Symantec investigates possible leak of Norton AntiVirus source code

A hacker group claims to be in possession of Norton Antivirus source code stolen from Indian intelligence agencies

Symantec is investigating claims by a group of hackers that they are in possession of source code for its Norton AntiVirus (NAV) product.

The group, which uses the name "The Lords of Dharmaraja," claims to have stolen Symantec source code and documentation from the servers of Indian intelligence agencies, along with intellectual property from other software companies that have contracts with the Indian government.

"As of now we start sharing with all our brothers and followers information from the Indian Military Intelligence servers," the group said in a Pastebin post on Wednesday. "So far we have discovered within the Indian Spy Programme source codes of a dozen software companies which have signed agreements with Indian TANCS programme and CBI."

The original post has been deleted from Pastebin but was still available in Google's cache. It contains a draft document describing API (application programming interface) procedures for Symantec's virus definition generation service.

According to Symantec, the leaked documentation dates back to April 1999 and is no longer relevant for its current systems.

"This document explains how the software is designed to work (what inputs are accepted and what outputs are generated) and contains function names, but there is no actual source code present," said Cris Paden, Symantec's senior manager of corporate communications.

"The information in the 1999 document has no bearing or impact on our current products, i.e., the information in the document cannot be used to impair or corrupt our current solutions," Paden added.

The hackers also said that they are in possession of source code for Norton AntiVirus, which they plan to release at a later time. "We are working out mirrors as of now since we experience extreme pressure and censorship from US and India government agencies," the group said in their Pastebin post.

To substantiate their claim, The Lords of Dharmaraja made a second post on Pastebin with a listing of files allegedly contained in the Norton AntiVirus source code package.

Symantec could not confirm whether the file listing corresponds to its source code.

"A second claim has been made by the same group regarding additional source code and we're currently investigating that. For that one, we don't have any information to provide as of yet," Paden said.

It remains to be seen if The Lords of Dharmaraja will release any actual files and what version of Norton AntiVirus, if any, will be affected. If it's current enough, the code could potentially provide malware writers with the knowledge required to evade detection, and could give Symantec's competitors an inside look into the company's technology.

If the leak turns out to be real, Symantec wouldn't be the first antivirus vendor to deal with such an incident. In January 2011, the source code for an older version of Kaspersky Antivirus was uploaded to a torrent site. The intellectual property was stolen in early 2008 by a former Kaspersky employee who attempted to sell it on the Internet. He received a three-year suspended prison sentence in Russia.

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