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Symantec Investigates Possible Leak of Norton AntiVirus Source Code

Created: 09 Jan 2012 • 5 comments
Srikanth_Subra's picture
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Symantec is investigating claims by a group of hackers that they are in possession of source code for its Norton AntiVirus (NAV) product.

The group, which uses the name "The Lords of Dharmaraja," claims to have stolen Symantec source code and documentation from the servers of Indian intelligence agencies, along with intellectual property from other software companies that have contracts with the Indian government.

"As of now we start sharing with all our brothers and followers information from the Indian Military Intelligence servers," the group said in a Pastebin post on Wednesday. "So far we have discovered within the Indian Spy Programme source codes of a dozen software companies which have signed agreements with Indian TANCS programme and CBI."

The original post has been deleted from Pastebin but was still available in Google's cache. It contains a draft document describing API (application programming interface) procedures for Symantec's virus definition generation service.

According to Symantec, the leaked documentation dates back to April 1999 and is no longer relevant for its current systems.

"This document explains how the software is designed to work (what inputs are accepted and what outputs are generated) and contains function names, but there is no actual source code present," said Cris Paden, Symantec's senior manager of corporate communications.

"The information in the 1999 document has no bearing or impact on our current products, i.e., the information in the document cannot be used to impair or corrupt our current solutions," Paden added.

The hackers also said that they are in possession of source code for Norton AntiVirus, which they plan to release at a later time. "We are working out mirrors as of now since we experience extreme pressure and censorship from US and India government agencies," the group said in their Pastebin post.

To substantiate their claim, The Lords of Dharmaraja made a second post on Pastebin with a listing of files allegedly contained in the Norton AntiVirus source code package.

Symantec could not confirm whether the file listing corresponds to its source code.

"A second claim has been made by the same group regarding additional source code and we're currently investigating that. For that one, we don't have any information to provide as of yet," Paden said.

It remains to be seen if The Lords of Dharmaraja will release any actual files and what version of Norton AntiVirus, if any, will be affected. If it's current enough, the code could potentially provide malware writers with the knowledge required to evade detection, and could give Symantec's competitors an inside look into the company's technology.

If the leak turns out to be real, Symantec wouldn't be the first antivirus vendor to deal with such an incident. In January 2011, the source code for an older version of Kaspersky Antivirus was uploaded to a torrent site. The intellectual property was stolen in early 2008 by a former Kaspersky employee who attempted to sell it on the Internet. He received a three-year suspended prison sentence in Russia.

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mitch.sprague@gmail.com's picture

Any idea when we might hear an update on what the status is?  Any risks?

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gotohell's picture

Among the file list names, some file names were offprot, CA innoculate engine, and Mcafee !! Does that mean NAV is using a part of source code of other products??

<<The content on PasteBin has since been removed, and Yama Tough's Google+ posts were deleted, Symantec says.>> Can you throw some light on this??

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Ian_C.'s picture

Among the file list names, some file names were offprot, CA innoculate engine, and Mcafee !! Does that mean NAV is using a part of source code of other products??

Most likely not. As part of the SEP install (Can't comment on NAV), there is a component for the uninstall of competitors products. This means Symantec will have to properly detect if the competitors software is installed & thus will be mentioned in file names.

Please mark the post that best solves your problem as the answer to this thread.
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Swathi Turlapaty's picture

“With regards to documents posted by Anonymous indicating a link between Symantec and any government agencies involved, after extensive investigation of our own files, records and transactions dating back to the time of this purported document and before, we have failed to find any incident where we actually shared any code with the Indian government.  Anonymous has claimed that they got the information from the Indian government, but we have found no confirmation that the Indian government actually had the information in the first place.  We are still investigating exactly where or how Anonymous accessed the code, but to date, we have found no evidence that we shared any information with the Indian government.  If the Indian government was indeed in possession of the code – as Anonymous claims and which has not been verified yet -- we have no indication that it came from Symantec or as a result of our software assurance processes.

Symantec can confirm that a segment of its source code used in two of our older enterprise products has been accessed, one of which has been discontinued. The code involved is approximately six years old.  Symantec’s own network was not accessed, but rather that of a third-party entity. This does not affect Symantec’s Norton products for our consumer customers. We are still gathering information on the details and are not in a position to provide specifics on the third party involved. Presently, we have no indication that the code disclosure impacts the functionality or security of Symantec’s solutions.  Furthermore, there are no indications that customer information has been impacted or exposed at this time.  Symantec recommends that users keep their solutions updated which will ensure protection against any new possible threats that might result from this incident.  Given the early stages of the investigation, we have no further details to disclose at this time but will provide updates as we confirm additional facts.”

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AR Sharma's picture

Please write more blogs!

Thanks & Regards,

AR Sharma, CISSP

IBM Certified System Admin- Lotus Domino V7

ITIL V2 Certified

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