decency to sometimes attempt things in-house, Symantec is more like watching the MS acquisition of Danger/Sidekick all the time, at a slightly smaller scale.
            • by jd2112 (1535857)

              At least Ballmer has the decency to sometimes attempt things in-house, Symantec is more like watching the MS acquisition of Danger/Sidekick all the time, at a slightly smaller scale.

              You mean like the MS acquisition of Nokia?

              • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @09:34PM (#46540295) Journal
                I don't know whether or not it will actually save Windows Phone whatever version, markets have traditionally been rather cruel to everyone except the first one or two vendors, and the OEM cloneshops who scrape by on margins that wouldn't even keep the lights on at some fancy corporate campus; but MS' takeover of Nokia looks far better executed than their takeover of Danger.

                With Danger, they shelled out substantial money for a formerly fairly vigorous company and turned it into... 'Project Pink', while simultaneously pissing off Verizon, probably the single most powerful carrier in the US, and wasting substantial amounts of time reinventing the wheel because Sidekicks didn't run WinCE and that was ideologically unacceptable. They then went on to one of the fastest launch-to-cancellation cycles in contemporary history. Then, just to add injury to insult, they lost all their existing sidekick customers' data in a high-profile fiasco that highlighted the downsides of the cloud-centric model they were hoping to promote(and probably didn't endear them any further to carriers who had been selling Danger handsets by the boatload in the past). Good job on that one, guys.

                With Nokia, by contrast, they picked up a respected hardware OEM to serve as their lead design vassal for phones shipping with their OS, killed off Nokia's remaining attempts to build or modernize their own OS, and all for a relative pittance. Made Google's Motorola buy look like amateur improv comedy hour.
            • "At least Ballmer has the decency to sometimes attempt things in-house, Symantec is more like watching the MS acquisition of Danger/Sidekick all the time, at a slightly smaller scale."

              When Peter Norton still ran the company, the Norton Utilities were "the shit", as people say. I bought a license for the Symantec version of Norton Utilities + Antivirus, after they bought Peter out. The "subscription" to the Antivirus updates was good for a year. I let it expire. I didn't bother to continue updating the other tools. They just weren't my time.

              I used the original character-based Norton Commander as my file manager as long as I was running Windows, up through Vista. I still keep a copy aro

        • by mlts (1038732) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @08:30PM (#46540037)

          I agree with you. I don't know what to call it, other than a reverse Midas touch.

          The ironic thing is that Symantec's PGP was the only program available for OS X that did FDE encryption before FileVault 2 came out. It was fairly messy how it loaded in, but it did work and did protect all data on the HDD.

          PGPDisk also has the ability to grow/shrink an encrypted volume, which is a nice thing to have. TrueCrypt sort of has this capability, but uses sparse files (i.e. if the file gets copied via Samba, it will take up the full space given, even though most of the encrypted volume is zeroes.)

          Going back earlier, Symantec also had a very well written edition of PGP for PalmOS and Windows Mobile, with encrypted volumes.

          Symantec has a very kick-ass opportunity right now. They can capitalize on the general concern of both businesses and people and sell not just PGP Desktop, but a complete infrastructure going past BitLocker where a cryptographic token would be required for the OS to load. Not just a file on a USB flash drive, but a token where the key is well protected even from physical attack.

          It blows my mind that they have the encryption market cornered with a solution that starts on boot, handles Samba shares, can handle files as disks similar to TrueCrypt, can function as a ZIP archiving utility, and can encrypt individual files with ease. However, they either let things sit, or price themselves out of the market.

          Another example is the PGP server. This functionality is very useful for a company. It allows key recovery and ADKs, without going down the black hole of key escrow.

          Symantec just has so much potential with the companies they own. Things like Ghost and Veritas's LVM replacement come to mind.

          Even with compilers, they also have had things like a very solid C++ compiler for DOS and Windows 3.1 which shipped with more than 2 and a half feet of printed manuals, with every single function all described in good detail. I've not seen something that well documented outside of some IBM Redbooks.

          I completely agree with the parent -- Symantec needs to "unfuck" some of their offerings and go for the target markets at a non-enterprise price. At the minimum, spin PGP out as a separate corporation and sell not just to the enterprise, but the average person. I'm sure with all the historic lineage of PGP combined with word of mouth, people would pay something like $19.95 to $29.95 for it without a second thought.

          Yes, TrueCrypt can do similar, but having another commercially supported and updated encryption program that has its own independant signing system is very useful and flexible.

          It wouldn't hurt to revamp Norton as well. Chasing virus/malware signatures is all but pointless. Instead, blocking by IP similar to Malwarebytes or perhaps even offering sandbox functionality for Web browsers would do far more than just having Norton be another "virus condom" utility.

          • Symantec has a very kick-ass opportunity right now. They can capitalize on the general concern of both businesses and people and sell not just PGP Desktop, but a complete infrastructure going past BitLocker where a cryptographic token would be required for the OS to load. Not just a file on a USB flash drive, but a token where the key is well protected even from physical attack.

            Huh? PGP Desktop has long supported using a token or smart card to authenticate to an encrypted disk at boot. Yes, it supports the "file on a flash drive" approach as well but also supports cryptographic tokens from a lot of different manufacturers.

            • by mlts (1038732)

              I should have stated differently.

              What I meant to state is that is a very good thing that PGP supports more than just a file on a USB flash drive. Having something like a smart card + reader, eToken or a similar USB based device is a lot better than a file on media, just because an attacker can't just copy the contents off, which is a possibility if the USB flash drive was left plugged into the machine.

              One of my laptops still uses an Aladdin eToken (before they were bought out by Safenet) as a means of boot

        • by jd2112 (1535857)

          Unfortunately, Symantec seems to have a bit of the reverse Midas touch going on: they aquire a formerly promising company, it turns to shit, much less any attempts at internal development.

          Imagine a merger of Symantec and CA. (shudder)

          • Unfortunately, Symantec seems to have a bit of the reverse Midas touch going on: they aquire a formerly promising company, it turns to shit, much less any attempts at internal development.

            Imagine a merger of Symantec and CA. (shudder)

            Just think of it as being like hazmat cleanup: anything too dangerous to neutralize, you concentrate for easier sequestration...

        • by jafac (1449)

          Having worked for a former acquiree; can confirm.

      • by spacepimp (664856)

        Why not use truecrypt? Free and free. If their AV is any indication on how they develop and maintain PGP I won't go near it.

        • by mlts (1038732)

          TrueCrypt is decent, but it can't hurt to have a utility that is updated and maintained with similar functionality. Truecrypt is going over two years without an update. It is a very good program, but PGP has a lot of functionality (public/private key exchange and upkeep, web of trust, etc.) that TC doesn't have.

          Of course, one can use GNUpg and TrueCrypt. The command line works well, but GUI-wise, Symantec Encryption Desktop Professional (i.e. PGP Desktop) is just a lot easier to get around in.

          One side no

          • by pla (258480)
            Truecrypt is going over two years without an update.

            Truecrypt doesn't try to serve every unrelated encryption need you might ever possibly have. It does securely encrypted disk-like things on a variety of underlying mediums, and nothing else. And in that regard, it hasn't needed an update in two years - I don't mean to sound like a zealot here, but honestly, Truecrypt comes just about as close to "perfect" software as I've ever seen.

            And in that regard, Symantec (and Microsoft, and Gnome, and Apple, a
          • TrueCrypt is decent, but it can't hurt to have a utility that is updated and maintained with similar functionality. Truecrypt is going over two years without an update. It is a very good program, but PGP has a lot of functionality (public/private key exchange and upkeep, web of trust, etc.) that TC doesn't have.

            Of course, one can use GNUpg and TrueCrypt. The command line works well, but GUI-wise, Symantec Encryption Desktop Professional (i.e. PGP Desktop) is just a lot easier to get around in.

            One side note -- PGP Desktop isn't officially supported on Windows 8 and 8.1... but it does work.

            Recent releases of PGP Desktop do support Windows 8/8.1: Symantec Encryption Desktop 10.3.2 compatibility with Microsoft Windows 8/8.1 [symantec.com]

      • Symantec is a lot like EA in that respect. They acquire companies that have a spiffy product, then milk it 'til nobody can stomach it anymore.

        But be honest, what was the last GOOD thing that came out of Symantec that wasn't a direct or indirect acquisition rather than an internal development?

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Yuck...just yuck. Your own description shows why to never use their software, bits like "needing info stored on a backup to unlock the backup program to restore" shows the company is being run by accountants and not engineers.

        For Antivirus? Buy Comodo, their enterprise software is pretty damned solid and reasonably priced, for hard drive backup and recovery go Paragon, again solid and reasonable. There is a REASON why Symantec has such a bad rep, its a badly run company. If you want to bet the farm or you

    • Do they still sell stuff??

      Jeez....I had just assumed the quality of their products would have killed off their business by now.

      Wonders will never cease...
    • by King_TJ (85913)

      Exactly! Everything Symantec puts its name on turns to garbage.... Company could rename itself "Reverse Midas Corp."

  • Impossible job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Thursday March 20, 2014 @06:51PM (#46539511) Journal
    Growing sales in a shrinking market is hard enough. Doing it with Symantec software is plain impossible. Not getting a share of mobile? The mobile platforms have whitelist app stores and app isolation that make their software both unnecessary and impossible to implement.
    • Free is beating them on the low end too. Corps are the only buyers who need enterprise integration and management.

