Symantec previews future technologies

Wednesday, 01 April, 2009

With Symantec still hiring engineers in Australia and the company spending between US$600 million to US$700 million globally on research and development, the company will be well placed to take advantage of the upturn in the economy when it comes.

Executive Vice-President and CTO Mark Bregman is in Australia this week to preview two of Symantec’s future technologies and provide an insight into the innovative ways Symantec is solving real-world problems in security, storage and systems management.

Heading up the Office of the CTO, Bregman’s responsibilites includes Symantec Research Labs (SRL) — the company’s global research organisation which is focused on innovating next-generation technologies. Bregman said that innovation takes place across the entire company and is one of Symantec’s core values. The Australian Symantec operations alone has four different R&D centres in Sydney with a centre in  Brisbane and 300 people plus involved in R&D around the country.

“We ensure that research and development engineers are embedded within business units to remain close to product engineering and customer feedback,” said Bregman.

“Symantec is continuously generating new ideas and developing next-generation technologies. It’s not just the technical landscape that’s in a constant state of flux — market players, customer needs and the economy are also shifting, requiring us to innovate in every function of the company. We nurture innovation by fostering a culture that embraces change,” Bregman added.

Two new technologies are the particular focus of his visit to the ANZ region, DeepClean and Virtualization-Based Endpoint Security (VIBES).

DeepClean is a reputation-based whitelisting technology designed to help customers assess their risks and exposure to rapidly emerging threats as new malware continues appearing at unprecedented frequency. DeepClean leverages and extends the Symantec Global Intelligence Network for building and maintaining a precise, comprehensive whitelist and file/provider reputation infrastructure. DeepClean employs whitelisting and reputation analysis and supplements existing approaches such as signatures, heuristics and blacklists to detect today’s emerging internet threats and targeted attack types.

“This innovative technology was architected to address the scale and speed requirements necessary for use in enterprise environments with minimal administrative effort,” said Joe Pasqua, Vice-President, Symantec Research Labs, Symantec. “DeepClean is deployed as an enterprise perimeter monitor and presents risk assessment reports to IT administrators via a secure private web portal. Each file has a reputation rating that helps categorise legitimate and malicious files."

When released globally to the market it will be available as an appliance. It has already been deployed in the US and is starting to be released in Asia.

VIBES is a new innovation developed by the Symantec Research Labs Core Research group. VIBES leverages virtualisation technology to protect end users by preventing sensitive data entered in online transactions from being stolen and mitigating the risks associated with executing malicious content downloaded from the internet. By transparently setting up multiple isolated virtual execution environments, each with its own level of trust, this new approach significantly improves browser security by enabling users to seamlessly use different virtual execution environments to carry out different web transactions. The three virtual execution environments in the current VIBES prototype are:

  • The 'User' virtual machine where normal day-to-day activities are performed.
  • The 'Trusted' virtual machine where trusted operations such as entering sensitive credential information are conducted.
  • The 'Playground' virtual machine where more adventurous, untrusted activities are carried out, such as visiting unknown websites or downloading unknown applications.

“A unique capability of the VIBES technology is its ability to automatically choose the most suitable virtual execution environment for a given browser interaction scenario and completely hide the use of virtualisation from end users,” said Pasqua.

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