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Industry Group Brings Longtime Antivirus Rivals Together

McAfee and Symantec, bitter competitors in the security arena for decades, have learned to start sharing as part of the Cyber Threat Alliance, a group the two firms helped launch last week.

Perhaps it’s a sign of technology’s evolution that Symantec and McAfee, two longtime competitors in the security space, are ready to sit at the same table on a big issue.

But sit side by side they will, as two of the founding members of the newly formed Cyber Threat Alliance. The industry initiative, which also includes Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks, aims to improve intelligence sharing and collaboration on serious online threats. The alliance launched in May, but the addition of the two big-name antivirus firms represents something of a coup.

This new collaboration will enable industry players to more successfully defeat cybercriminals by sharing information on their tactics and infrastructure, explained Vincent Weafer, senior vice president for McAfee Labs. (The company, purchased by Intel in 2010, has cut ties with its controversial founder, John McAfee, whose name is no longer on the antivirus software .)

“We must match our adversaries’ aggressive drive to innovate with our own deeper commitment to collaborate,” Weafer said in a statement last week. “It’s no longer enough to share and compare yesterday’s malware samples. As an industry, we need to understand and be poised to react to the latest complex and multidimensional attacks of today and tomorrow.”

The move comes at a crossroads for the antivirus industry. Earlier this year, Microsoft stopped officially supporting Windows XP, leading many antivirus companies to consider their long-term plans for operating system security. And the mobile market is slowly shifting the focus of security products, leading to new competitors, such as Lookout.

But perhaps more tellingly, a Symantec executive claimed in May that antivirus technology is effectively “dead” and that his company will switch gears from preventing online attacks to finding the source of them and minimizing their effects.

Still, the new partnership came as something of a surprise to industry watchers like Techworld‘s John E. Dunn, who note that such a collaboration between vendors is relatively unheard of in this realm, despite government efforts to encourage this kind of information-sharing.

“Not long ago, the idea of two rivals such as McAfee and Symantec agreeing to pool threat data would have been seen as unthinkable, but here we are,” Dunne explained. “The world has changed.”

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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