Antivirus researcher Gullotto leaves Symantec for Microsoft

One of the industry's most knowledgeable antivirus gurus has left Symantec for Microsoft. Vinny Gullotto will be charged with forming an antivirus research unit to rival Symantec and McAfee.

Microsoft has hired one of the industry's top antivirus researchers to run its nascent antivirus research and response team.

Vinny Gullotto, who had been at Symantec Corp. since earlier this year, started work at Microsoft this week. His charge at Microsoft will be to help the software giant get its virus response team up to speed with those run by the major antivirus vendors.

Gullotto will be the general manager of Security Research and Response, a separate unit from the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC); both teams fall under Microsoft's Security Technology Unit.

Gullotto has more than a decade of experience in the antivirus industry, and has been well-traveled as of late. Until late 2005, he was the vice president of McAfee Inc.'s Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team (AVERT). He left McAfee to join Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec this past spring and helped run its well-known Symantec Security Response unit.

He is one of a handful of virus researchers, including David Perry at Trend Micro Inc., Vincent Weafer at Symantec and Nick FitzGerald of Computer Virus Consulting, who have been at the forefront of antivirus research during the last decade.

Microsoft's hiring of Gullotto is yet another sign of how seriously the Redmond, Wash.-based vendor is taking its move into the antivirus market. It launched its Windows Live OneCare antivirus and antispyware suite in May and will include those protections in Windows Vista, due for release this fall. This move has ruffled a lot of feathers among the antivirus vendor community, most of whom have been Microsoft partners for years. Hiring Gullotto away from Symantec is unlikely to smooth any of those bad feelings.

Symantec declined to comment on Gullotto's departure.

Gullotto is not the only high-profile security researcher that Microsoft has hired lately. Adam Shostack, a well-known security and privacy expert and author who worked at pioneering privacy-software developer Zero-Knowledge Systems, joined Microsoft in June and is working on the Security Development Lifecycle, a set of software design theories designed to help developers build software that can withstand attacks.

Microsoft for several years has used the MSRC to work with antivirus vendors, customers and industry organizations during virus and worm outbreaks. But now that Microsoft has its own antivirus offering, the company apparently has decided it is time to start a dedicated in-house virus response team.

"Microsoft is very excited that Vincent Gullotto will be joining Microsoft as the general manager of Security Research and Response and we look forward to working with him in his new role," a Microsoft spokesman said in an emailed statement.

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