John W. Thompson

Symantec's CEO talks about new paradigms in security, integrating a $13 billion merger and taking Microsoft to court.

John W. Thompson is the chairman and CEO of Symantec Corp. In late 2004, he spearheaded one of the largest IT mergers ever undertaken, joining Symantec and Veritas Software Corp. in a $13.5 billion deal.

Is a mobile employee carrying data a security professionals worst nightmare? People are the new perimeter. You cant define the perimeter based upon the firewall boundaries. You define the perimeter based upon where the individual is. Therefore, that device has to have adequate protection; that individual has to be trained to understand appropriate security protocols and the steps he must take.

Now, I can put technology on a device that limits USB port access, so if I put a thumb drive in there, I wont allow data to be transferred. Or I can install data-leakage technology, so if files of a certain type or certain size get transported out, then I know about that, and I can have a conversation with the user about why that occurred. But we have to be smarter about implementing a policy-based approach toward security not just throwing security technologies everywhere. Otherwise, it gets too complex and, frankly, too expensive for people to manage.

Dossier

John W. Thompson
Name: John W. ThompsonTitle: Chairman and CEOCompany: Symantec Corp.Location: Cupertino, Calif.The most interesting thing people don't know about him: "I'm the most boring person in the world. I have a few things that I love, but perhaps one I enjoy the most is cooking, because of the instant gratification that it gives you." Role models: "My mom and dad." Philosophy in a nutshell: "Play to win. Coming in second is losing."Ask him to do anything but: "make the same decision twice. It's a waste of time if you have to iterate through the same issue over and over again. I think we should make fact-based decisions and move on." In high school he was:"A rabble-rouser. Life requires balance, and I tried to balance the educational experience with a little bit of fun."

The nature of threats has changed dramatically, from notoriety attacks a few years ago like Melissa and I Love You to sophisticated attacks like ID theft. Do customers understand that? There is a gap, particularly in the consumer space, between what people have done to protect themselves and what they need to do to protect themselves. And I think we, as the providers of [security] technology, have to make the technology easier for them to use less intrusive, if you will. I think we have to move the paradigm from protecting the device to protecting interactions.

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