News Analysis

Symantec shuts down discussion groups

Bill Brenner, Senior News Writer

Symantec Corp. has shut down its enterprise technical support discussion groups, saying they're no longer an effective vehicle to address customers' technical support needs. One user disagrees, and has established a new, independent forum to fill the void.

"These moderated forums are not just a way for users to get support from Symantec, they are also a way for users to get support from the community -- others who use the same products and have run into the same problems another user might be having," said Duncan McAlynn, founder of the new forum site, Boardfish.com. "That way, users can help each other with some solutions."

"At Boardfish.com we believe that you -- the community of users in the trenches -- are fully capable of supporting yourselves through engaged dialog about point-specific concerns you have with the Symantec products," he said in a message on the site. "We believe in this concept so dearly that we've built and dedicated this Web site to that very purpose."

In an e-mailed statement Wednesday, the Cupertino, Calif.-based network security giant said the forums were discontinued because of customer feedback.

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"Symantec found that the confidential nature of information, such as the customer's security posture or specific network infrastructure settings, which often needed to be discussed in order to resolve the inquiry, was not appropriate to discuss in a public forum," the company said. "As a result, Symantec posted a notice on Dec. 1, 2005, to all support discussion group Web pages… notifying users that Symantec would be removing the discussion groups from its Web site effective Dec. 15, 2005."

The BugTraq forum is not affected, and was running normally Wednesday afternoon.

Though the forums are being discontinued for the security products, Symantec said customers still have access to phone support; online resources for "valuable information" that answers common customer questions; and other automated support options. "Symantec is currently evaluating more effective methods to electronically support its customers in a confidential manner," the company added.

McAlynn -- who is also an infrastructure practice principal for Interlink Group Inc., a Denver-based IT professional services provider -- said that's not good enough. "The legacy content of these forums is still there but nothing new, and that leaves Symantec users in an island state with no options for support," he said. "It has hampered peoples' efforts of find answers to problems."

He said those problems include security holes in Symantec's AntiVirus Library, which the company acknowledged in a message to customers of its DeepSight Threat Management System Tuesday. The library "has been found prone to multiple heap overflow vulnerabilities when scanning malformed .rar [archive files]," Symantec said, adding that the flaw affects AntiVirus Corporate Editon, Brightmail Anti-Spam; Client Security; Gateway Security; Norton AntiVirus; Norton Antivirus for Macintosh; Norton AntiVirus for Microsoft Exchange; and Norton Internet Security.

Asked why he thinks Symantec shut down the forums, McAlynn said, "I think if you read their language, it's clear they're trying to prevent negative backlash on a site they own and manage."

Without an exclusive forum focusing on Symantec products, he said other, more general security forums will now be inundated with Symantec-based questions they weren't getting before. "Before Symantec shuttered their forums, people had a more structured, efficient approach to solving their problems instead of going to the other ad hoc forums. Who better to go to with a Symantec problem than Symantec or others who use its products?"


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