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RSA: Symantec's Thompson Takes Swipe At Microsoft

Symantec Chairman John Thompson calls for a multilateral industry approach to tackling security issues and needles Microsoft for the expanded role it's trying to take on.

Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson Tuesday called for a multilateral industry approach to tackling security issues and needled Microsoft for the expanded role it is trying to take on.

In delivering a keynote address at RSA Conference 2007 in San Francisco, Thompson also predicted that consumers will have a much greater impact on IT security practices going forward.

Thompson said fostering consumer confidence in the security of Internet transactions is an industrywide challenge, calling it "the single most important mission our industry faces."

"No company is so dominant or so all-knowing that it can provide the level of confidence needed throughout the entire online world," Thompson said during a keynote address at the RSA Conference 2007 in San Francisco, noting Symantec's partnerships with companies such as Accenture, VeriSign, Yahoo, Google, Juniper Networks and Intel. "We understand that we're all in this together."

In his next breath, Thompson took a thinly veiled swipe at Microsoft for creating what he characterized as a "conflict of interest."

"Who would trust one company to do everything for them? You wouldn't want the company that is keeping your books to audit them," Thompson said. "By the same logic, you wouldn't want the company that created your company's operating platform to be the one that secures it. It's a huge conflict of interest."

Thompson's comments, which focused primarily on the growing impact consumers will have on enterprise IT, followed a keynote address earlier in the day from Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie in which the duo outlined the company's vision for providing secure, anywhere access to applications and introduced a new technology partnership that aims to help customers increase their security online.

"Consumers will demand that enterprises conform to a set of technologies and business practices. They'll demand a certain level of security before they're willing to connect," he said.

Thompson pointed to the growing popularity of downloadable video, YouTube and community sites like MySpace and Friendster to show how the ability to collaborate online, work remotely and engage in more multi-party transactions is creating new business models for enterprises.

"What used to be clear lines separating enterprises and consumers have now become blurred as networks are extended to not only partners and suppliers but also, most importantly, consumers," he said.

Thompson said Symantec's planned acquisition of Altiris plays into the company's mission to bolster consumer confidence.

"All [endpoints] need to be managed and protected. That's why last week we announced our intent to acquire Altiris -- because we believe the most secure endpoint is a well-managed endpoint."

Thompson also pointed to forthcoming technology from Symantec, including Norton Identity Client, a product that aims to help consumers manage their online identities and secure online transactions. Symantec is demonstrating the technology at the show, which debuted last week as a prototype at the DEMO technology conference last week.

"The solution can help users tell if a site is not legitimate by alerting them if the site's security certificates aren't valid, if it's a phishing risk, or if its business practices have been rated poorly by others who do business with them," he said.

Symantec is also demonstrating Norton Internet Security 2007, its latest PC security offering, at the show.

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