      But for Joe six pack he can download avast or security essentials for free. Does anyone besides moms and grandmas actually buy Norton?

      • Re:Impossible job (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Mashiki (184564) <{mashiki} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:09PM (#46539609) Homepage

        Corps are the only buyers who need enterprise integration and management.

        You mean corps and governments right? Well even the government agencies I've dealt with out in western canada are dumping symantic fully for just about anything else. Sadly though, I remember when Norton was the best AV product on the market, and I can remember when F-Prot kicked them out of it, then kicked them while they were down. Well that was almost 20 years ago now too, it's been on a screaming decline since then. The biggest killer of course is just how top-heavy and resource hungry their AV suite is compared to everything else on the market.

        • Re:Impossible job (Score:4, Informative)

          by Billly Gates (198444) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:21PM (#46539685) Journal

          Norton supposedly is MUCH improved and was re-engineered from the ground up in 2011. It has a good detection rate and fast performance according to av-total and other AV certification firms which release test results to the public.

          However, like IE its brand is tarnished. Better is nice but it is hard to re-earn trust. I heard realnetworks fixed their player and was advertised on slashdot 4 years ago and they said they were sorry. It died fast as everyone laughed and shook their heads.

          Symantec from what I see is still resource heavy on firms I work with. Perhaps they had an old version based on the older slow 360. A re-image at any other company takes 10 minutes. 3 freaking hours instead all going to install Symantec!???

          They are on icore5's too!

          • by Anonymous Coward

            It's not supposedly, it's true. In fact, it's been much better since 2009.

          • Symantec is the definition of bloatware -- no way I would touch them with a 10 foot pole. They are OK on OSX but on Windows -- a total clusterfuck.

            Does anyone under 25 even know who Peter Norton is/was?

          • Norton supposedly is MUCH improved and was re-engineered from the ground up in 2011. It has a good detection rate and fast performance according to av-total and other AV certification firms which release test results to the public.

            Yeah, awesome. Symantec Client Security can detect "ZBot-like network activity" on a workstation, but it can neither detect nor remove the actual ZBot infection. Garbage.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Sadly though, I remember when Norton was the best AV product on the market, and I can remember when F-Prot kicked them out of it, then kicked them while they were down

          What? When was that? Norton was supplanted by Kaspersky AVP because they ruined all the parts wrapped around the engine, AVP then became unbearably slow and was replaced by Avast!, which then became a whore and ruined its interface at the same time and was replaced by Avira, which became a whore and ruined its interface just as Avast! fixed theirs, and was replaced by Avast! again. It's the effectiveness winner just now.

    • Same tactic as they normally do with AV software. Scare people into thinking they require an antivirus app for their phone, despite it probably not having the ability to do anything because of isolation, permission restrictions.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Symantec software is a fricking pain in the ass.

      For PCI, some security and compliance idiot decided that Symantec egress filtering software was a good idea. Because their software is tied to specific Linux versions, the security appliances that scan the entire network cannot work with updated kernels that fix some critical flaws.

      Their endpoint Linux software is no better. It's tied to a critically flawed Java version. Can we update the JVM? Sure, but then we lose support for the broken product.

      Their cluster

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Not getting a share of mobile? The mobile platforms have whitelist app stores and app isolation that make their software both unnecessary and impossible to implement.

      It just means they're going at the wrong level - don't sell an app, sell a service that comes with the phone. Most of those Android phones sold out there to clueless users. The thing to do is get their software preloaded in the OS image so it's not removable and then get the carriers to sell it as security software and all that to protect them

  • I wish this even partially made up for the horrible way they handled the Altiris acquisition.
    • You also were...less than totally impressed... by Altiris 7?

      I think that our internal review of that piece of work is the only time my jaw has ever literally dropped when dealing with a vendor. I've never seen an acquisition squandered that hard, ever, much less subsequently offered as an 'upgrade' with a straight face.

      I can only assume that the blowback must have been pretty severe; because they certainly didn't want to release 6.9SP5 (and oh fuck does it show; but still better than 7).

      On the plus
      • by cusco (717999)

        What they did to DriveImage was even worse, took the best imaging product on the market, ripped its guts out, slapped the much-inferior Ghost interface on it, and removed the ability to copy an image over the network without purchasing a Pro or Premium or something license. It went from fitting on a single floppy to needing a CD, in the days when not all BIOSes would boot off a CD. I still have a DriveImage disk around somewhere, because I refused to used that clusterfuck even when my boss paid for a lice

      • by RITjobbie (211397)
        Be sure to check out PDQ Deploy. It has fed my Altiris 6.9 needs since switching to SCCM for imaging and other proactive management, provisioning, and deployment. But if I want something done right this very second now, PDQ is the only way to go. Anything in SCCM takes time, sometimes a LOT of time.
        • Thanks, I'll have to give that a look. We currently have 6.9sp5 bodged into pretty-much-working in the post-XP environment; but it doesn't exactly require oracular powers to suspect that the longer term outlook for Altiris is pretty grim.
  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:21PM (#46539695)

    Any viruses you get will be limited in how much damage they can do because of how slow Symantec will make your computer.

