Boosting collaborative trend, Symantec invests in Aussie malware hunters

Australia's private-sector organisations may be shedding commodity jobs at a rate of knots, but the investment of $1m to expand Symantec's Security Operations Centre (SOC) highlights the continuing value of Australia's security professionals on the global stage.

Symantec's expansion of its Sydney facility is timed to support the company's Symantec Managed Security Services (MSS) group, which encompasses security operations capabilities and security response skills that will service Australian and worldwide customers.

The facility is part of a follow-the-sun security service that, taken globally, supports an MSS team that every month analyses over 275 billion security log entries, identifies approximately 40,000 potential security events, and escalates more than 4000 confirmed security intrusions for remediation.

"We have built a team of analysts in Australia with deep security expertise that is very difficult to replicate by an individual organisation," says Pacific region vice president and managing director Brenton Smith. "The security requirements of our customers vary from region to region, and this investment enables us to be close to our customers in Australia and meet their specific security needs."

Establishment of worldwide security teams is nothing new, but supporting them with cloud-based threat-logging systems has rapidly emerged as the latest tool in the fight against an ever-broadening flood of new malicious attacks – particularly malware like the sophisticated Flame tool, which was designed for beneath-the-radar operation and targeted damage.

Working in a security environment where half of companies are reporting Web-application security issues, security tools are often poorly configured and smartphones represent an ever-bigger exposure for organisations, Symantec and other security leaders are tapping into a security market that was recently predicted to grow to $US60b this year, up 8.4 per cent over last year and set to reach $US86 billion by 2016.

A growing proportion of this spend relates to cloud-based security efforts now underway at all leading vendors. For example, Symantec says its Global Intelligence Network, which analyses attacks and helps client-side applications vet potentially dangerous Web sites, blocked more than 5.5 billion malicious attacks in 2011 alone. Rival AVG recently debuted its 2013 product suite with a Windows 8 interface up front, and links to AVG's cloud-based AVG Secure Search and file reputation databases.

Some vendors are trying other approaches to fill out their customers' cyber-defences: McAfee, for one, has seen security features like its Deep Safe malware blocker integrated into new parent company Intel's latest mobile chips, while Google recently tapped into the trend towards anti-malware collaboration by buying malware-blocking firm VirusTotal, which distributes malware samples between 40 different security organisations.

Interest in the collaborative, cloud-based aspect of security is so strong that cloud-security startups Zscaler and Mocana recently drew $US38m and $US25m in seed capital, respectively, to support their efforts to fill out a broader security defence. These and other security players are all bolstering their defences to fight, with the support of skilled staff like those at Symantec's upgraded facility, the growing wave of malware that continues to immolate the online world.

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"Businesses today are operating in times of advanced persistent threats, targeted attacks, socially engineered malware and even politically motivated hacktivist attacks,” said Peter Sparkes, Symantec's Asia Pacific and Japan director of Managed Security Services. "With these changes, they require powerful technology, accurate threat intelligence, proven processes and experienced professionals to combat them."

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