Households are now connected in ways we never imagined – our cameras, phones, cars, even our refrigerators can talk to each other. “With this connectivity come vulnerabilities as more and more malware platforms make their way into our homes,” said Symantec President and CEO Greg Clark. Clark discussed these threats and how they’re surfacing in the home when he sat down with CNBC's Squawk Alley. Here’s an excerpt from that interview:
Q: Every year around this time it seems there’s a new wave of malicious threats on security, which hit security budgets hard. What’s different this year?
A: The cyber crisis continues. We definitely have a new set of threats that are showing up. I think it’s a testament to the fact that it’s ever-changing and the partners that you pick to help you defend it are really important. Cyber defense is a continuously moving target. There are a bunch of things that that should be there for the long haul. At Symantec, we put those things together and we deliver them to you integrated. What’s important is that there are a bunch of problems that emerge that are not solved and it takes a vibrant startup community and investment community around that to address some of those.
Really, it’s the sum of big cyber investments like we have at Symantec and some of the other big players in the industry as well as the vibrant startup community. The combination of those things integrated is what we call Integrated Cyber Defense. I think it’s very important for our customers and partners in really addressing a bunch of the crisis. Net is that it moves all the time and so there are all kinds of different things that need to happen. The big transition at the moment, from cloud to mobile, new attack surface, new methods of beating people and stealing information. It’s definitely a very vibrant time for cyber defense.
Q: In the PC era, there was security software installed on the PCs, and we could feel like we could trust that. In the smartphone era, there were app stores that were supposed to be restricted, and the security applied at that layer. We felt like we could trust that.
A: The injection of consumer IoT in the enterprise and all through the home is important. What we found in the last couple of years at Symantec where we’ve been putting things like the Norton Core product into the home is that the number of resident malware platforms that are in there is substantial. There is definitely an ever-present threat in the IoT. We’re addressing that threat. I think what people have to also realize it’s not just about antivirus or your PC or your mobile phone endpoint.
Q: In the IoT era, there are going to be cameras everywhere, microphones in the home, sensors in the car. Where do we go to actually know whether all of this stuff is secure?
A: There is a resonant threat in the network now and many consumers in the world have seen an email from somebody who has their mail password. When they’ve got your mail password extortion is rampant targeting consumers. Also, account takeover on things like Uber is rampant. It’s important to protect yourself in the network. Make sure that if you’re roaming around on other infrastructure you have a VPN engaged. These are very serious items right now and we’re seeing a lot of threats coming into that space. It’s not just on the endpoint, it’s also in the network, it’s in the IoT, and it’s in the home. Definitely, a different set of solutions are required now than what we saw ten years ago.
Q: Globally, where are the biggest threats coming from? Is it cyber criminals, or is it countries like North Korea or China or Russia that you hear reports of hackings?
A: We’re always going to see from now on cyber espionage. Espionage has been going on for hundreds of years and it will continue in cyber space probably forever. Big corporations, governments, there’s some heavy lifting that needs to be done there. We’re very invested in that at Symantec. Then on the consumer side, people at home and smaller businesses, there is definitely an extortion and ransom crisis going on there.
The US government has been addressing that with some great support for us around consequences by saying to third world countries, where a lot of these guys are resident, if you don’t have cyber laws on the books in a few years you may face US sanctions. We’re starting to bring some consequences which is very helpful. But it’s in two spaces. There are organized criminals stealing from people and companies and then there’s a bunch of nation-state activity. I think they’re with us for a long haul.