Symantec CEO gives Comdex sermon

You've got to say something significant when you’re giving a keynote speech at Comdex.

Preferably something visionary (in keeping with your guru status), terrifying (white knight to the rescue) and catchy (media coverage).

And head of Net security company Symantec, John Thompson did each with aplomb in a remarkable sermon in Las Vegas.

Entranced audience members were treated to a Cassandra-like prediction of what will happen to the Internet in the future. (Cassandra was condemned by Apollo to prophesy correctly but not be believed.)

“There may come a point where users look at technology as more of a liability,” he warned, “condemned to set up a home Wi-Fi network linking a number of PCs with a badly written manual and technology support, putting you on hold for eternity.”

Then there would be a fall in people that even connect to the Net, he glowered, dark mist curling satanically behind his ears. “And that’s not a good thing for the industry” (remember he was in America, best to make things clear).

But, surely Linux will save us? “NO!” Thompson boomed, the room’s walls bending outwards and vibrating, “if and when the Linux target set gets as rich as Microsoft’s, I believe you will find more vulnerabilities than you do today.” (The same viewpoint that Microsoft has been expounding recently of course).

Spam? Crack! A bolt of lightning shot through the ceiling and split the podium in two. There is no answer, roared the towering figure. It is not enforceable. We are doomed to spend the rest of our lives clicking delete on sex-enhancer e-mails.

But all of a sudden, the thunder subsided, the storm clouds broke and a dazzling ray of sunlight blinded those gathered at his feet. “Security needs to move beyond its niche focus,” Thompson uttered, a white dove hovering just above his shoulder. “We need more integrated security technologies.”

In the near future, the wise man counselled, we will see the beginnings of “Warhol” attacks — viruses and worms so virulent that they spread across the whole Internet in just 15 minutes.

But the only way this will happen, he explained, is if software, hardware and other technology companies work together to improve security and make this a better world for our children and our children’s children.

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