    Computer viruses and anti-virus applications are in a game of cat and mouse. Only the best virus writers can make viruses that are resource efficient enough to run on a machine with Symantec products.

    I wouldn't want to be some malware trying to compete with Norton anti-virus for CPU time. It's no contest. Symantec will easily take 90-95% of the total CPU capacity, leaving you only a few cycles with which to steal credit card numbers, mine bitcoins, or try spread yourself to other hosts. You will be so marginalized that no one will even no you're there, like an unpopular girl hiding in a dark corner at a high school dance.

    • Viruses are very resource efficient now. IN the past they used XP's device driver development kit to install themselves as hardware for kernel integration. This slowed the kernel down.

      Windows 7 got rid of this.

      Today they are very light so users do not know they are infected. Many who say proudly they do not need AV because they are sooo smart and do not click shit have 4 or 5 infections when I go onto their systems. Then they tell me how firefox would NEVER let that happen. LOL

      An icore7 has 80 billion instr

      • Is your sarcasm detector nonfunctional?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Firefox with NoScript and Adblock will make even a Windows machine remarkably hard to infect. Don't believe the antivirus propaganda; that's for dumb users that watch videos at sketchy sites and download all manner of filth.

        • Firefox with NoScript and Adblock will make even a Windows machine remarkably hard to infect. Don't believe the antivirus propaganda; that's for dumb users that watch videos at sketchy sites and download all manner of filth.

          Use AV.

          There are very smart hackers out there who can hide shit, privledge escalate, and even get into your linux boxen like no tomorrow and hide from rootkits.

          There is a free AV and clamAV for linux. There was a freebsd tool I used chkrootkit that I used back in 2003. These malware can still hide of course on the linux box so EFI might be needed if you are a corp.

          Point is I am not a paid spokes person. I repair computers for people who get infected. There is some serious evil shit out of Russia and easter

          • by Smauler (915644)

            There are very smart hackers out there who can hide shit, privledge escalate, and even get into your linux boxen like no tomorrow and hide from rootkits.

            Very smart hackers will not be deterred for a minute by generic consumer antivirus.

            I've not run AV since about 2000 or so... had a couple of infections, nothing serious, easily cleaned. If I'm worried, I'll boot off a CD to check the filesystem... very few things can get around that. I constantly have to clean some of my extended family's systems, des

            • That's a little disingenuous. Running AV will help prevent infection as long as it makes use of on-access scanning and heuristics against zero-day attacks. Passive / Offline scanning is no good for prevention, but active prevention is, and all modern (Windows) antivirus software features on-access scanning, as well as on-mount removable media scanning and automatic scanning of downloads.

              A better analogy is like saying getting the MMR vaccine won't help you when you already have rubella, but it might stop
  • by un4given (114183) <bvoltz@gmail.3.14com minus pi> on Thursday March 20, 2014 @07:42PM (#46539815)

    Disclaimer: I am an IT consultant and I work with multiple vendors' products, including Symantec. The biggest problem that we have with Symantec is support. It's horrible. It's so bad that Symantec has a program for it's partner resellers called TAPP. It requires certifications and training to get into, and only gives you access to more competent tech support than the general public gets. The fact that they even need such a program is telling.

    • You do really have to wonder about the fact that an antivirus company(which would theoretically know something about using 'signatures' to detect things), has a difficult time using the theoretically-unique serial number of your product to route you to the correct unhelpful script-reader...
  • and they couldn't get rid of it..

  • They've been pointless since they acquired THNK technologies and ruined their products. When was that, 1992?
  • The good thing about symantec is I can't think of any good products they offer.
  • Like Yahoo this company no longer has any purpose other than its own continuity.

    The sooner it dies, on fire in a hole, the better.

    Its really sad seeing how desperately they re-image the company every few years. Its like a sad out of shape actor that had a glimpse of fame 20 years ago...still trying to prise money from the ever stiffening corpse of rejection.

  • I'm looking forward to learning more about which companies did what when approached by the NSA about including (damaging) their own products that customers purchased from them in good faith..
    Just speculation on keyboard.

  • I think they should go back to their consumer PC security & utility roots and hire John McAfee.

  • I could run Symantec better than it's been run the last decade... or two.

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