Date
19 October 2019
Corporate security service accounted for 53 percent of Symantec's revenue of US$4.2 billion last year, compared with 31 percent from the consumer side. Photo: Reuters
Corporate security service accounted for 53 percent of Symantec's revenue of US$4.2 billion last year, compared with 31 percent from the consumer side. Photo: Reuters

Broadcom’s Symantec deal shows potential of antivirus software

In recent years, mobile phones have become more vulnerable to virus attacks. At the same time, the privacy issue is becoming increasingly important. With the explosive growth of data, security software is back in the spotlight.

Amid this huge business opportunity, it’s not at all surprising that Broadcom, the world’s second-largest chipmaker, has agreed to acquire the enterprise unit of cybersecurity giant Symantec for US$10.7 billion.

Founded in 1982, Symantec is known for its signature product Norton Antivirus, which was the most popular antivirus software in the 1990s. The software once had a 70 percent market share.

As the PC era faded and smartphones took over, consumers became less concerned about the security issue.

It’s widely believed that smartphones are immune to virus. Third-party apps have to be approved by Apple Store or Play Store, which serve as reliable gatekeepers.

But as the operating systems of smartphones become more complex, and most smartphones are loaded with more than 100 apps, this creates an ecosystem that’s more prone to virus attacks.

What’s worse is that the virus may not cripple your smartphone immediately. Instead, it will hide in the background and continue stealing your credit card information, emails, photos and contact lists, or secretly monitor your activity.

As a result, the value of antivirus software companies is being recognized again.

In addition to selling to consumers, these companies are now getting more of their business from big corporations, financial institutions, internet firms and even government agencies by offering technology or consultancy services.

For example, corporate security service accounted for 53 percent of Symantec’s revenue of US$4.2 billion last year, compared with 31 percent from the consumer side.

Top Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei has long realized the value of the antivirus business. It set up a joint venture with Symantec back in 2008.

According to the New York Times, Symantec was later pressured by the US government and was forced to sell a stake to Huawei in 2011.

From 2017, Huawei’s smartphones have all come with their own anti-virus software. It’s also licensing the software to other domestic phone makers.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 9

Translation by Julie Zhu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/CG

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist