Symantec responds to TechRepublic member concerns

Several weeks ago, I commented here that I

was getting concerned

with problems I’ve encountered on consulting projects

that occurred as a result of users running Symantec software. This created a

firestorm of comment not only on that post, but also on a follow up one that

pointed out the near-universal

dislike TechRepublic members seemed to have for Symantec products in


Following those comments, I contacted Symantec to offer them an

opportunity to view first hand and comment on your reactions. I reached Amanda

Jones with Symantec’s PR agency, who in turn contacted Laura Garcia-Manrique, Sr. Director, Product Management for Symantec. I

summarized the comments around the following themes and requested her response:
  • Norton Antivirus causes performance problems
  • Norton Antivirus doesn’t catch or prevent all infections
  • SystemWorks causes irreversible damage
  • Systems fail after running LiveUpdate
  • Norton Internet Security blocking Internet access
  • Symantec's overall quality has been dropping
  • Poor Tech Support
  • Uninstallation routines don’t work
  • Symantec seems more interested in selling new product than fixing existing ones

I told Ms Garcia-Manrique that I would post her response unedited

to allow Symantec an open, unbiased forum. What follows is Symantec’s official

response to the issues raised in my blog and the TechRepublic member comments

that followed it:

Dear TechRepublic readers:

Let me thank you for taking the time to

write your opinions and feedback on our products. We here at Symantec take your

suggestions very seriously, and are working to incorporate them into our

in-market products as well as into our next generation of products. Let me

assure you that your voice is being heard, especially what you’ve said about

product performance, quality and installation.

Your security is our number one priority.

When we look at creating protection for new threats, we want to ensure that we

develop the most comprehensive protection for that threat; at times additional

security may come at a cost, and when a tradeoff needs to be made, we tend to

look at what is safest to do. Other products may choose less secure

implementations; we choose not to make compromises when the security of a

system could be at risk.

Turning to your comments, some of your

reports have to do with general installation and uninstallation of our

software, or running LiveUpdate. This is an area of focus for us. It is

standard for threats in the wild to block the installation of security software

so that they can persist on a system. In this area we have invested to

integrate pre-installation scanners to deal with infections on a system prior

to installation. But, there is more work to do. We diligently continue to

address the added complexity of more operating systems, service packs,

partially patched and updated operating environments and high numbers of

machines with file and system corruption as well as systems heavily infected

with spyware and adware. Another challenge comes from the general system

instability from older machines with limited system resources, and in some

cases, not even the bare minimum of resources needed to be running Windows or

basic applications. We have a formidable investment in engineering

resources dedicated to ensure product quality even in this increasingly more

complex environment.

Connectivity related issues reported with

Norton Internet Security have led to a number of fixes over the course of this

summer that have been LiveUpdated to our customer base. Make sure to run

LiveUpdate to get the latest patches if you have experienced a connectivity

problem. Also, our analysis of this general issue has made us reconsider the

fundamental approach in firewalls today: alert and ask for user action when an

application tries to connect to the Internet. Prompting users to choose whether

to allow or block an application to communicate to the Internet leads to user

error and connectivity problems. In many cases users choose to block access to

legitimate applications. To address this issue, we have developed a smarter

firewall that does not rely as heavily on user action and that will be part of

Norton Internet Security 2007.

Some of your concerns pointed at corrupted

registries with Norton SystemWorks. Although Norton SystemWorks might uncover

existing problems within a computer’s registry, the application itself does not

“have a tendency to corrupt registries” as was mentioned. In most cases when we

investigate a registry issue “caused” by Norton SystemWorks, it turns out that

the system suffered from a pre-existing registry problem that Norton

SystemWorks simply discovered and revealed. If you do think that Norton

SystemWorks might have caused a registry problem, we want to talk to you to

troubleshoot your problem. (

Technical support is another key area of

focus for us. In the past, we did indeed experience a capacity problem, at

times exacerbated by large outbreaks or security threats. This situation

prompted a complete revamp of our support organization. Today, Symantec answers

90% of customer calls in less than 2 minutes time, and

we stand by our support team who work 24x7 to assist our millions of paid

subscribers every day.

We offer home and small office users three

free types of technical support and one fee-based support option. Users can

access our online technical support knowledgebase 24 hours a day, free of

charge. We offer several automated tools on our web site that help customers

find answers to their questions quickly and easily. The second free

option is to access real-time online chat 24 hours a day. The

third free option is technical support available via e-mail.

The fourth option is telephone

support. This service is free for all installation issues and known

bugs. A fee is charged for all other calls and this service

is provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition, we offer free customer service via the telephone. Customer service

agents are able to provide assistance on a variety of non-technical issues

including general product information, rebates, registration, purchasing

options, returns and replacements.

Looking to the future, we have been working

on ongoing product performance improvements that can deliver top level security

with minimum system resource utilization. Let me share with you some specific

things that we have been working on for our 2007 product release:

-We’re reducing the amount of system memory that our products require to run.

-Our new products will have less running processes when they are not actively scanning or remediating threats.

-We’re making detection and removal of threats even faster.

-We’re minimizing the amount of impact our products have on system startup time.

-We’re minimizing the impact on system responsiveness and applications.

-We’re enhancing the adaptability of products to newer technologies.

-To minimize the impact from running full system scans with Norton

AntiVirus, we are building the ability to allow throttling between full system

scan and quick scans to run in the background with a reduced system impact when

performing other tasks on the computer.

And finally, we have changed our business

model so that we can keep your protection up to date, at all times. Some of

your comments speak to the need to buy newer versions of the software in order

to have fully up to date protection. Threats are constantly changing, and we

will continue to build new engines and new security products to keep you

protected. In order to minimize the burden of having to upgrade to newer

versions to have the most up to date protection, we have changed our model so

that customers with the 2006 and later versions of our software are entitled to

product updates and upgrades as they become available. This is now covered in

the cost of your subscription.

We’re grateful for this opportunity to take

your concerns and incorporate them into ours. We want you to know that your

satisfaction is very important to us — and moreover, that we are as concerned

about our product quality as you are.

Thank you,

Laura Garcia-Manrique

Sr. Director, Product Management

Consumer Products and Solutions, Symantec