Vendor declares spam war

'We have 300 million downloads of our virus definitions every day. Given the nature of the threats, we need to make the online environment secure.'

'John W. Thompson

Symantec.com, a leading site for help fighting Internet hazards and hoaxes, has gone on the warpath against spam, too.

Symantec Corp. 'is one of the most spam-victimized vendors,' chairman and chief executive officer John W. Thompson said during a Capitol Hill visit last month. 'E-mail scams involving counterfeit Norton SystemWorks and other Norton-branded products have undermined the billions of dollars we've invested in our brand.'

The Cupertino, Calif., company's Web site has long offered downloadable virus signatures to update its products for the latest threats. Now Symantec is asking users to forward to it any third-party e-mail offering to sell purported Norton software, he said, because such spam may be an attempt to steal identities or credit card data.

'We do not do outbound electronic marketing,' Thompson said. 'Customers do come to Symantec to have their systems scanned for vulnerabilities, but we don't share that data with anyone.'

To safeguard its reputation, Symantec 'has taken a holistic approach to protect everything,' he said. 'We have 300 million downloads of our virus definitions every day. Given the nature of the threats, we need to make the online environment secure, like breathing. Trust is at the core of who we are.'

That means rigorously screening his potential employees, requiring government security clearances for some, and never hiring anyone with a background of criminal behavior, he said. Wrongdoers are fired 'without debate. Our brand is more important than any one person.'

Thompson said he hopes the government will show 'a measured response. Everyone's annoyed at spam. Don't rush to judgment, don't pass knee-jerk legislation that isn't enforceable.'

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