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Symantec pcAnywhere end-of-life highlights Big Yellow's many stumbles

News roundup: As the trouble-ridden pcAnywhere's end-of-life nears, it highlights how Symantec snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Plus: F-Secure raises the bar on privacy policy; Lifehacker breaking bad during Evil Week; and Americans fear ID theft more than bullets.

The curtain will close for good on Symantec Corp.'s pcAnywhere remote access product in just a few days, bringing an end to the long and trouble-ridden road of what was once the industry's best-selling remote control product.

As of Nov. 3, 2014, it will no longer be possible to purchase pcAnywhere, which not long ago was touted as "still the best-selling option" at 20 years old. On its site, Symantec said pcAnywhere's eminent end was due to both careful consideration and the fact that the product had not received any major releases for seven years. As a component, the pcAnywhere Solution will be available, but as a standalone product, pcAnywhere will cease to exist. Support for the product will end in November 2015.

Despite being a huge revenue driver for Big Yellow in the early years of the millennium, the show hasn't always been a smooth one for pcAnywhere. In 2012, Symantec confirmed that source code for pcAnywhere and other products was stolen in 2006 -- even revealing that the vendor knew there had been an incident at that time, though it failed to report it for six years. The code was posted online by a reportedly Anonymous-related Indian hacking group; in early 2012, Symantec reported the six-year-old breach but downplayed its severity, assuring customers at the time that they "should not be in any increased danger of cyberattacks resulting in this incident."

However, later that month, Symantec issued an advisory telling customers to stop using pcAnywhere until an update was released. Symantec repaired the vulnerabilities and soon published a best practice guide to help enterprises mitigate potential pcAnywhere security issues. Yet the problems did not end there. Research by Rapid7 LLC CSO HD Moore soon concluded that thousands of systems using pcAnywhere with open ports were still vulnerable to attack, showcasing the problems plaguing remote access systems and their improper configuration.

The embarrassing pcAnywhere saga is just one of the many strategic missteps that Symantec has made in recent years. Along with other breaches, investigations and lawsuits, its leadership has been criticized for its inability to boost performance, offer innovative products and ultimately meet Wall Street expectations. In 2012, the company ousted CEO Enrique Salem in favor of Steve Bennett. Less than two years later, Bennett was fired and Michael Brown stepped into the role.

Just this month, Symantec announced it would not only split into two entities within the next year -- one for security and one for information management and data storage -- but also that its security product line would be consolidated, refocused and better suited to meet its customers' security needs.

However, in looking at the future it is critical to look at the past. The fact that Symantec allowed its once market-leading remote access product to fall from riches to rags and endure a slow, painful death is a troubling reality Symantec customers won't soon forget, and is merely one in a long line of strategic failures. Add into the equation that the company has been reluctant to keep up with the times and release a clear strategy to stay relevant -- and not to mention innovative products -- and Symantec's future can be considered hazy at best.

Truth be told, Symantec has the time, money and resources to rebound from its failures and the multiple issues it has faced. It remains to be seen, however, whether the pcAnywhere saga will be remembered as the low point for the security vendor prior to its strategic makeover, or the beginning of the end.

In other news

  • Computer security vendor F-Secure Corp. is raising the bar when it comes to customer privacy. The company, based in Helsinki, Finland, published the first of a three-part blog series describing its new nine privacy principles aimed at guarding user privacy. F-Secure Labs' security researcher Mikael Albrecht wrote that while the company is worried about the current global privacy situation, raising awareness is not enough; F-Secure must "get our act together and make sure our own offering isn't violating your privacy." In easy-to-understand terms, F-Secure laid out its privacy policy to not only ease consumers' fears, but also set a new standard for company privacy policy disclosure.
  • The Gawker Media-owned blog Lifehacker, which "curates tips, tricks and technology for living better in the digital age," published Six Great DIY Projects for Hacking Computers and Networks Thursday morning, calling into question the ethics of responsible disclosure in publishing black hat hacking techniques. While writer Alan Henry prefaced the article by writing, "Knowing evil means knowing how to beat it, so you can use your sinister powers for good," and "as with all hacking and network sniffing and monitoring projects, keep in mind that these are the kinds of things you should use ethically, on your own network or networks you have permission to probe," the article painstakingly details a number of activities that would likely be illegal, including building a Wi-Fi-hacking, password-cracking, cell-tower-spoofing drone, or transforming a safety flare gun into a wireless camera launcher. SearchSecurity contacted Henry regarding the ethical issues that come with publishing such information, but did not receive a response by press time.
  • The results of a recent poll released Tuesday by Chapman University revealed that Americans are more afraid of becoming the victim of identity theft than being the victim of a shooting. The school, based in Orange, Calif., polled 1,500 participants across the country in what it says is the first of a planned annual study. The fear of falling victim to identity theft came in second to only "walking alone at night." The third-ranked fear, also computer related, was "safety on the Internet," followed by fear of being the victim of a mass/random shooting in fourth place and public speaking in fifth place. When it came to the top five concerns of Americans, becoming ill came in fifth place following by becoming a victim of Internet identity theft, corporate surveillance of Internet activity, running out of money in the future and government surveillance of Internet activity.

Next Steps

Take a further look at secure remote access and managing remote employees.

Learn more about security privacy policies, ethical hacking lessons, and the latest in the ethical hacking debate.

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