TECH
07/05/2014 11:20 BST | Updated 07/05/2014 11:59 BST

'Antivirus Is Dead' Says Exec At Symantec (Who Invented The Idea)

We've got bad news if you just renewed your antivirus subscription: you shouldn't have bothered.

'Antivirus' is dead. And that's coming from the senior VP at Symantec - the company that invented the idea.

Brian Dye, who is senior vice-president for information security at the company which makes and sells Norton Antivirus, made the comments in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Dye said that antivirus software now catches less than half of all cyberattacks, and is unable to protect its users from modern malware.

He said that viruses are now so complex and mutate so quickly, that any traditional antivirus software is almost by definition unable to cope. It's "dead", Dye said. "We don't think of antivirus as a moneymaker in any way."

Critics of antivirus point to examples such as the recent Heartbleed security crisis, in which huge amounts of passwords and personal details were made visible on the web due to an endemic tech flaw, or the 'zero day' bug which affected all versions of Internet Explorer.

But no, that doesn't mean Symantec is giving up on consumer software or its 8% marketshre.

Instead Symantec will look to make new products, developed so that threats are identified before they can necessarily be fixed, and are then dealt with -- rather than just trying to "protect" users from harm.

"If customers are shifting from protect to detect and respond, the growth is going to come from detect and respond," Dye told the WSJ.

But Eugene Kaspersky, founder of the security lab that bears his name, offered a slightly more nuanced take. He said in an emailed comment that while antivirus is regularly declared 'dead', it still has a part to play in the effort to protect users.

He said:

"I’ve heard antiviruses being declared dead and buried quite a few times over the years, but they’re still here with us – alive and kicking. I fully agree that single-layer signature-based virus scanning is nowhere near a sufficient degree of protection – not for individuals, not for organizations large or small; however, that’s been the case for many years.

Today, security is about a combination of various technologies – heuristics, sandboxing, cloud protection and many others – which form essential elements of any superior-quality IT security solution, in addition to good old time-tested signature-based virus detection."